It appears that consolidating the institutes on substance abuse will not be the only organizational shakeups pending for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Today the NIH Scientific Management Review Board met, and on the agenda was a draft report recommending the formation of a center focused on translational research (H/T FASEB Washington Update). In the context of medicine and health, translational research is focused on…well, translating laboratory or clinical research results into treatments, therapies and other things used to provide patient care. (I think science and technology policy could use some translational research, but that’s a topic for another post.)
According to ScienceInsider, the board approved the idea, which would transfer roughly one third of the budget from the National Center on Research Resources to the new institute. This raises questions about what happens to the rest of the center, with some speculation that the NIH will eliminate the center. Presumably the other functions will be dispersed to other appropriate places in the agency, but that is not clear right now. But it does lead to an interesting possibility – that the bureaucracy of a major research agency may flatten out rather than get more complicated. With a net reduction in centers and institutes, I wouldn’t be surprised (but don’t expect) to see someone to crow about this as reducing the size of government.