International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care


Impact of the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Program on stimulating National Institutes of Health–funded research, 1998 to 2001

Barry Portnoy a1, Jennifer Miller a1, Kathryn Brown-Huamani a2 and Emily DeVoto a3
a1 National Institutes of Health
a2 Scientific Consulting Group
a3 Independent Consultant


Objectives: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Conference (CDC) was instituted to provide evidence-based guidance on controversial medical issues to researchers, health practitioners, and the public; however, the degree of impact this activity has on stimulating relevant research is unclear. This study examines the impact of CDC statements on the initiation of related NIH-funded research projects.

Methods: Six CDCs from 1998 to 2001 were examined. Research initiatives related to the Conferences' topics were collected through two discrete methods: (i) the overall number of relevant pre- and postconference research activities was compiled using NIH's Information for Management, Planning, Analysis, and Coordination II (IMPAC II) and the Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) grant application and award databases; (ii) for each CDC, the sponsoring institute's conference coordinator and other identified Program Directors were queried for their knowledge of new conference-specific research initiatives sponsored by their institute. The main outcome measure was the total number of requests for applications, requests for proposals, program announcements, broad agency announcements, notices, and funded investigator-initiated research program grants (RO1s) for a given Consensus topic in the 3 years before (baseline measure) and following (measure of impact) a CDC.

Results: As identified through NIH's IMPAC II and DHHS' CRISP grants and announcements databases, the total number of relevant postconference research initiatives increased for five of six CDCs when compared with baseline activity levels; research activities remained constant for the sixth. When inclusion criteria were restricted to institute-identified research initiatives, two of six CDC topics had overall increases in relevant research activity in the postconference period.

Conclusions: CDCs appear to have a positive impact on the stimulation of related NIH-funded research initiatives. Future outcomes evaluations using prospective data collection methods and more robust participation by sponsoring and cosponsoring institutes should strengthen the reliability of the association between new research initiatives on a given topic and their causal relationship to a given CDC.

Key Words: Consensus development; Impact evaluation; Diffusion of innovation.