NINDS promotes dynamic communication and diverse stakeholder engagement to accelerate scientific progress and reduce the burden of neurological disorders.
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NINDS must promote dynamic communication and diverse stakeholder engagement to accelerate scientific progress and reduce the burden of neurological disorders. Achieving NINDS’s mission requires dynamic and sustained communication efforts about what the Institute does, why it does it, and how the work and its products can benefit the health and well-being of all people. Several principles help guide NINDS’s communication and dissemination efforts:
NINDS’s audiences are the Institute’s stakeholders — those individuals and organizations who influence us and are affected by what we do. These include, but are not limited to, the national and international research and health practice communities, individuals with neurological conditions across the lifespan and their caregivers, the public, Congress and policymakers, other federal agencies, public and private partners, and the media. NINDS seeks to develop and refine communication strategies tailored to the varied needs of all our stakeholders.
To be a trusted, go-to source on neurological research and disorders, NINDS must continually engage with its many stakeholders to identify and respond to their information needs. This stakeholder engagement requires bi-directional communication and careful maintenance of working relationships and is made ever more complex by the large quantity and variety of stakeholders. This goal explores strategies to broaden NINDS’s outreach efforts, including fostering opportunities for communication partnerships that enhance and support the NINDS mission.
NINDS regularly engages with different stakeholders and strives to better understand their needs. Despite several successes, there are opportunities to build upon these efforts. Diversifying who we engage with to reach organizations and individuals we may be missing is an especially high priority. NINDS will continue to plan and conduct ongoing outreach activities tailored to the needs of different stakeholders, while exploring new venues and mechanisms to enhance the breadth and diversity of input.
NINDS uses a wide variety of communication tools and platforms, including websites, traditional media (e.g., press releases and science news articles), social media, digital and multimedia (e.g., podcasts, videos, and mobile apps), conference exhibits, public talks, and print brochures and publications, among others. Still, there are several opportunities to enhance the way NINDS content is presented, packaged, and distributed, as well as to explore emerging communication technologies and platforms that might help broaden our reach. One of the most efficient ways of expanding NINDS’s reach is to cultivate communication partnerships, leveraging the extensive social networks of our many stakeholders. To this end, NINDS collaborates with many professional societies, nonprofit organizations, and other federal agencies on various communication and engagement efforts. Opportunities exist, however, to strengthen and expand such partnerships.
NINDS uses web analytics and other tracking efforts to assess some aspects of our communication efforts; however, a more robust analytics approach and larger suite of metrics are needed to fully measure effectiveness. NINDS also appreciates the value of applying a more systematic approach to our assessment efforts, including identifying the goals and appropriate analytical methods prior to each communication and engagement effort. Having robust analytics is key to identifying knowledge and resource gaps and spurring new content strategies to improve engagement.
An important goal for NINDS is to provide information about our activities and decision making to individuals and organizations who are interested in and affected by what we do. By promoting understanding of our operations and strategies, we can work better with the research community writ large.
Fulfilling the NINDS mission depends on accurate, timely, clear, equitable, and broad communication of scientific priorities and funding opportunities. NINDS routinely seeks input on research gaps and opportunities, most intensively through the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council, frequent topical workshops, and strategic planning efforts where insights and advice are provided by researchers, other subject matter experts, and the public. More can be done, however, to optimize the way the Institute gathers and incorporates this critical input in a systematic way across the broad swath of NINDS’s mission areas. Additionally, once final decisions are made, we must ensure that they are clearly and broadly conveyed. For example, while all NIH funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) are made public through the NIH Guide, researchers often find it difficult to find the most relevant FOAs, and the intent of those FOAs is not always clear without interpretation from NINDS staff. NINDS seeks to develop new strategies to ensure that the entire NINDS community is fully aware of and has a strong voice in informing our policies, funding opportunities, and research priorities. Moreover, NINDS appreciates that personal relationships – between program officers; NINDS leaders; and scientists, mentors, and trainees funded by NINDS – are a critical component of cultivating a sense of belonging in the research community.
Understanding the “ins and outs” of how NINDS operates, especially the grant application process and how to comply with award requirements, is a complex undertaking. Information overload is a major challenge. NIH and NINDS websites contain extensive information for potential grant applicants; however, they can be intimidatingly dense and technical resources, in part because navigation often involves jumping back and forth between NIH-wide and NINDS-specific sites. NINDS strives for an open-door policy to allow our research community to get the guidance it needs. Extramural program staff field several types of questions on a regular basis (often via email and over the phone), including choosing the right funding opportunity, hallmarks of successful grant applications, and aspects of review. While these ad hoc communications can be quite effective, some applicants do not know the best way to engage with NINDS to get answers to their questions. To help anticipate and respond to applicant questions, NINDS seeks to improve how we communicate with researchers and make ourselves more accessible to the scientific community, especially those who have little or no prior experience submitting NIH proposals, in particular, trainees, new investigators, small businesses, and underrepresented scientists.
Translating the potential of NINDS-funded research into real-world impact requires communication, coordination, and cooperation among numerous stakeholders and communities within and beyond academic neuroscience and neurology, including public and private partners and patient and citizen communities. NINDS seeks to promote and support these interactions and create opportunities for the fruitful exchange and dissemination of all the of outputs of NINDS investments with the ultimate goal of promoting neurological health among all members of our society.
Publications are just the first step in converting the outcomes of research into advances in knowledge and health. Translating NINDS-funded research into real-world impact requires extensive communication and cooperation among numerous communities—in particular, with media outlets and reporters, medical and public health practitioners, nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental organizations, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, individuals with neurological conditions, and the broader public. NINDS will continue to vigorously disseminate research findings, while also cultivating new dissemination channels. In addition to new knowledge, NINDS’s yield of research infrastructure, tools, reagents, data sets, and innovative technologies, are in many ways even more challenging to disseminate than research articles. The exchange of these resources among researchers and health practitioners, however, is crucial to supporting a steady pace of progress and translation of knowledge into care.
NINDS employs several initiatives to communicate health information that caregivers and those with neurological conditions need, as well as to educate the public on neuroscience research and the importance of brain health. For example, NINDS provides public health information for more than 250 neurological disorders and develops science education materials such as Brain Basics, interactive educational games, and printed materials on public health and other NINDS-related content. We will continue to expand these consumer resources, public health campaigns, and educational efforts aimed at fostering interest in neuroscience and knowledge of neurobiology across all ages, with a special focus on underrepresented minorities and other underserved populations.
NINDS must be able to clearly show how our research investments on behalf of American taxpayers have yielded (and will continue to yield) tangible health benefits, both domestically and globally. This is especially complicated by the fact that NINDS cannot realize its full value without the extensive work of others; for example, other NIH Institutes, other federal agencies, other research funders, policymakers, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, the nonprofit sector, regulators, health practitioners, and a receptive public. NINDS regularly highlights research advances and their implications for health in several ways, including through press releases, the NINDS website, and the Director’s Twitter feed and other social media accounts. We seek to build on and enhance these efforts and develop even more compelling ways to communicate what we do, and how we interface with other integral components of the biomedical enterprise to accomplish the NINDS mission.