programs in disability and rehabilitation research should be elevated within their respective agencies or departments.
There would be immediate benefits to the improvement of the quality and coordination of rehabilitation-related research from an administrative relocation of NIDDR to HHS. Expanding the overall research effort, however, will require additional funding. Table 10-4 shows what an expanded research effort such as this might cost.
The major purposes of moving NIDRR are threefold: first, to explant it administratively to a more nurturing and supportive environment; secondly, to raise the visibility of disability and rehabilitation research as important health issues; and lastly to serve more effectively as the core of an interagency coordinating body. In serving as the basis for a new agency, the move would provide an opportunity to develop a better coordinated federal effort with enhanced visibility and well-defined, complementary goals for the overall effort. Moving NIDRR to DHHS and elevating it to an agency-level program (ADRR) would correct many of the deficiencies and problems that have been described above, and improve the overall productivity of federal research in rehabilitation science and engineering.
Moving NIDRR out of the Department of Education is an important component of the recommended changes to improve the overall federal effort. As indicated by the GAO in 1989, the U.S. Department of Education has not provided adequate resources to the development of NIDRR (GAO, 1989), and seems unlikely to do so in the future. Such things as the lack of consistent announcement dates for grant competitions and ad hoc review panels with only a few members prevent or at best interfere with high-quality reviews. The constant change in peer reviewers does not allow applicants to receive constructive criticism from the review process or the opportunity to respond to the same reviewers. Hence, investigators are discouraged from applying.
Administrative locations other than DHHS were considered by the committee, but the most reasonable choice seemed to be within DHHS, at the level of the Administration on Aging. There is also an historic precedent in that the origins of NIDRR reside in the former U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. But more importantly, and among other reasons, being located in DHHS would facilitate cross-fertilization with other relevant programs and activities, such as the Administration on Aging, the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. Moving to DHHS, as opposed to creating an independent agency, would