Performance Improvement 2006. National Institutes of Health



To uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone.

Evaluation Program

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) pursue new knowledge about the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease and disability. To that end, NIH has a wide range of programs to support health-related research and training and professional development. Evaluating these numerous and diverse programs is one important tool that NIH administrators use to determine the extent to which these programs are operating efficiently and achieving their intended outcomes.

NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) and components within the Office of the Director (OD), NIH, use program evaluations and evaluation-related activities to improve decision-making and, ultimately, enhance program performance. Many NIH activities are crosscutting in nature and require trans-NIH program evaluations (i.e., program evaluations that involve more than one IC or OD office) to be examined effectively. Program evaluations are professional systematic investigations or studies that evaluate the merit of particular programs, or contribute to making such an evaluation possible. In most cases, the purpose of program evaluations is to help NIH administrators improve a program or make other programmatic decisions (e.g., how to allocate resources). A “program” is broadly defined as any set of activities funded by the NIH to achieve one or more predefined goals (also referred to as “program goals”).

The NIH recognizes that results-based management as a basic principle for the sound and productive operation of government agencies and their programs. The most notable evidence of this is passage of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), and the use of the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). With additional efforts to increase public sector accountability (such as passage of the Chief Financial Officers Act and the Government Management Reform Act), interest in evaluation has increased steadily among program administrators.

A distinguishing feature of the NIH Evaluation Program is its position within a larger institutional framework of several evaluation strategies including the use of national advisory councils, boards of scientific counselors, consensus development conferences, and ad hoc committees. This framework helps to chart scientific directions and select the most promising research to support.

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