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Environmental Factor

April 2011

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NIEHS wants visionary ideas for strategic planning

By Ernie Hood
April 2011

NIEHS Deputy Director Richard Woychik, Ph.D.

Woychik is spearheading the Institute's 2012-2016 Strategic Planning process. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Capacity crowd in Rodbell Auditorium watch presentation.

The March 1 launch of the NIEHS Strategic Planning process drew a capacity audience to Rodbell Auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Sheila Newton, Ph.D.

Newton took the audience through the process of using social voting and ideation software to enter visionary ideas and vote online. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Robert Sills,  D.V.M., Ph.D.

NTP Chief of Cellular and Molecular Pathology Robert Sills, D.V.M., Ph.D., asked how the ideas of non-scientific personnel would be accommodated in the strategic planning process. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is seeking input for its new strategic plan. There are two ways for people to get involved now. They can submit a visionary idea, and nominate a workshop participant.

"We are looking for innovative ideas to help define the Institute's future directions, research goals, and resource priorities," said NIEHS Deputy Director Richard Woychik, Ph.D., who is leading the strategic planning effort.

Visionary ideas can be submitted through a user-friendly website at All submitted ideas will be posted to the website, and anyone can comment on the ideas or give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down rating. The website also integrates with Facebook and Twitter. Submissions will be accepted through April 30.

NIEHS is also accepting nominations for a stakeholder community workshop that will be held in mid-July in Research Triangle Park, N.C. You can nominate yourself, a respected colleague or anyone who is passionate about understanding our environment for the purpose of improving public health and preventing disease.

Anyone can be a part of the process

The 15-month process of formulating a new five-year strategic plan for NIEHS officially got underway March 1 in an all-hands meeting at the Institute. NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., emphasized the importance of gaining input from everyone with an interest in NIEHS and environmental health.

 "Our goal is to bring together all of your wisdom to answer the challenges, to help determine our priorities, and to make sure that we are doing everything possible to fulfill our mission as a critical part not only of NIH, but of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the whole nationwide enterprise in environmental health sciences," Birnbaum said in her opening remarks.

In his presentation, Woychik described the process itself in more detail, including the time line of events that will lead to the publication of the final plan in June 2012. He urged everyone present to get involved. "The process is really all about engaging all of you, both internal to NIEHS and the external community," he said. "We really want to hear from you, and the input that you provide...will be heard and will be part of the deliberation to come up with our new mission, vision, strategic goals, and strategies."

After presenting the timeline information, Woychik introduced Sheila Newton, Ph.D., director of the Office of Planning, Policy, and Evaluation, who outlined the online access points for people to provide their input to the strategic planning process. Those resources include the main strategic plan Web site(, which also can be accessed via a prominent link on the NIEHS home page(

The site details the anticipated timeline and offers direct links to the two major processes currently available for both internal and external interested parties to provide their input. First, there is an interactive site called Visionary Ideas, where people can post their big-picture ideas about the strategic plan, and can vote to agree, disagree, and/or comment on ideas posted by others. Also, there is a link to a page where people can nominate themselves or others to be invited to attend the intensive 2-3-day Community Workshop planned for July 2011.

The public will have many opportunities to provide input and review throughout the strategic planning process. Visit for more information about the process and the timeline for establishing the new NIEHS strategic plan, or to review the existing 2005-2011 strategic plan.

(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Ken Korach, Ph.D., right, and  Mitch Eddy, Ph.D., center

NIEHS Principal Investigators Ken Korach, Ph.D., right, and Mitch Eddy, Ph.D., center, were among people from across the Institute who turned out to learn more about the planning process. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., and NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.

Birnbaum, right, and Program Analyst Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., enjoyed a lighter moment during the all-hands Strategic Planning meeting. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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