The National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse serves a crucial role in advising NIDA, and, by extension, the Director, NIH and the Secretary, DHHS, as NIDA identifies, reviews, and supports the highest caliber of scientific research. The Council's 18 person membership, consisting of 12 experts in scientific fields and six knowledgeable members of the general public, as well as ex officio members who provide liaison with other government entities, provides a valuable and unique source for consultation.
First and perhaps most visible of Council's functions is to provide a secondary level of review for applications for federal assistance. The concurrence of the Council with the results of the first level of review, which is the scientific review group or peer review for scientific and technical merit, is required for NIDA to fund an individual application for a grant or cooperative agreement. The secondary level of review also includes Council's perspective on the peer review system overall to help ensure the quality of review for scientific and technical merit.
A second advisory function occurs in relation to policy and programmatic matters. The Council provides NIDA input on ways to better carry out its knowledge development and knowledge dissemination missions. It provides advice on research opportunities to pursue, guidance on ways to improve approaches to stimulating research, suggestions on methods to disseminate research-based knowledge, and ideas for working more closely with constituent groups and consumers of NIDA's research.
In order to protect the confidentiality of applicants and proprietary information in applications, the review-related functions of Council occur in sessions that are open only to federal staff with a need to hear the Council's deliberations. The broader policy and programmatic discussions occur in meetings that are open to all interested members of the public. This, in effect, gives Council an additional function. Through the presence of the public at the meeting and the opportunity for the public to make comments to NIDA and the Council during a period of time set aside for this purpose, the NIDA Council provides a forum for effective involvement of the public in shaping NIDA's research and related scientific activities.
The Council meets three times a year, usually in February, May, and September for 1 day. Typically, the first part of Council is devoted to reviewing grant applications and this session is closed to the public. The second part is the open session, and issues such as training, research dissemination, programs, and policy are discussed. The NIDA Director presents scientific and administrative topics in the Director's Report. Council subcommittees report on their progress, and staff and other speakers also present various topics. In addition, once a year in May, NACDA meets for a second day with the Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN) Joint Council.