NIOSH TI research project planning takes place at the research division level and at the institute level.
At the division level, Division of Safety Research (DSR) staff propose research projects within the context of program drivers, which may include surveillance findings on injury incidence and severity, worker groups with the greatest numbers and risk of death or injury, congressional mandates, stakeholder input, or research needs outlined in the 1998 National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)-TI team white paper (NIOSH, 1998). DSR leadership—with input from staff—rates and ranks new project concepts based on project need, soundness of approach or methods, and expected impact (NIOSH, 2007a, p. 43). Concepts that rank highest are approved based on funding availability. Staff may then develop research protocols within the approved concept areas. Research protocols are peer-reviewed internally, and may also be presented at public meetings for stakeholder input and to assess the interest in and potential impact of the research. When research projects end, funding returns to a pool for competition for new project concepts proposed by DSR staff (NIOSH, 2007a, p. 43).
At the institute level, NIOSH researchers, on an annual basis, have the opportunity to compete for NORA funds set aside for intramural research. Competition for these funds is institute-wide, although the NIOSH director may sometimes call for focus in a specific area. The director makes final project funding decisions using scores from an external peer review and available funding. When projects are completed, funding returns to the NORA pool for renewed intramural competition (NIOSH, 2007a, p. 43).
According to DSR leadership, most current TI Research Program projects are funded through the institute-wide NORA funding competition. DSR “base” funds (annual division or lab allocation) have diminished and are now used primarily for ongoing surveillance and field investigation programs, as well as congressionally mandated projects (NIOSH, 2007a, p. 43). Funds left over from the few DSR-specific funded projects that end each year are used to cover costs to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have increased in recent years, as well as annual cost-of-living increases. There has not been competition for new projects with DSR base funds for the past 3 years.2
Extramural researchers may request NIOSH funding for TI research through NIOSH general program announcements, targeted requests for applications (RFAs) developed by the TI Research Program aimed at filling specific program gaps, and