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Strategic Plan: Fiscal Years 2024-2028

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Goal 2: Serving as a Responsible Steward of the Public’s Investment

Updated: 2024

As a federal agency, NIAAA works continually to uphold the values of responsible stewardship, research integrity, and public trust. These values are reinforced by NIAAA’s commitment to optimal management and accountability, strategic collaboration, and communication of research results.

Objective 1: Ensuring Optimal Management and Accountability

NIAAA strives to continually optimize operations across its administrative and scientific functions through sound, data-driven business practices. NIAAA also engages in risk management to proactively identify and mitigate risks to the institute’s research objectives, including risks to patient safety. For example, NIAAA recently developed a serious adverse event (SAE) reporting tool to capture SAEs that occur in NIAAA-funded clinical trials. This tool will allow NIAAA to mitigate future risks in studies with similar parameters, interventions, or study populations.

NIAAA develops research programs and initiatives based on scientific needs and opportunities as well as budget considerations. Concepts for initiatives are presented publicly to the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for feedback on the merit of the initiative as well as clearance to move forward. Proceedings of National Advisory Council meetings and concept descriptions are available to the public online. This process not only enhances transparency in NIAAA’s operations but also provides the research community and NIAAA’s constituents additional insight into the institute’s research directions and priorities. Such transparency encourages participation of NIAAA’s constituents in shaping the directions and goals of NIAAA’s mission.

NIAAA demonstrates effective stewardship by funding research proposals that are deemed highly meritorious through scientific peer review. NIAAA uses a rigorous, two-level scientific peer review process that emphasizes fairness and accountability in funding decisions and prioritizes scientific ideas with the greatest potential to advance the NIAAA mission. The outcomes of peer review inform NIAAA’s funding decisions, which also consider portfolio balance, scientific opportunity, public health needs, budget, and other priorities. To promote optimal stewardship in this domain, NIAAA will continue to identify and recruit a diverse pool of scientific peer reviewers based on career stage, geographic region, and demographic characteristics. NIAAA will also continually assess and improve its funding procedures to ensure efficient, seamless awards management.

In support of NIH’s focus on improving rigor and reproducibility of research, NIAAA emphasizes the importance of robust and unbiased experimental design, methodology, analysis, interpretation, and reporting of results in NIAAA-supported research. This includes standardization of animal models across NIAAA’s Alcohol Research Centers and Consortia, transparency in reporting experimental details so that others can reproduce and extend the findings, and adequate inclusion of females into appropriately powered research designs for both animal and human studies. NIAAA will be focusing on key challenges in data management and sharing, such as developing common data elements for preclinical and clinical research, participating with data repositories and knowledge bases, and facilitating data science tools for analyses and predictions. NIAAA will continue to work with NIH and its partners to identify and implement best practices to enhance rigor and reproducibility in the research it supports.

Objective 2: Collaborating Across the National Institutes of Health and Beyond to Address Common Challenges

Alcohol misuse affects virtually every tissue and organ in the body and is associated with more than 200 diseases and injury-related conditions. For this reason, coordination of efforts related to shared research interests across NIH and other federal agencies is a key strategy for efficiently responding to complex alcohol-related problems and maximizing research resources. NIAAA coordinates on various research areas, including the following examples.

Adverse effects of alcohol on health. NIAAA collaborates with NIH institutes, centers, and offices on a wide range of topics, such as cancer, liver cirrhosis, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, sex differences and women’s health research, maternal health, health disparities research, wearable biosensors, and data sharing and management. In the Intramural Research Program, NIAAA jointly supports the Center on Compulsive Behaviors and will jointly launch the National Taste and Smell Center.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. NIAAA sponsors and chairs the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which coordinates communication and collaboration on issues related to prenatal alcohol exposure across NIH ICs (i.e., Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA]), and National Institute of Mental Health and Health and Human Services agencies.

Prevention and treatment of substance misuse. NIAAA partners with NIDA and the National Cancer Institute through the Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN), which integrates resources and expertise to advance research on substance use and related consequences. A major CRAN-led initiative is the Adolescent Brain Cognitive DevelopmentSM Study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. NIAAA also participates in advancing the HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study, which aims to better understand brain development during childhood. NIAAA also participates in the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking, led by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which coordinates federal activities related to the prevention of underage drinking.

Neuroscience research. NIAAA participates in the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, a collaborative framework that confronts neuroscience challenges that are too large for any single NIH institute, center, or office. As part of the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® Initiative, NIAAA provides support with other NIH Institutes and Centers to develop cutting-edge tools that will contribute to an enhanced understanding of brain disorders.

Pain research. Understanding the relationship between alcohol and pain is an important area of research that may have implications for numerous health conditions. NIAAA participates in the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, an NIH-wide effort to speed scientific research to address the opioid crisis by better addressing pain, opioid misuse, AUD, and other substance use disorders. NIAAA also participates in the NIH Pain Consortium.

External partnerships. In addition to research collaborations, NIAAA leverages partnerships with professional, patient, advocacy, and community organizations, as well as with the research community, to advance its strategic goals and priorities.

Objective 3: Communicating Research Results and Evidence-Based Information to the Public

To promote responsible stewardship, NIAAA communicates research findings to the public and translates scientific findings into resources that the public can use. These efforts are vital to the NIAAA mission because they raise awareness of alcohol’s adverse effects on health and empower individuals, professionals, and communities with evidence-based resources to address alcohol-related challenges. Together, these steps can help to reduce the stigma that often prevents people impacted by alcohol misuse from seeking help and support. Importantly, the communication of research results demonstrates progress in advancing research.

The goals of NIAAA’s communications and outreach programs are to develop and evaluate content and activities that disseminate unbiased science information and position NIAAA as an authoritative source of credible health messaging. This work encompasses news media, social media, strategic partnerships, and the creation of educational and information resources for varied audiences. These resources include websites such as the Alcohol Treatment Navigator, which helps individuals identify and find quality AUD treatment for themselves or a loved one, and Rethinking Drinking, which assists people in evaluating their relationship with alcohol. NIAAA also developed the HPCR to assist health care professionals with preventing, identifying, and treating alcohol-related problems, as well as various school-based resources to facilitate the prevention of underage drinking.

NIAAA also prioritizes communicating research results and providing data to stimulate new research. Examples include Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, an open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal, and the Alcohol Policy Information System, a database of alcohol-related policies at the state and federal levels and policies on the recreational use of cannabis.

Going forward, NIAAA will continue to create and promote educational materials for addressing alcohol misuse and AUD in various settings. NIAAA will also pursue innovative ways to connect with the public so that they have access to research findings to make informed choices about alcohol use. NIAAA will continue to translate its products into multiple languages to increase equity and access to evidence-based information and to engage in strategic partnerships that extend the reach of NIAAA-supported research findings and information resources.

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