Unfortunately, integrative and collaborative research tends to be the exception rather than the standard. For example, agencies tend to be oriented toward funding research programs that are drug-or issue-specific. Requests for proposals (RFPs) and grants reflect the interests of the funding agency and are often focused on a specific problem and/or are discipline-specific. Study sections tend to be comprised of individuals knowledgeable about one discipline or field of research, and awards are granted to studies that are based on criteria that do not include or give priority to interdisciplinary research. In addition, the organization of most universities into disciplinary departments makes interdisciplinary research difficult to conduct and manage (NAS, 1995). Collaborative efforts within institutes or agencies are often impeded by proprietary concerns, conceptual differences, funding conflicts, and competition. Although those traditional mechanisms are important for funding research in any area, it would appear that in some instances a break with tradition is necessary to deal with interdisciplinary and collaborative research.
Effective and productive multidisciplinary collaboration is difficult to achieve, but is possible when there is a commitment by scientists and clinicians in the field to support collaborative efforts involving basic, clinical, and behavioral science. In light of the recent advances in the field and the importance of collaborative and integrative research efforts to address the problems of addiction and relapse, the committee recommends that:
Funding institutions, such as the government and private foundations, should develop program funding mechanisms (e.g., Requests for Applications [RFAs], annual conferences, symposia) to foster collaborative exchanges of information and research, such as the scientific breakthroughs that occur during drug development;
Universities with faculty engaged in addiction research should undertake a comprehensive review of the support and resources available for collaborative efforts within and outside the university, particularly those collaborative efforts which involve multiple disciplines; administrators should develop a plan to share resources and facilities both within and across institutions and specify criteria for access;
Funding agencies, such as the government and private foundations, should focus on new integrative opportunities (e.g., drug addiction etiology and medications) through using the combined strengths of participating institutions, including government, industry, private foundations, multidisciplinary centers, and Academic Centers of Excellence;
NIH should review the composition of Initial Review Groups (IRGs) to ensure that there is appropriate representation across necessary disciplines;