NIH Biomedical Research Support Grant Program

HRD-81-42: Published: Dec 16, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 16, 1980.

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GAO surveyed the Biomedical Research Support Grant (BRSG) program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The purpose of the survey was to determine whether the program's objectives were being achieved and grant funds were being properly used. GAO reviewed policies, procedures, guidelines, plans, and studies related to the program and interviewed officials who are responsible for its implementation. GAO performed onsite reviews of four grantees and conducted interviews with two other grantees. During onsite visits, grantee officials were interviewed and grantees' systems for managing their grants, including their financial records and annual reports to NIH, were reviewed. Grants are made to public or nonprofit universities, hospitals, laboratories, and other institutions to complement other types of targeted research support. Each grant is administered at the grantee institution by a program director who is advised by a standing committee of qualified scientific and administrative personnel. Each grantee must submit annual reports to NIH which show how funds have been used and what was achieved.

The BRSG program objectives, as currently established, appear to be too general to permit NIH to effectively measure the extent to which they are being met. Annual progress reports submitted by grantee institutions identify recipients of grant funds, describe how funds were used, list publications produced from supported work, and give grantees' assessments of program impact. GAO found, however, that sometimes the annual reports were inaccurate or not supported by backup records. Because grantees apply different definitions to terms used in the annual reports, combining the data from all the reports does not yield valid results. NIH officials recognize that the program objectives are too broad, and no plausible method exists to measure the extent to which the objectives are being met; however, efforts to make an objective assessment of the program have been limited. In order to make the 1983 planned evaluation meaningful, measurable objectives should be established and an evaluation methodology developed as soon as possible.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary for Health of HHS should require NIH to establish firm target dates for establishing measurable program objectives and developing an evaluation methodology under which program achievements can be measured against those objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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