Over the past 30 years, the National Eye Institute (NEI) has engaged in a strategic planning process that culminated in the publication of a series of national plans for vision research. This process actively involved the National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC), members of the vision research community, outside public groups, and professional and advocacy groups in assessing progress, identifying needs and opportunities, and developing strategies for research conducted and supported by the NEI. While these national plans were not designed to be a detailed blueprint for research, they were useful in identifying the most pressing needs and opportunities in vision research. The highest priority for the funding of research has been and continues to be supporting the highest quality of research that will help achieve the goals and objectives that emerge from the strategic planning process.
The NEI strategic planning process responded to advances in scientific knowledge and technology, as well as to the external requirements and resources that determined the level of funding available to support vision research. The development of this current Strategic Plan was no exception. In an era of unique and exciting scientific opportunity, an innovative new process was devised to keep the Plan as current as possible, so that the research priorities can be articulated to the scientific community, to the public, within the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, and to the Congress in response to requests for this information. This process allows the opportunity to more rapidly identify and bring emerging areas of science to bear on vision problems.
This new strategic planning process consists of two phases or components. The first phase of the process is similar to that used for the development of preceding strategic plans. Panels of experts representing each of the NEI’s programmatic research areas were asked to assess progress made since the implementation of the previous plan, determine the most critical or promising areas of research need or opportunity, and develop goals and objectives that address these areas. Information from these panels was the basis for this current Strategic Plan and is included in the sections that follow and on the NEI website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/strategicplanning. In addition, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) Partnership meets every 2 years to review and evaluate progress, identify new critical areas for applied research, and make recommendations regarding the NEHEP. The results of this ongoing planning process are also included in this Strategic Plan and on the website and will continue to assist the NEHEP Planning Committee in updating and refining NEHEP goals and objectives.
The second phase of the strategic planning process is an ongoing effort to conduct workshops, conferences, and symposia in critical or emerging areas of science to explore how they might be applied to diseases of the eye and disorders of vision. Reports from such forums are being posted on the NEI website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/strategicplanning and will assist the program planning panels in periodic evaluation and updating of the needs and opportunities in vision research and the refinement of the NEI’s goals and objectives.