cluding the fact that it might facilitate the establishment of an integrated program with clear goals and vision, the fiscal and political realities of creating a new program of this size are probably unsurmountable at present.
The overall problems of coordination, visibility, support, and monitoring of federal programs are too large to be resolved by adjustments to the NIDRR program alone (Option 1). Consolidation into a single agency (Option 2) is similarly unacceptable, although for different reasons. A middle-ground approach is proposed as Option 3. This option would (1) move NIDRR to DHHS creating an Agency on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (ADRR) within DHHS that would coordinate the various federal programs, (2) establish a small set-aside fund from the agencies involved in rehabilitation research to support the coordination effort and help ensure participation, and (3) elevate other programs within their respective agencies to enhance visibility.
The committee believes that the unique mission of NIDRR needs to be preserved because it is fundamentally important to the research agenda of rehabilitation science and engineering espoused by this committee. NIDRR has vigorously pursued this mission as best as possible within the constraints of its administrative location. Moving NIDRR from U.S. Department of Education to DHHS, however, would facilitate, if not require, the implementation of a new system for grant application, review, and management—a major benefit to improving the quality of research.
There are three initial advantages and benefits to be gained from moving NIDRR to DHHS. First of all, the move would be an opportunity to review the program's mission and personnel, and make appropriate changes to the program's structure. Secondly, it would move NIDRR closer administratively to NIH and CDC, which should facilitate coordination among the agencies. Finally, it would allow NIDRR to amend its peer review process. In an environment more conducive to research, NIDRR could establish larger, more permanent peer review panels. These larger panels would allow review of a more heterogeneous mix of applications, and allow for broader representation (including people with disabling conditions) on the review panels. With increased investment in peer review, staff could make more site visits, making the peer review process more rigorous, attracting high quality scientists interested in rehabilitation-related research. Standing committees would have more time for reviewing and need less time getting to know the process.
After carefully considering all three options, the committee arrived at the conclusions and recommendations that follow.