for these collaborations is conducted by IC staff following an interagency transfer of funds from ORMH to ICs.
The ORMH priority-setting and funding processes appear to be driven by the professional judgment and research priorities of an ad hoc panel, as well as those of other ICs. In response to an inquiry from the study committee, ORMH writes:
ORMH begins its funding process by asking the ICs, ''What is it that we should be doing that we are not doing?" In practice the ORMH sends out two communications to the ICs annually. The first call is for the confirmation of projects for which ORMH has committed out-year support. The second call is for the submission of new projects or programs that the ICs consider meritorious and which fill a gap in minority health research and/or research training. Because the level of support requested by the ICs usually exceed the budget for the Minority Health Initiative, an ad hoc review panel is convened to assist ORMH in prioritizing the projects to support (National Institutes of Health, Office of Research on Minority Health, 1998a).
Research initiatives proposed by other ICs for ORMH co-funding are evaluated by the Center for Scientific Review and individual IC advisory councils for appropriateness. Proposals are then forwarded to ORMH for evaluation and prioritization.
Although the ORMH proposal review process has been conducted by an ad hoc panel since the office's inception, as of recently the newly appointed Advisory Committee on Research on Minority Health will advise the ORMH director on prioritizing the projects that ORMH will support. This committee, which held its first meeting in April 1998, is composed of 12 individuals with expertise in minority health research or research training, or both. The committee will advise the ORMH director regarding appropriate research priorities and activities for the enhancement of minority health for the inclusion of minority groups as subjects in clinical research and for the enhancement of minority participation in research and training programs. The committee is expected to meet twice a year and to produce a biennial report summarizing its advice and recommendations regarding NIH programs. The establishment of the Advisory Committee appears to represent the first step toward a "formalized" process of internal review of ORMH activities (see Chapter 4 for a more detailed discussion of the ORMH priority-setting process).
Specifically, at the first meeting of the committee, ORMH Director John Ruffin and NIH Director Harold Varmus asked for the committee's assistance in several areas, including reviewing the current portfolio of research co-funded by ORMH to identify potential gaps, assessing whether critical minority health research issues are being appropriately addressed through the Minority Health Initiative, and advising NIH regarding optimal