Begun as the one-room Laboratory of Hygiene in 1887, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers and the federal focal point for health research in the United States.
The NIH mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The goals of the agency are to
NIH works toward meeting those goals by providing leadership, direction, and grant support to programs designed to improve the health of the nation through research in the
Composed of 27 separate institutes and centers, NIH is one of eight health agencies of the Public Health Service within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH encompasses 75 buildings on more than 300 acres in Bethesda, Md., as well as facilities at several other sites in the United States. The NIH budget has grown from about $300 in 1887 to more than $28 billion in 2005.
One of NIH’s principal concerns is to invest wisely the tax dollars entrusted to it for the support and conduct of this research. Approximately 82 percent of the investment is made through grants and contracts supporting research and training in more than 2,000 research institutions throughout the United States and abroad. In fact, NIH grantees are located in every state in the country. These grants and contracts make up the NIH Extramural Research Program.
Approximately 10 percent of the budget goes to NIH’s Intramural Research Programs, the more than 2,000 projects conducted mainly in its own laboratories. These projects are central to the NIH scientific effort. First-rate intramural scientists collaborate with one another regardless of institute affiliation or scientific discipline and have the intellectual freedom to pursue their research leads in NIH’s own laboratories. These explorations range from basic biology to behavioral research, to studies on treatment of major diseases.
The grant-making process begins with an idea that an individual scientist describes in a written application for a research grant. The project might be small, or it might involve millions of dollars. The project might become useful immediately as a diagnostic test or new treatment, or it might involve studies of basic biological processes whose clinical value may not be apparent for many years.
Each research grant application undergoes peer review. A panel of scientific experts, primarily from outside the government, who are active and productive researchers in the biomedical sciences, first evaluates the scientific merit of the application. Then, a national advisory council or board, composed of eminent scientists as well as members of the public who are interested in health issues or the biomedical sciences, determines the project’s overall merit and priority in advancing the research agenda of the particular NIH funding institutes.
About 38,500 research and training applications are reviewed annually through the NIH peer-review system. At any given time, NIH supports 35,000 grants in universities, medical schools, and other research and research training institutions, both nationally and internationally.
The roster of people who have conducted NIH research or who have received NIH support over the years includes some of the world’s most illustrious scientists and physicians. Among them are 115 winners of Nobel Prizes for achievements as diverse as deciphering the genetic code and identifying the causes of hepatitis.
Five Nobelists made their prize-winning discoveries in NIH laboratories. You can learn more about Nobelists who have received NIH support at http://www.nih.gov/about/almanac/nobel/index.htm.
Through its research, NIH has played a major role in making possible many achievements over the past few decades, including
Science education by NIH and its institutes contributes to ensuring the continued supply of well-trained basic research and clinical investigators, as well as the myriad professionals in the many allied disciplines who support the research enterprise. These efforts also help educate people about scientific results so that they can make informed decisions about their own—and the public’s—health.
This curriculum supplement is one such science education effort, a collaboration among three partners: the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the NIH Office of Science Education, and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study.
For more about NIH, visit http://www.nih.gov.
Since 1985, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) has been funding and conducting biomedical research on bones, joints, muscles, and skin, both healthy and diseased. We are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, the premier supporter of biomedical research in the United States. Understanding these biological systems; improving quality of life for people with diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, muscular dystrophy, and psoriasis; and preventing disease from happening are the driving forces behind what we do.
Almost every household in America is affected in some way by one or more disorders involving muscle, skin, or bone, and people of all ages, racial and ethnic populations, and economic groups feel the impact. In fact, President George
W. Bush recognized the importance of bone and muscle disorders, a major part of this curriculum, by designating 2002–2011 as the National Bone and Joint Decade. A broad-based coalition of individuals and groups, including NIAMS, is working to accomplish the mission of the Bone and Joint Decade: to improve the health-related quality of life for people affected by musculoskeletal disorders.
To improve the nation’s health requires more than research. We need to ensure that present and future research scientists, health professionals, educators, students, patients, and their families know what we already know about bones, joints, muscles, and skin—and what we are learning. Thus, education and training join research as the three pillars of our mission.
NIAMS supports the next generation of scientists in the fields of muscle, skin, and bones through research training opportunities. This next generation can advance understanding of normal muscle, bone, and skin development and function as well as develop new strategies for the detection, prevention, and treatment of associated diseases. This curriculum is one way to inspire young people to pursue scientific careers. NIH provides research training opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing scientific careers, from high school through postgraduate opportunities. Information on NIH-sponsored training opportunities is available at http://www.training.nih.gov.
NIAMS remains committed to a comprehensive program of information dissemination. Within NIAMS, the Office of Communications and Public Liaison disseminates information to patients, voluntary and professional organizations, healthcare providers, the media, and Congress about NIAMS programs, issues, and accomplishments. We work closely with our many voluntary and professional societies to both learn their needs and views and disseminate our research findings to them. Current knowledge and research advances can be useful to everyone, as people make decisions about healthy living, seeking medical treatment, and evaluating options. NIAMS makes this information available through health education materials, the NIAMS Web site, various news media, and outreach programs. We have also developed a Spanish-language Web site called En Español (In Spanish) as a tool to reach out to the growing Hispanic/Latino population. En Español is located on the NIAMS homepage. This curriculum supplement is one of many ways NIAMS is reaching out with information and hope. We invite you to find out more by visiting our Web site at http://www.niams.nih.gov.
For more information on the Bone and Joint Decade, please visit http://www.boneandjointdecade.org.