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NIEHS Implementation of the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan

2012-2017 Strategic Plan

David Miller, Ph.D., in hat, serves as group leader for one of the group's helping to define what is meant by fundamental research. NIEHS staff from the Office of the Director, Division of Extramural Research and Training, and the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) provided input.

David Miller, Ph.D., in hat, serves as group leader for one of the group's helping to define what is meant by fundamental research. NIEHS staff from the Office of the Director, Division of Extramural Research and Training, and the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) provided input.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

As the goals of the NIEHS 2012 Strategic Plan were taking final shape, NIEHS leadership began working within their divisions to establish priorities for implementation to achieve the goals of the Plan. Each division of NIEHS – the Division of Intramural Research, the Division of Extramural Research and Training, the Division of the National Toxicology Program, the Office of Management, and the Office of the Director – considered and discussed how to approach the goals within the context of their expertise and capabilities. Each division generated draft implementation plans outlining how they proposed to advance the Strategic Plan goals. All NIEHS divisions have continued to use and consider Strategic Plan goals and progress in their regular budget planning and resource decision making as the Institute moves forward through the Plan period.

Goals of the Strategic Plan

NIEHS identified the following themes and goals:

Cross-Divisional Planning

To augment the regular processes of implementing the Strategic Plan within the different divisions of the institute, the NIEHS leadership committee, including all the division directors, met as a group to compare and contrast their individual division plans. The objective here was to identify shared areas of high priority and lay the groundwork for a new interdivisional platform that would encourage innovative implementation ideas. Looking across the different division plans, the leadership group discovered a number of specific topics that had been independently identified by each of the divisions as a high priority for NIEHS under its new strategic plan. Some of the topics related to specific biological concepts/ topic areas, while others had to do with IT infrastructure, information management and dissemination.

Cross-Divisional Planning Groups

For each of the high priority topics, leadership tasked selected scientists and subject matter experts from across the institute to spearhead a cross-divisional planning group. The idea was to create conditions under which the best ideas could be solicited from across the NIEHS for activities to move these goal-related topic areas forward. Implementation ideas were encouraged from across all relevant NIEHS divisions. For each topic, the groups were asked to: imagine both short term and long term impacts of their areas toward the NIEHS goals; define deliverables or outputs that would contribute to those impacts; list the activities that would be needed to create those deliverables or outputs, specifying which divisions would be in charge of which activities; and list the inputs that would be needed to support the activities. They were given approximately four months to draft their proposals.

Groups were convened to discuss the following high priority topics identified by the process above:

  1. Epigenetics (including mechanistic understanding of epigenetic control of gene expression, differentiation, development; role of environment in these processes)
  2. Inflammation, understanding of inflammatory processes and role of environment
  3. Stem Cells (understanding basic qualities of stem cells and key factors in processes of differentiation; role of environment; use of stem cells as toxicological models)
  4. Exposome (defining exposome and developing technologies for measurement)
  5. Predictive methods in toxicology and disease (assay development, consideration of new biological pathways or use of different systems; branching into new concepts in predictive toxicology)
  6. Global Environmental Health
  7. Knowledge management infrastructure, data management, e-science (including development of data collection standards)
  8. New generation communication tools; website improvements and social media

Division leadership reviewed the proposals and identified specific activities to move forward for implementation. The NIEHS internal groups that had self-assembled to create these proposals have continued to meet and serve as a fertile ground for cross-divisional information sharing and fertilization of ideas.