Report of the American Heart Association Task Force on Strategic Research Direction: Executive Summary
In spring 2001, the American Heart Association (AHA) commissioned a task force to develop an inventory of key science areas, the exploration of which would be critical to the realization of:
the AHA’s mission to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke, and
the AHA’s 2010 goal of reducing coronary heart disease, stroke, and risk by 25%.
More specifically, the task force was asked to:
(1) identify the critical basic and clinical expertise and disciplines needed to form the foundation for the way we prevent and treat CVD and stroke in the future;
(2) identify the critical clinical, population, and outcomes research efforts needed to reduce coronary heart disease, stroke, and risk by 25% by 2010; and
(3) identify the current levels of AHA support for these promising areas and recommend strategies for AHA support of these areas as needed.
A task force of eminent scientists (see Table 1) representative of the breadth of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular science was recruited. The task force worked in three subgroups—Basic Science, Clinical Science, and Population Science. Through a series of teleconference meetings from June through September 2001, each subgroup identified five or six key topics and summarized these in the form of a report. These seventeen topics, listed in Table 2, were identified by each of the three subgroups as critical to the advancement of the AHA mission and attainment of its 2010 goal. The three subgroup reports can be viewed in their entirety online at http://www.circulationaha.org in the November 12, 2002, issue of Circulation.
The entire membership of the task force evaluated all seventeen topics derived from the subgroups’ deliberations. Criteria used in this assessment included importance in achieving the AHA mission, importance in achieving the 2010 goal, likelihood that Association funding could have an impact, degree to which the topics complement programs of other agencies, degree to which partnerships with other agencies could be leveraged, and extent to which the topic contributes to a balanced Association funding portfolio.
There was general agreement on the importance of the AHA’s support for research training, that the AHA should leverage its investment by helping scientists develop to the point of competing for National Institutes of Health funding, and that the AHA should investigate new research funding models. The group also agreed that the three subgroup reports should be published, as a way to stimulate other agencies to focus on the science areas they identify.
The Task Force made the following recommendations:
(1) Priority science topics. The task force recommended that the following topics should be supported by strategically focused research funds of the AHA:
(a) Obesity and other risk factors
(b) Functional genomics and population genetics
(2) Funding mechanism. The task force recommended that the funding mechanism to be used to support the two priority science topics should be support for small clusters or teams of researchers. These clusters should exhibit the following characteristics:
(a) Multidisciplinary composition—ie, including intellectual support for all three domains of basic, clinical, and population science (including, as appropriate, bioinformatics and social sciences). The cluster of investigators would be expected to include competence in all three domains.
(b) Focus on developing beginning investigators’ abilities in applying basic, clinical, and population science techniques to CVD and stroke problems.
(c) Involvement of more than one institution. This might take the shape of the beginning investigator’s receiving training at one institution and bringing these techniques to another. Or it could involve formation of a research program cluster across two or more institutions.
The task force reported its outcomes and recommendations to the AHA’s Board of Directors in October 2001.
The American Heart Association makes every effort to avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of an outside relationship or a personal, professional, or business interest of a member of the writing panel. Specifically, all members of the writing group are required to complete and submit a Disclosure Questionnaire showing all such relationships that might be perceived as real or potential conflicts of interest.
A single reprint of this article is available by calling 800-242-8721 (US only) or writing the American Heart Association, Public Information, 7272 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75231-4596. Ask for reprint No. 71-0242. The full report is available online at http://www.circulationaha.org in the November 12, 2002, issue of Circulation.