Building a Solid Policy Foundation Through Meaningful Engagement

If you have visited the OSP website in the last month, you’ve likely noticed it has a new look and feel.  Of course, a few changes were aesthetic, but most were made with one purpose in mind: making information easier to find and use. Hopefully you’ll agree that we’ve achieved that goal with our new design. 

Transparency is a word we use in government quite a bit but putting it into action can be tough. The internet is a big place – simply posting documents online fulfills the transparency mandate but does it actually provide value to users? To understand more about providing value to our users, and as a team of folks committed to evidence-based decision-making, we reached out to a variety of individuals in different positions and roles and asked them to test drive our website. We are grateful for their time and their honesty, as we received candid feedback about their experience on our site. 

I’d like to highlight two significant changes we made based on some of the feedback we heard. First, while the organization and flow may be common sense to those of us with a nuanced understanding of governmental lingo and structure, it was less intuitive to those seeking policy information. Now you will find policies front and center, grouped thematically under policy areas. In doing so we removed redundant clicks. And for those of us who just like to google and see exactly what we need, we put a lot of our efforts into making the search feature highly responsive. The second thing we heard is that getting involved in policymaking still can feel like a black box. I firmly believe engaging your government is a civic duty, so I took this one to heart. Now you will find a new “Get Involved” page which contains information on open requests for information, compiled comments for previous requests, as well as information on upcoming meetings where the public can participate.  

Our approach to our website reflects our approach to policy-making: meaningful engagement and transparency is the key to success. 

You’ll see we are trying new engagement approaches in a variety of settings. For example, as part of the NExTRAC’s latest charge experts are engaging communities across the US to understand community values and preferences about sharing personal health data to inform NIH’s future policy efforts on this topic. No small feat as individual preferences are just that – individual. But how do we consider all these varying perspectives when making policy? Step one is making sure we hear them.  

To put it succinctly, making policy must be a shared experience.  OSP wants to hear from all communities that are potentially affected by the policies we are developing.  The unique perspectives diverse audiences bring to the table will help us ensure we are making the best, most-informed decisions.  Whether it is our website or a major policy relating to the latest scientific breakthrough, OSP is committed to making the voice of the community heard.

Lyric Jorgenson, PhD
Acting NIH Associate Director for Science Policy
About Lyric

Upcoming Meeting of the NSABB

On January 27, 2023, NIH will be hosting a virtual meeting of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB).  This meeting will feature a discussion of the draft report of the NSABB Working Groups to Review and Evaluate the U.S. Government Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight (PC3O) and Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) Policies, which was prepared in response to the charge given by the NIH Director at the February 2022 NSABB meeting   

A draft agenda and information on how to provide comments can be found on the NSABB meeting page of the OSP Website. The report from the NSABB Working Groups will also be posted to the meeting page prior to the meeting.   

If you have any questions, please contact us at SciencePolicy@od.nih.gov. You can also follow us on Twitter: @NIH_OSP

Catalyzing Research with Novel Alternative Methods

Thomas Edison had a famous saying.  No, not the one about inspiration and perspiration.  I am talking about the one that goes “there is a way to do it better – find it.”  No one can really argue with the results that the Wizard of Menlo Park achieved from living his life by that motto.  While Edison died some 25 years prior to the discovery of the double helix, his words echo as a clear directive to the way we should approach biomedical research.  

NIH unambiguously believes that animal models are critically important to biomedical research.  At the same time, we also continue to support the development of methods that capitalize on new technological approaches that can complement and supplement what we learn from animal studies.  These novel alternative methods (NAMs) can complement traditional animal models and in some cases, may help refine or replace the need for animal models in certain types of research studies. 

NIH has an increasingly expanding investment in the development and use of NAMs in multiple ways.  Examples include 3D tissue culture models and the use of computational methods, such as machine learning.  NAMs are used to explore a wide range of areas, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness, infectious disease, rare diseases, and other basic and clinical research. The use of NAMs has many important potential benefits including, speeding up drug development, predicting drug safety and efficacy in humans, and improving understanding of biological mechanisms in isolation.  Importantly, the NAMs can help us see complex problems through a different lens, potentially catalyzing amazing scientific discovery.

Supporting NAMs is not new for NIH.  For over two decades, the National Toxicology Program, led by the NIEHS Director, has provided resources for alternatives to animal use in toxicology testing. The use of NAMs by the biomedical research community has expanded beyond toxicology into the research funded and conducted by nearly every Institute and Center at the NIH. In recognition of this, we recently convened a cross-NIH working group to further explore the use of NAMs across NIH. More recently, the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) has been exploring its own capabilities to support NAMs to complement animal research.  There are also a number of collaborative NAMs efforts underway between NIH ICs and the FDA involving topics such as toxicological research and tissue chips. 

If you watched today’s meeting of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD), you will already be in the know about an exciting new development—the creation of a new ACD working group.  This new working group is being set up to explore NAMs options and to make recommendations on where NAMs are positioned to be most applicable or beneficial, especially in terms of advancing our understanding of human health.  The establishment of this working group acts on the recommendation included in the ACD Working Group on Enhancing Rigor, Transparency, and Translatability in Animal Research’s June 2021 report.

As one of the co-chairs of this newly established working group, I am very excited to get started with our work as NAMs hold tremendous promise to help complement the research landscape. The working group will also be seeking stakeholder input on this issue and robust community engagement will be key to the working group’s success.

I started this blog ignoring Thomas Edison’s most famous quote.  However, after thinking a bit about it, I think there will be lots of inspiration and perspiration in my future.

Lyric Jorgenson, PhD
Acting NIH Associate Director for Science Policy
About Lyric

NIH OSP Now Recruiting for Multiple Job Opportunities

Do you like a fast-paced environment where your work has a direct impact on the health of the Nation?  If so, a career in the NIH Office of Science Policy (OSP) might be the place for you.  OSP leads in the development of new research policies and programs for some of the most pressing biomedical research issues. OSP is also the primary advisor to the NIH Director and NIH leadership on new, emerging science policy issues affecting biomedical research.

Currently, OSP is recruiting for four positions throughout our office.  These positions are located in the following policy divisions:

  • Scientific Data Sharing
  • Clinical and Healthcare Research
  • Biosecurity, Biosafety, and Emerging Biotechnology
  • Science Policy Coordination, Collaboration, and Reporting

If you want to learn more about why OSP is such a stimulating and fulfilling place to work, we have prepared a short video featuring OSP employees telling their stories.

All vacancies are open from August, 15, 2023,– August, 19, 2023.  Full information and how to apply can be found at:

For questions, contact Kelly Fennington at fenningk@od.nih.gov.  Also, you can follow us on Twitter: @NIH_OSP