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NCCIH Research Blog

Research Concepts: An Early Glimpse of Potential Opportunities

October 31, 2019

Partap S. Khalsa, D.C., Ph.D.

Partap S. Khalsa, D.C., Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Activities

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The National Advisory Council on Complementary and Integrative Health met on September 20 here in Bethesda, Maryland. One of the highlights, as in past Council meetings, was the presentation by Division of Extramural Research staff members of new concepts for research.

What are concepts, and why are they noteworthy? A concept is an early planning stage in the potential development of a research initiative, which may include one or more funding opportunity announcements (FOAs).

First, NCCIH staff prepare and discuss concept ideas to meet research opportunities and needs. During planning retreats and other meetings, they determine which of these concepts will be presented to Council for review, comment, and approval. Those to be presented are further refined and summaries written by staff.

Next, NCCIH staff formally present them during the open session of a Council meeting. Members discuss each concept, such as its focus, its fit with Center priorities, and a possible budget and mechanism. Concepts approved by Council vote are posted on our website after the meeting. At this early stage, the specific award mechanisms (i.e., a grant, cooperative agreement, or contract) or funding allocations for an FOA are not yet determined.

We invite our researcher audience to browse approved concepts for a heads-up about some NCCIH priority topics as well as potential FOAs. At the same time, it’s important to know that Council’s approval of a concept does not guarantee that it will be developed into a formal initiative. Things can happen along the way, such as changes in priorities, e.g., during a strategic planning process. When a concept becomes an official initiative, the published FOA provides explicit details on the goals of the FOA, allowable budgets, when and how to apply, what must be included in the application, and the criteria by which it will be peer reviewed. All NCCIH FOAs are published in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts and posted on the Center’s website.

You can read the details of the approved concepts from our last two Council meetings (June and September 2019):

If you are a researcher in one or more of these topic areas, you may want to begin thinking about a project and your application. Among your early steps, we strongly encourage you to reach out to the program director listed on the concept. He or she can help you determine whether your idea aligns with the concept or other published FOAs and can answer your questions.


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