Council of Councils Meeting

July 1, 2010


Operationalized Criteria for Common Fund Initiatives

The NIH Common Fund was created by the NIH in 2004 and enacted into law by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act to support cross-cutting, trans-NIH programs. Because NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) regularly collaborate in areas of shared interest, the IC Directors and the NIH Leadership developed specific criteria for Common Fund programs.

Is the initiative truly transforming – could it dramatically affect how biomedical and/or behavioral research is conducted over the next decade?

This criterion represents the most stringent criterion. It will serve as the primary filter for initiatives, with the recognition that transforming research cannot always be recognized in advance.

"Transforming" will be interpreted using the following questions:

  1. Will the way research is conducted change as a result of the initiative?
  2. Will the tool/technology/resource be so useful that it is likely to become a standard for research?
  3. Will the initiative have a high impact across a broad spectrum of biomedical/behavioral research?
  4. Is the initiative relevant to a broad spectrum of diseases?
  5. Will the initiative create new paradigms or be paradigm shifting?

Will the outcomes synergistically promote and advance the individual missions of NIH ICs to promote health?

If the initiative is transforming, it should synergize with the work of the ICs. The initiative should address problems/needs that cut across human health and disease.

Does the initiative require participation from NIH as a whole or does it address an area that does not clearly fall within the mission of one IC?

Because much of what ICs do crosses boundaries between multiple ICs, this does not provide a very strong filter. However, broader relevance should be seen as value added.

Is the proposed initiative something that no other entity is likely or able to do?

Several entities could potentially overlap with NIH interests in a particular initiative, e.g., pharmaceutical and biotech companies, CDC, DOD, DOE, NSF, etc. Careful consideration should be given to the relative role of the NIH with respect to the proposed initiative. For example, NIH should find a niche within that field (e.g., Nanotechnology) that is relevant to health. Initiatives that meet the other criteria and that might be of interest to another entity may be considered responsive, if the other entity is unlikely to initiate the research but would be likely to continue funding once initiated by NIH.

This page last reviewed on December 11, 2013