Chapter

Shaping Biomedical Research Priorities: The Case of the National Institutes of Health

Daniel Callahan

in The Roots of Bioethics

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199931378
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980598 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199931378.003.0013
Shaping Biomedical Research Priorities: The Case of the National Institutes of Health

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Despite the international interest in priority setting as an important tool for health policy, there has been comparatively little interest in the setting of research priorities. One of the few places where there has been such an interest is at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. Under pressure from Congress to explain its priority setting process, the NIH has tried to explain the criteria and process it uses. The NIH procedure is described, and the problems created by the criteria it uses are analyzed. Although it uses the language of priority setting, it is uncertain whether it does have a real method of setting priorities. It does not set priorities. Instead, it provides a number of criteria for doing so, such as supporting health improvement and improving the research infrastructure—but offers no way of determining their relative importance. Full priority setting requires a means of rank-ordering priorities but the NIH does not to do so, leaving quite unclear how they actually decide on some rank-ordering. Nonetheless, despite the lack of a method, the results of its work are lauded. In the long run, however, the NIH needs a more rigorous method of setting priorities.

Keywords: research; priorities; IOM; politics; advocacy

Chapter.  6319 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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