its program results, in 2009 NIDRR requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct an external evaluation of some of the agency’s key processes and assess the quality of outputs produced by NIDRR grantees (National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, 2009a). This report presents the results of that evaluation.

This chapter introduces the report by first explaining the charge to the committee that conducted the evaluation. It then provides background information on NIDRR, including its unique legislative mandate, the types of research it funds and its grant funding mechanisms, its role related to the Interagency Committee on Disability Research, and its budget and staff. The third section summarizes approaches NIDRR has used in the past to evaluate its grantees and distinguishes them from the methods used by the committee. The final section provides an overview of the remaining chapters of the report.


This ad hoc committee, with oversight by the NRC’s Board on Human-Systems Integration, was charged with developing and implementing a framework and evaluation design for the purpose of (1) reviewing NIDRR’s priority-writing and grant review processes (“process evaluation”) and (2) assessing the quality of grantee outputs for a sample of grants representing the NIDRR portfolio (“summative evaluation”). Additionally, the committee was charged with assessing the design and implementation of its summative evaluation process and making recommendations for additional evaluations that might follow this effort. The evaluation was to be conducted over a period of 2 years between October 2009 and September 2011. The results of this evaluation are intended to provide NIDRR with a better understanding of the quality of its grantees’ outputs and how the agency can best manage an important and evolving research portfolio that meets its strategic goals and objectives while regularly assessing and improving its performance as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 2009a). The specific questions guiding the evaluation were as follows:

Process Evaluation

1.   To what extent is NIDRR’s priority-writing process conducted in such a way as to enhance the quality of the final results?

2.   To what extent are the peer reviews of grant applications done in such a way as to enhance the quality of the final results?

3.   What planning and budgetary processes does the grantee use to promote high-quality outputs?

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