The NIH Evaluation Set-Aside (ESA) Program ***Currently Suspended***
Program evaluations are used by the NIH to determine the extent to which programs are operating efficiently and achieving the intended outcomes. In most cases, the underlying purpose of the program evaluation is to help the NIH improve and plan future programs, make programmatic decisions, and decide how to allocate resources. At the NIH, the Evaluation Set-Aside (ESA) Program provides a key source of funding for program evaluations.
Public Law 91-296, passed in 1970, authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use program appropriations authorized under the Public Health Service (PHS) Act for program evaluations and evaluation-related activities (see 42 USC Sec. 238 (j)). This “Evaluation Set-Aside” Fund is available to the NIH and other PHS agencies within HHS to assess the effectiveness of Federal health programs and to identify ways to improve them.
HHS identifies the amount of Set-Aside Funds available to each PHS agency; however, the individual agencies are responsible for how those funds are administered. At the NIH, the Evaluation Set-Aside Fund is administered by the Office of Program Evaluation and Performance (OPEP), Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) within the Office of the Director (OD).
Governance and Oversight
Two trans-NIH committees provide oversight for the Evaluation Set-Aside Program: the Evaluation Policy and Oversight Committee (EPOC) and the Technical Merit Review Committee (TMRC).
EPOC consists of NIH senior-level personnel, such as IC Deputy Directors, IC Associate Directors, NIH Associate Directors, or NIH OD Office Directors. The committee is chaired by the DPCPSI Director, who has the authority to approve applications for ESA funding. EPOC members support the review process by assessing the potential impact of proposed evaluation projects outlined in letters of intent (LOI) to request ESA funding. Moreover, EPOC reviews and sets policies governing the ESA Program, including appropriate uses of funds.
TMRC consists of NIH staff, often active members of the NIH Planning and Evaluation (P&E) community, who have evaluation expertise and are knowledgeable about NIH programs. The committee is chaired by the OPEP Director. TMRC members conduct technical reviews of ESA applications based on established review criteria. In addition, TMRC supports EPOC’s policy function by reviewing ESA policies and/or procedures and making recommendations to EPOC.
Technical Merit Review Committee roster - Updated roster will be forthcoming
This page last reviewed on March 20, 2017