Performance Improvement 2007. Is It Feasible to Evaluate the Centers for AIDS Research Program?



This study explored whether an outcome evaluation of the Centers for AIDS Research was warranted and feasible and made recommendations regarding the design of such an evaluation. The Centers for AIDS Research is a long-standing program funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The Centers provides administrative aid, shared research support, and coordination of AIDS research projects funded by other NIH grants and contracts. In 1998, the program was redesigned as a cross-NIH effort that provided both fiscal and scientific flexibility for the grantee institution. The scientific focus was expanded to include all basic, translational (taking research from the laboratory to the community), and clinical AIDS research. The feasibility study included consulting with key workers at the Centers (including the steering committee and principal investigators) and program staff at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The investigators developed a provisional logic model that described inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, impacts, and external influences of the Centers for AIDS Research program. Investigators reviewed existing data on the Centers and potential comparison groups.

The study concluded that an outcome evaluation was needed and would be useful based on strong support, availability of investigator progress reports that could be used as a primary data source, and descriptive and anecdotal data useful for providing context. Challenges to the design of an outcome evaluation would include variations of individual Centers' grant awards. This was the possible explanation for the finding that there were detected no differences in research productivity or research character between Centers institutions and likely comparison groups. The feasibility study supported conducting an outcome evaluation using a cross-sectional design based on data about the program, institutions, and individual awards. No distinct comparison with external institutions or programs was recommended. The results of such comparisons could not be interpreted with confidence. Data collection would likely require Office of Management and Budget clearance. The proposed design also recommended a case study component in order to gather qualitative evidence on how Centers for AIDS Research activities lead to outputs, outcomes, and impacts.

Report Title: Feasibility Study for an Evaluation of the Centers for AIDS Research
Agency Sponsor: NIH, National Institutes of Health
Federal Contact: Halula, Madelon, 301-402-2636
Performer: Science and Technology Policy Institute; Arlington, VA
PIC ID: 8462

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"PerformanceImprovement2007.pdf" (pdf, 717.63Kb)

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