Developing the NIOSH Strategic Plan


NIOSH organizes its research into sector and cross-sector programs based on the framework provided by the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). Stewarded by NIOSH, NORA is a public-private partnership program that aims to stimulate innovative research and improve workplace practices. Now in its third decade, NORA comprises 17 councils that bring together diverse stakeholders. These stakeholders meet to develop a research agenda for the nation across industry sectors on crosscutting health and safety issues.

NIOSH’s ten sector programs focus on industrial sector and seven cross-sectors programs focus on the major health and safety issues affecting the U.S. working population. They form a 10×7 program grid that is infused with core and specialty programs, which represent core activities, mandates, special emphasis areas, and methodological approaches. These programs cover a wide range of activities, from basic to applied research.

Burden, Need and Impact

NIOSH determines research priorities based on the Burden, Need, and Impact Method (BNI Method). Burden is a measure of the health and safety or economic or potential economic burden of workplace risks and hazards. Need describes the knowledge gap the proposed research will close and considers the comparative advantage that NIOSH with its unique resources has over other funding agencies. Need also considers the stakeholders’ occupational research priorities. Impact is the assessment of how individual research projects are likely to address Burden and Need. When identifying research priorities, the plan excludes impact from the BNI equation. NIOSH assesses the impact of each individual research project after identifying the broader research priorities.

Goal Hierarchy

The NIOSH Strategic Plan has three hierarchies of goals: strategic, intermediate and activity goals. Strategic goals are broad in scope and based on health and safety outcomes identified by NIOSH’s portfolio of research programs. Intermediate goals flow from strategic goals, and activity goals flow from intermediate ones.

Strategic Goal
Desired change in work-related illness, injuries, or fatalities. NIOSH has seven strategic goals:

  1. Reduce occupational cancer, cardiovascular disease, adverse reproductive outcomes, and other chronic diseases.
  2. Reduce occupational hearing loss.
  3. Reduce occupational immune, infectious, and dermal disease.
  4. Reduce occupational musculoskeletal disorders.
  5. Reduce occupational respiratory disease.
  6. Improve workplace safety to reduce traumatic injuries.
  7. Promote safe and healthy work design and well-being.

Intermediate Goal
Actions organizations and individuals should take using NIOSH research findings or products to contribute to stated strategic goals. For example, intermediate goal 6.2 is “Insurance companies (including workers’ compensation), businesses, policy-makers, professional associations, and unions adopt interventions to prevent and protect from falls among construction workers.”

Activity Goal
A research activity that moves the research through the research to practice (r2p) continuum. NIOSH organizes its research into four categories: 1) basic/etiologic, 2) intervention, 3) translation, and 4) surveillance research. For example, activity goal 6.2.1 is about intervention research. It states: “Conduct intervention studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of falls prevention and protection interventions among construction workers.”

Research Goal Development Process

Research intermediate and activity goals were developed through a series of facilitated meetings among sector, cross-sector, and core and specialty program representatives. NIOSH sector and cross-sector programs reviewed the NORA draft objectives to decide which objectives or parts of objectives NIOSH is well suited to take on. Programs considered additional factors, such as mandates from congress and the executive branch, stakeholder input from other sources, innovative ideas, and emerging issues. Programs identified priority areas using the BNI Method, weighting burden and need equally, omitting impact as mentioned above. You can read all the research goals here.

Service Goal Development Process

Service work covers non-research work that supports NIOSH’s mission or fulfills a legislative mandate. Service work can also support research work within NIOSH and outside with external partners. Service activities developed goals based on what they anticipate will be their most important activities over the next five years. Service goals emphasize improving the quality, timeliness, and relevance of service work. Unlike research goals, service goals are not mapped into the NIOSH Program Grid. Service goals are carried out through entirely different processes. You can read all the service goals here.

Page last reviewed: February 5, 2018