Update Corner: NIH Institute Merging And Commons In A Box

Earlier this week the National Institutes of Health publicly backed away from a plan to combine its two substance abuse institutes into one (H/T ScienceInsider).  While the plan to combine the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction and the National Institute on Drug Abuse dates back at least two years, a draft Scientific Strategic Plan for the combination was circulated earlier this year.  There was some resistance, some of it from alcoholism researchers, who were concerned about how much attention (good or bad) their work might receive in a combined institute.  These concerns include how differently society considers the use of alcohol and the use of drugs.

Instead of a formal merger, the NIH is focusing on what it calls functional integration.  From the announcement:

“After rigorous review and extensive consultation with stakeholders, I have concluded that it is more appropriate for NIH to pursue functional integration, rather than major structural reorganization, to advance substance use, abuse, and addiction-related research.  To that end, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) will retain their institutional identities, while strengthening their ongoing efforts to work more closely with each other and with related research programs at other institutes and centers.”

Last year I noted the public coming-out of the Commons in a Box project at the City University of New York (CUNY).  An expansion of an in-house project to develop an online community (the CUNY Academic Commons), Commons in a Box has now been launched in beta.  The project has support from the Sloan Foundation, and the Modern Language Association has adopted Commons in a Box for its organization that will launch in January 2013.

Entities interested in using Commons in a Box should visit the website and review the documentation before downloading the components.

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