Freedom of Information Act Office
IC Directors' Meeting Highlights
December 29, 2005
|From:||Director, Executive Secretariat|
|Subject:||IC Directors Meeting Highlights—October 27, 2005|
I. Autism: A Window on the Social Brain
Dr. Insel began his presentation by summarizing what we know about autism, such as its onset age, heritability, prevalence, gender breakdown, etc., and what constitutes autism by definition:
- social impairment,
- communication abnormalities, and
- stereotyped behaviors.
Then, after introducing and describing the range of autism spectrum disorders, he updated the group on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IAACC) (see http://www.nimh.nih.gov/autismiacc/index.cfm), which NIMH staffs. He also summarized the Autism Research Matrix, developed at the first Autism Summit Conference in November 2003, and brought the group up to date on recent autism and autism spectrum research involving genes, cells, systems, and behavior.
Dr. Insel described exciting research in eye-tracking methods that relies on highly specialized technology. He closed by describing recent advances in neuroanatomy and research in the circuitry of the social brain, especially as the latter might relate to pathways for processing language. He noted that Dr. Alex Martin’s NIMH intramural lab is involved in research related to the circuitry of the social brain and demonstrated a video used in that research to determine if subjects/viewers attribute social meaning to inanimate objects. He also mentioned an article in the October 26, 2005, Wall Street Journal, by Lee Gomes, entitled “Robotic Toys May One Day Diagnose Autism.”
II. OPASI Update
Dr. Kington discussed the mission of OPASI and the proposed vision of the fully-staffed office as presented at the Leadership Forum in early fall. Dr. Kington said that the Office should be up and running in 2 to 3 months and that a national search for its Director should begin within the next 6 to 10 months. He noted that the OPASI Ad Hoc Working Group (WG), under the auspices of the NIH Steering Committee, will extend its tenure in order to —
- define the criteria for initiatives to qualify for OPASI consideration and potential
- clarify the role and growth of the Common Fund (CF) for shared needs, and
- draft a detailed position description for the OPASI Director.
The WG will clearly define the critical concept of the CF, which is now envisioned as follows:
- part of a prospective planning process to fund initiatives that are in areas of
interest to multiple ICs or fall between the missions of ICs;
- not a transfer authority — it is a set-aside fund of a percentage of the
annual budgets of the NIH ICs to support research identified by the OPASI planning
- current Roadmap funds will serve as a baseline for the CF: 1.1 percent of the total NIH budget in FY 2006, growing to approximately 1.7 percent in FY 2008 (with no growth beyond this percentage until the NIH budget exceeds BRDPI; with rate of growth then to be determined annually by NIH Director and IC Directors, dependent on and consistent with identified trans-NIH opportunities and public health needs, increasing to a maximum of 5 percent).
The discussion that followed led to such observations as the need for —
- a definitive timeline,
- a set of possible outcomes,
- a set of potential types of initiatives that could be funded by the CF, and
- a clear OPASI process before conducting a national search for a Director.
Dr. Kington called for IC Directors to provide —
- comments on the OPASI Ad Hoc WG report and Director position description,
- recommendations for an OPASI Director detail,
- comments on the OPASI WG draft charter, and
- suggestions for membership on the WG.
cc: OD Senior Staff