Viewpoint: 4 ways the NIH needs to change

The pandemic brought a sense of urgency and coordination to the National Institutes of Health, which researchers hope can be applied to other pressing health issues and be used to restructure and change its culture, reported Nature April 20. 

Several researchers ranging across various disciplines spoke to Nature about the changes they would like to see in the NIH to foster more innovation. 

Here are the four key actions they wish the NIH would implement :

  1. Researchers complain about the bureaucratic policies of the NIH, which hold back fast innovation. They suggest that the NIH should create fast-track programs for high-risk, high-reward research and open up funding streams for such initiatives.

  2. Workforce diversity at the NIH is poor, and research has shown that white researchers are far more likely to be awarded grants than Black researchers. Some researchers suggest that the NIH should do more to improve diversity, potentially creating grants specifically for people of color. 

  3. Integrating multiple disciplines into research questions and work is another way the NIH could improve, according to researchers. Some believe that the research departments are too siloed, and instead suggest a restructuring of the agency to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

  4. The NIH cannot ignore the politicization and mistrust of science and experts that occurred during the pandemic but instead institute new leaders who can work through these issues and address them openly, say the researchers.

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