Performance Improvement 2011-2012. Does the Director's Pioneer Award Program Result Stimulate Pioneering Research?


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) commissioned a study to assess whether the short-term outcomes of the NIH Director's Pioneer Award (NDPA) program were consistent with its original goals, and to evaluate the impact of the NDPA on NIH and its funding of high-risk research. The NIH launched the NDPA program in 2004 to support individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research. The study assessed the research conducted by NDPA awardees funded during the first two years of the program (2004 – 2005) and focused on answering two study questions: Did the NDPA awardees conduct pioneering research with the NDPA funds, and what were the spillover effects of the program? The overall goal of the outcome evaluation was to develop a valid set of measures that could be used to evaluate the NDPA program as well as other high-risk, high-reward programs in the future.

Overall, the short-term outcomes of the program were positive. The study showed the diversity of the types of risks and rewards in the research funded through the NDPA, and the variety of outputs emerging from the NDPA. The majority of the awardees pursued their originally proposed ideas and most did not believe that their research would have been funded through traditional mechanisms. The majority of experts agreed that the accomplished research was pioneering; some believed that the research was so scientifically strong that it would have been funded under other mechanisms. Regardless, most experts stated that the NDPA added value to the NIH portfolio of programs. However, despite the range of bibliometric outputs produced, evaluators concluded that the time since the awards was too short to fully assess the impact of the outputs and the small number of awardees inhibited comparisons with the pool of unfunded applicants. Additionally, they determined that standard bibliometric measures were inappropriate for evaluating a program like the NDPA that encourages non-traditional research and expects some level of failure in the projects funded.

Report Title: Outcome Evaluation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Award (NDPA) FY 2004-2005
Agency Sponsor: NIH, National Institutes of Health
Federal Contact: Rosanna Ng, 301-496-5367
Performer: IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI)
Record ID: 9823 (Report issued July 22, 2011)

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"PerformanceImprovement2011-2012.pdf" (pdf, 701.44Kb)

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