strata, the medical and scientific community can leverage both new knowledge and tools from other fields to develop aging research into a mature component of the national scientific portfolio. For example, dramatic recent developments in several fields—from molecular biology to the social sciences—await application to age-related issues and hold the potential of rapidly advancing the nascent fields of gerontology and geriatrics. There is an increasing awareness that the field of aging may be entering a phase of major breakthroughs that have the potential not only of increasing our understanding of age-related diseases and enhancing functions in the elderly but also, quite possibly, of beginning to solve the mystery of the human lifespan. This opportunity is constrained, however, by increasing fiscal pressures.
At this critical juncture the nation's needs demand a comprehensive plan for research on aging. This document represents the result of the Institute of Medicine's (IOM's) effort to develop a plan in recognition of this need at the request of a number of federal agencies and foundations.
The IOM convened 87 experts from various fields relevant to aging and age-related research in a two-year study to identify the needs and opportunities for research on aging in basic biomedical science, social and behavioral sciences, clinical medicine, health services delivery, and biomedical ethics. The group sought to document and outline recent exciting developments in aging research, to set clear priorities for future research, and to estimate the resources required to enter into such an agenda for the nation's research scientists. A major thrust of this report examines processes of discovery and treatment that will improve function in the elderly population, without denying the importance of research whose focus is restricted to investigation of disease.
This study includes three stages. During the first stage, commissioned papers were developed, and a detailed bibliometric analysis of aging research was conducted. In the second stage the expert committee met several times to deliberate and prepare this report. For the report the committee sought input from a wide variety of agencies and organizations interested in or supportive of research on aging. The committee has reviewed the current funding inventory as well as the results of the bibliometric analysis. Liaison teams comprised of experts in the areas of biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social, and health services delivery research were charged with developing a prioritized list of special research opportunities and needs for the next 10 to 20 years. In addition, two national authori-