Progress Made in Federal Human Nutrition Research Planning and Coordination; Some Improvements Needed

CED-82-56: Published: May 21, 1982. Publicly Released: May 21, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on the planning and coordination of federally supported human nutrition research.

Considerable progress has been made within and among federal human nutrition research departments and agencies since Congress called for improved coordination in the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has been a major contributor to, and a catalyst for, improved coordination of nutrition research and has set the groundwork for developing an improved federal coordinated nutrition research planning system. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services have established nutrition coordinators and policy and coordination groups to deal with crosscutting nutrition issues. GAO believes that these coordination efforts should be continued and maintained as some of the federal departments reorganize or revise their nutrition research programs. Coordination within USDA is critically needed because of the recent decentralization of its nutrition information functions from its nutrition research functions. Nutrition research departments and agencies need to more clearly plan their research efforts with others through a federal nutrition research plan. An OSTP report on human nutrition research is a first step toward developing such a plan, but the six areas discussed in the report should be developed and expanded into a single research plan which would include an assessment of needs, priorities, and strategies. Existing agency nutrition research plans are either too narrow in scope or are missing certain key planning components.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, in developing their plan, should address the need to obtain expert and user advice and comments from nutritionists and other scientists; library, computer, and budget specialists; congressional staff; and others external to the federal departments to help the Secretaries develop a system that will provide research information and cost data that is timely, useful, comprehensive, reliable, and widely accepted by Congress, the executive agencies, and the nutrition community.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, in developing their plan, should address the need to obtain expert and user advice and comments from nutritionists and other scientists; library, computer, and budget specialists; congressional staff; and others external to the federal departments to help the Secretaries develop a system that will provide research information and cost data that is timely, useful, comprehensive, reliable, and widely accepted by Congress, the executive agencies, and the nutrition community.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research, which replaced the OSTP Joint Subcommittee, developed and issued a federal 5-year plan for human nutrition research to aid in developing research strategies in specific areas for federal nutrition research and to increase federal and private coordination.

    Recommendation: The Director, OSTP, should direct the OSTP Joint Subcommittee on Human Nutrition Research to develop a federal nutrition research plan by updating and expanding its December 1980 report on federally supported human nutrition research. In updating the report, the Subcommittee and the federal departments and agencies should work together to develop specific goals, objectives, and strategies and to identify the responsibilities of the federal departments and agencies and the required resources and time frames to accomplish the research goals.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should revise the charter of the Human Nutrition Board of Scientific Counselors to reflect the USDA reorganization, including the nutrition activities transferred to the Assistant Secretary for Food and Consumer Services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should amend Memorandum No. 2030, dated April 9, 1981, which established the Human Nutrition Board of Scientific Counselors, to include USDA officials and ex officio Board members and exclude them from serving as chairman and vice chairman of the Board.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director of the National Institutes of Health to: (1) include other federal nutrition research center representatives as participants in the planned Clinical Nutrition Research Unit (CNRU) site visits, or revisits; and (2) prepare a summary report on the CNRU reviews and provide the information to other federal nutrition research administrators and other interested parties, such as the appropriate congressional committees and the scientific community. This report should include an assessment of all seven CNRU's.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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