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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Scientific Management Review Board to make recommendation on a possible NIDA-NIAAA Merger

Some of you may be aware of an upcoming meeting on September 14-15 that could lead to a merger of NIDA and NIAAA.  The Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) was created as part of the NIH Reform Act of 2006.  The Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction (SUAA) Workgroup within the SMRB will be making a recommendation as to whether a merger would optimize research and maximize human health.

The pros and cons of a merger have been widely discussed by interested parties including CPDD Past President Linda Porrino, who made a presentation for SUAA (available for download at the presentation tab of the SUAA website) and who commented on the merger in CPDD Newsline (January 2010).

CPDD Charter Fellow and former CPDD President and Nathan B. Eddy Award Winner Mary-Jeanne Kreek also made a presentation (available for download at the presentation tab on the SUAA website).

An interesting discussion of the merger and its potential advantages and disadvantages took place as part of the 123rd NIAAA National Advisory Council Meeting in February 2010.  A summary can be viewed here.

The Research Society on Alcoholism website (RSoA) includes commentary on the potential merger by researchers (RSA e-NEWS: Brief Synopsis of the SMRB Meeting Report) and comments to the SUAA by former NIAAA Directors T.-K. Li (NIH-Substance Use, Abuse and Addiction (SUAA) workgroup testimony by Dr. Ting-Kai Li) and Enoch Gordis (NIH- Substance Use, Abuse and Addiction (SUAA) workgroup testimony by Dr. Enoch Gordis).

Addiction Professional Magazine highlighted concerns that NIAAA research and researchers might get the short shrift in any merger of the two institutes.

And, according to Tom Kelly, member of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, reporting at the 100th Advisory Committee meeting (NIH Record, June 25, 2010), the SMRB was split on whether to recommend a functional merger (that facilitates interactions between independent institutes including interdisciplinary research) or a structural merger (that combines institutes).  The NIH Record article quoted NIDA Director Nora Volkow as favoring a structural merger while NIAAA Acting Director Kenneth Warren favored a functional merger but not a structural merger.

Even groups with scientific interests that generally differ from addiction researchers have come out against the precedent of a structural merger, such as the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), which in May warned about the possibility that certain types of research could be lost between the cracks if institutes with particular specialties are absorbed into other institutes.

There seems to be general agreement among addiction researchers that functional changes enhancing interactions across institutes (e.g., via interdisciplinary research) could be helpful but that a structural merger, particularly one resulting in a contraction of funding for addiction research, would be an unfortunate and unwise outcome.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

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