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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Formation of a new Addiction Institute: what could this mean for NIDA and NIAAA training programs?

The Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction Workgroup (SUAA) of the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) recommended last Wednesday (September 15, 2010) to dissolve NIDA and NIAAA and form a new Addiction Institute, which would oversee all NIH-funded addiction related research from those Institutes.  In addition, addiction-related research currently within portfolios of other NIH Institutes would be moved to the new Institute.

Although NIH Director Collins has yet to act on this recommendation, people are beginning to speculate on how consolidation would affect existing NIDA and NIAAA programs, including existing training programs.

Indeed, one of the main reasons cited in support of the SUAA recommendation to form a new Addiction Institute (Working Group Report, Sept. 2010) was to “overcome cultural barriers [that create] significant challenges to training early stage investigators…”  The cultural barriers referred to in the report are that NIDA and NIAAA have “distinct professional societies [College on Problems of Drug Dependence and Research Society on Alcoholism]…and insufficient communication between them, despite commonalities.”

The report stated further that: “By creating a single institute, comprehensive training programs integrating both multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to addiction research could be developed and supported.”

Currently, there are more than 60 NIDA-supported training programs and 28 NIAAA-supported training programs.

The map shows the approximate geographic locations of institutions supporting training programs for NIDA, NIAAA, and for both Institutes.  Of note, only 11 of 64 institutions currently with NIDA or NIAAA training programs support NIDA and NIAAA programs, meaning that simply merging existing training programs is not going to be an effective strategy to achieve the interdisciplinary training goals outlined in the SUAA report.

So, people are wondering how training programs would transition to become more interdisciplinary in structure.

Another question people are considering is the time frame over which existing training programs would be required to migrate their curricula (and possibly) faculty to become more interdisciplinary.  Would transitions have to occur within training program funding cycles or by the time of the next competing renewal application?

And, since research is a key component of training, what would happen to programs based at institutions not having established NIDA- and NIAAA-supported research programs?

What would happen to trainees starting under the current system—would they be allowed to complete their program or would they have to develop more interdisciplinary competencies?

Obviously, there are many details that would need to be worked out to get from where we are to where the SUAA recommends we should be, should NIH Director Collins accept that recommendation and form a new Addiction Institute.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue, especially members currently affiliated with training programs.

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