The first Boards of Scientific Counselors (BSCs), constituted of scientists from outside NIH, were established in 1956 to review intramural research at NIH. The Clinical Center's BSC was chartered in 1990. The BSCs were established to assist the Scientific Directors (SDs) and Institute or Center Directors (ICDs) in evaluating the quality of the intramural research programs for which they are responsible. To assure that the BSCs' evaluations will be most useful to the institute or center leadership in their decision making, the BSCs must be composed of individuals who themselves have outstanding scientific credentials and who are committed to providing rigorous, objective reviews.
Although the principal purpose of these independent evaluations is to advise the SDs and ICDs, the reports of the BSCs are also distributed to the Director, National Institutes of Health and the NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research.
Careful, critical review of the science conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is central to the mission of the NIH. Over the past several years, primarily as a result of the review of the NIH intramural program by an External Advisory Committee1 convened at the behest of the Director of the NIH, the scientific review process has been strengthened substantially. Each institute's Board of Scientific Counselors has a central role in the conduct of these reviews.
The Board reviews the independent research conducted by each Institute investigator. Although the Clinical Center is primarily a service organization, with approximately 95 percent of its resources dedicated to service to the other Institutes and Centers, a small fraction (approximately 4%) of the Clinical Center's budget is spent on the independent research of Clinical Center investigators. This investment is necessary to recruit and retain top quality staff to provide the highest quality clinical services to Clinical Center patients and to provide the best infrastructure for interactive research with the institutes.
As is the case for all independent investigators in NIH's intramural program, each Clinical Center tenured and tenure-track investigator is externally reviewed every 4 years as part of the scientific review of her/his clinical department. To assure that all of the research performed by the Clinical Center departments receives adequate scientific review, staff clinicians and staff scientists, who generally function in a supportive role but may spend a small fraction of their time leading individual projects for the department, may be asked to present their projects to the Board of Scientific Counselors. The charge to each Board of Scientific Counselor's site visit team focuses on three fundamental questions:
- Is the research of each independent investigator in the department outstanding?
- Does the research exploit the unique features of the NIH Intramural Program (captive or unique patient populations, stable long-term funding, critical mass, unique support facilities, etc.)?
- Does the scientist's research contribution merit the resources invested (funds, space, staffing)?