On August 17, the Biden administration released its annual memo to inform federal science agencies of its Multi-Agency Research and Development (R&D) priorities for the fiscal year 2025 budget.
The memo, issued by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Arati Prabhakar and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda D. Young, maintains the administration’s commitment to investing in R&D with the goals of achieving better health outcomes, bolstering the STEM workforce, tackling climate change, and improving health equity and inclusivity.
The document also reiterates the administration’s commitment to reducing barriers and inequities through its investment in R&D. It instructs agencies to “support workforce development…with an emphasis on emerging research institutions and historically underserved communities”.
What’s new this year is a greater emphasis on regional and industrial innovation to achieve these missions and ensure U.S. competitiveness in science and technology. As such, the first area of focus in the memo is to “advance trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI) technology” with the aim of addressing large societal challenges and improving government functions.
AADOCR applauds the Biden administration for its strong support of scientific and medical research and has championed NIH and NIDCR initiatives that are aligned with the administration’s priorities. For example, NIDCR helped fund an international research team in 2020 that utilized “deep learning” – a form of AI – to successfully detect the presence of molecular and genetic alterations based only on tumor images across 14 cancer types, including head and neck. The approach could make cancer diagnosis faster and less expensive and help clinicians deliver personalized treatment to patients.
In terms of reducing barriers and inequities, the NIH has made Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) a core pillar of its mission and is integrating these principles across all NIH activities through a five-year NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for DEIA. Its UNITE initiative, for example, is an agency-wide effort to address structural racism and help improve equity, inclusion, and excellence at NIH. UNITE facilitates activities to identify opportunities, make recommendations, and develop and implement strategies to spur widescale, systematic change.
In 2022, its first year, the UNITE initiative focused on health disparities/minority health research as well as the internal and external biomedical and behavioral research workforce. In support of these goals, NIDCR created a racial/ethnic equity plan in 2022 called “Building Belonging” to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and support for all members of the NIDCR workforce.
NIDCR has established several other DEIA initiatives in recent years. The Mentored Career Development Award to Promote Diversity in the Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research Workforce trains researchers from underrepresented populations to achieve research independence. The Institute also funds AADOCR’s Mentoring an Inclusive Network for a Diverse Workforce of the Future (MIND the Future) program, which provides a mentoring network to early-career investigators from diverse backgrounds and teaches grant writing skills to help them pursue independent research careers.
Any effort to achieve better health outcomes in communities across the U.S. must include concrete actions to help address the vast disparities in oral health outcomes, which are directly associated with a variety of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory infections.
A good starting place is increasing our nation’s investment in dental and oral research, which will enable the scientific community to develop new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat oral diseases.