Scientific Retreats 2008

April 14, 2008 (historical)

Centers Awards Program Management

Session Goals

The purpose of this session is to explore, analyze, and discuss potential ways to more effectively manage the centers program. Currently, there is limited NIAMS involvement and direction for centers grants. This session explored approaches the NIAMS could use in its management of the centers awards to enhance success, productivity, cost-savings and efficiency.

Background/Relevance to NIAMS Mission

The centers grants are a significant NIAMS investment and provide support for infrastructure, translational, and clinical research. These types of research may not be as easily supported through the traditional, investigator-initiated project funding mechanism.

The NIAMS extramural program created the Centers Grants Cross Cutting Group following the re-assignment of the centers awards to the specific scientific programs. The purpose of the re-alignment was to create synergy between the centers and the other scientific activities of the scientific programs. The purpose of the Centers Grants Cross Cutting Group is to bring management and policy discipline to centers managed by many different program directors. The goals of the group are: (1) improve consistency in the management of centers grants, across the programs; (2) standardize and streamline processes relating to centers grants; and, (3) create a sounding board for new ideas. Centers grants include the following mechanisms: P30s (Research Core Centers), P50s (Centers of Research Translation), and P60s (Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Centers). The group is gathering views of NIAMS program directors involved with centers grants, regarding expected outcomes, indicators of success, and impact on NIAMS programs, which were presented during this retreat session.

Annual progress reports are required and serve to verify, in detail, the achievement of the objectives that were outlined in the original application. Advisory groups or committees are also required for all centers. However, there is significant variability in the composition, frequency of meetings, reporting requirements, etc. NIAMS staff conduct site visits as needed, but we do not have data to indicate the value of such visits for the centers investigators or the NIAMS programs. Currently, there are few opportunities for interaction and networking among the centers and with the NIAMS staff.

Increasingly, NIH Institutes are using cooperative agreements to support large, multidisciplinary research teams. Under those agreements, there is an increased role for NIH staff to facilitate and accelerate research. Examples of such funding mechanisms include the Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Research Centers (U54), the Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence (U19), and the Rare Diseases Research Network (U01s).

Expected Session Outcomes

To explore:

  1. A framework of activities to enhance the post-award administration of centers grants.
  2. Opportunities and approaches to enhance centers' interactions with NIAMS staff and with other centers.
  3. Options for management of centers, and the experience of other federal and non-federal organizations with centers program management and evaluation.
  4. The potential value and drawbacks of site visits, NIH participation in annual advisory board meetings, etc.

Key Questions

  • How can we manage the centers programs to enhance the likelihood of success, productivity, and long-term sustainability?
  • What do we want to get out of our centers?
  • How can we tell if they are delivering (performance indicators)?
  • What is the expected contribution of a center to advance the science in specific program areas?
  • Can cooperative agreements help the centers to be more productive?


NIAMS Centers Funding Opportunities

Committee For Assessment of NIH Centers of Excellence Programs. "NIH Extramural Center Programs: Criteria for Initiation and Evaluation (Free Executive Summary)." Ed. Fredrick J. Manning, Michael McGeary, and Ronald Estabrook. (2004). 21 Mar. 2008 . (

Kaiser, Jocelyn. "IOM Reviews NIH Centers." Science 303 (2004): 743. (

Tash, William R., and Stephen M. Sacks. The Payoff. Haverford, PA: SCIPOLICY, 2004.