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Traumatic Injury Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
defined and achievements could be documented. Often these areas of focus were due to congressional directives, increased resources associated with congressional directives, and staff interest and expertise. Some of the successes arose from a focus on a newly emerging concern.
The TI Research Program should be careful in its next stage of planning and priority setting to outline as specifically as possible the scope of the work it plans to accomplish so that its achievements are demonstrably linked to a problem of importance and their research is strategic. The committee urges the TI Research Program to focus on those occupational risks that it has specific skills for addressing and that are not currently or better addressed by other federal or nonfederal researchers. Otherwise, it risks competing with other agencies and squandering precious resources on activities that could be redundant or that will not necessarily or directly lead to accomplishing the goals of reducing morbidity and mortality from occupational traumatic injuries.
The committee does not mean that the TI Research Program should only work in areas that might be seen as “low-hanging fruit” or that can easily be shown to be impacted quickly. Some work will take a long time to show results, especially intermediate outcomes, and this is true for research in any field. The TI Research Program will likely need to address a mixture of goals that have potential for short-term and long-term impact; explicitly outlining a time line for expected results will make the evaluation of success more obvious.
An important component of strategic planning is to consider criteria for ending work in a specific goal or ending a specific approach to achieving the goal. As described in Chapter 2, the committee felt that the work in some goals lasted beyond its period of usefulness to the detriment of possibilities to impact other important TI problems. For example, the work on subgoal 4.1, the rollover protective structure (ROPS) program, seemed to reflect a missed opportunity to move beyond the “comfort zone” of the team working in this area. The committee (and other evaluation committee reviews) applauded the earlier work in ROPS but felt that persevering in developing engineering solutions occurred at the expense of a plan to explore other means, such as policy solutions, to overcome the barriers to more widespread use of ROPS.
Continue setting goals that are within the TI Research Program’sscope and resources. Given its limited resources, the TI Research Program should continue a research focus and priority setting on goals that are well defined, are based on rigorous surveillance data, and are complementary to work being done by stakeholders, extramural research partners, or other agencies.