Select Goals

The NIOSH Strategic Plan: FYs 2019-2023 describes the research priorities for the institute’s internal and external funding opportunities. This web page will guide you on how to determine whether a research idea aligns with the goal(s) in the strategic plan.

Goals in the NIOSH Strategic Plan are organized by sector and cross-sector, using the same structure as the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). NIOSH has ten sector programs based on major areas of the U.S. economy and seven cross-sector programs organized according to the major health and safety issues affecting the U.S. working population. Sector and cross-sector programs are set up in a 10×7 program grid. Each cell in the grid represents the area of mutual research priority between a sector and cross-sector.

  • For example, both the Construction Sector Program and Traumatic Injury Prevention Cross-Sector Program have prioritized reducing falls in the construction industry.

In order to select goals, you first identify sector(s), then cross-sectors(s).

Identifying the Sector(s)

Sector definitions follow the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Detailed information about NAICS can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau North American Industry Classification System pageexternal icon. NAICS provides definitions for 20 sectorsexternal icon, which NIOSH aggregates into ten sector groups as follows:

Sector NAICS Code Example industries (not comprehensive)
Agriculture, Forestry, & Fishing (except Wildland Firefighting and including seafood processing) 11,external icon 311710external icon Crop production; animal production; forestry and logging; fishing, hunting, and trapping; seafood processing
Construction 23external icon Construction of buildings (i.e., residential and non-residential); highway, street, and bridge construction; specialty contractors (i.e., roofing, siding, electrical, plumbing, drywall, and flooring)
Healthcare & Social Assistance (including Veterinary Medicine/Animal Care) 62external icon, 54194external icon, 81291external icon Healthcare: Offices of physicians, dentists, optometrists; outpatient care centers; hospitals; home health care; home care; nursing and residential care facilities; veterinary medicine and animal care
Social assistance: childcare; community food and housing; services for youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities
Manufacturing (except seafood processing) 31-33external icon Food manufacturing, including meat and poultry processing; apparel and footwear manufacturing; paper, plastics, chemical manufacturing; machinery manufacturing
Mining (except Oil and Gas Extraction) 21external icon Coal, metal ore, and non-metal mineral mining
Oil and Gas Extraction 211external icon, 213111external icon & 213112external icon Operating and/or developing onshore oil and gas fields
Public Safety (including Wildland Firefighting) 92212external icon, 92214external icon, 92216external icon & 62191external icon Structural firefighting, wildland firefighting, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and corrections
Services (except Public Safety and Veterinary Medicine/Animal Care) 51external icon, 52external icon, 53external icon, 54external icon, 55external icon, 56external icon, 61external icon, 71external icon, 72external icon, 81external icon & 92external icon Education; waste management and recycling; restaurants and bars; hotels and other lodging; personal care services like hair and nail salons; landscaping and tree care; government (including military); and entertainment (movies, music, television)
Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities 48-49external icon & 22external icon Air, rail, water, and truck transportation; taxi and limousine services; public transportation; warehousing and storage; utilities like electricity, water, sewage and natural gas
Wholesale and Retail Trade 42external icon & 44-45external icon Grocery stores; gas stations and convenience stores; pharmacies; stores that sell furniture, appliances, electronics, clothing, shoes, personal care items; merchant wholesalers

If you are not sure which sector a job falls under, use your favorite internet search engine and include the job title with the phrase “NAICS code.”

  • For example, searching for “flight attendant NAICS code” turns up that flight attendants are under NAICS code 481 Air Transportation, which is part of the Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities sector.

Research concepts may fall under more than one sector.

  • For example, a project that involves welders may fall under both the Construction and Manufacturing sectors. However, the sector for the project is determined by the worker group that is directly participating in the research or will directly benefit. In this example, if the proposed welding project used a sample of welders working in the construction industry, only the Construction goals would be applicable.

Laboratory and surveillance research projects often relate to multiple sectors, while intervention and translation research is usually more focused on one sector.

Identifying the Cross-sector(s)

Cross-sectors are organized by health and safety issues as follows:

Cross-sector Health and Safety Issues
Cancer, Reproductive, Cardiovascular, and Other Chronic Disease Prevention Includes many types of occupational cancer, reproductive health, and cardiovascular disease as well as the evolving areas of occupational neurological and renal disease.
Hearing Loss Prevention Focuses on preventing occupational hearing loss due to hazardous noise exposure and ototoxic substances (chemical, pharmaceutical, metals).
Immune, Infectious, and Dermal Disease Prevention Focuses on preventing:
  • Immune diseases, such as irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma caused by work-related exposures.
  • Infectious diseases transmitted through work-related exposures, such as COVID-19, influenza, and tuberculosis.
  • Workplace exposures to chemicals that can be absorbed through contact with skin that may result in adverse health impacts.
Musculoskeletal Health Focuses on preventing musculoskeletal disorders, which are soft-tissue injuries caused by sudden or sustained exposure to risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., repetitive motion, force, vibration, or awkward positions).
Respiratory Health Focuses on preventing:
  • lower airways diseases (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease)
  • upper airways diseases (e.g., rhinosinusitis)
  • interstitial lung diseases (e.g., coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, silicosis)
  • respiratory tract and pleural malignancies (e.g., lung cancer, mesothelioma)
  • emerging exposures and related diseases (e.g., engineered nanomaterials, World Trade Center dust, food flavoring chemicals)
Traumatic Injury Prevention Focuses on preventing injuries and related deaths to workers due to sudden events such as falls, motor vehicle crashes, violence, and being caught in or struck by machinery.
Healthy Work Design and Well-Being Seeks to improve the design of work, work environments, and management practices in order to advance worker safety, health, and well-being. Within the healthy work design framework, worker well-being encompasses positive physical, emotional, mental, and economic health, and how these aspects of health relate to work and worker experiences from a comprehensive and holistic perspective. Includes Total Worker Health® approaches.

Most health and safety issues fall under one cross-sector, but occasionally a topic is split across multiple cross-sectors. In these instances, the proper cross-sector for the research proposal is determined by the type of research. Below are some examples:

  • Heat stress – Basic/etiologic projects focused on the mechanistic effects of heat stress fall under Cancer, Reproductive, and Cardiovascular and Other Chronic Disease Prevention. Intervention studies fall under Healthy Work Design and Well-Being, because the interventions for heat stress usually involve the organization of work (e.g., acclimation schedules, rest breaks, etc.).
  • Substance use/misuse – Use and misuse of opioids and other substances has been linked to workplace musculoskeletal injuries (such as low back pain) and traumatic injuries, making preventing those injuries and providing worker support following those injuries a priority in Musculoskeletal Health and Traumatic Injury Prevention. Additionally, research on the psychosocial aspects of substance use/misuse would fall under Healthy Work Design and Well-Being.
  • Work-related asthma – Mechanistic studies of exposures leading to allergic sensitization fall under Immune, Infectious, and Dermal Disease Prevention, while epidemiological and intervention studies go under Respiratory Health.

Projects themselves may relate to more than one cross-sector. For example, a project that investigates the link between an exposure and pulmonary, kidney, and cardiac function would relate to both the Respiratory Health and Cancer, Reproductive, Cardiovascular, and Other Chronic Disease Prevention cross-sectors.

Selecting Goal(s)

After identifying the relevant sector(s) and cross-sector(s), it’s time to select goals.  There are three levels of goals in a nested structure: strategic goals -> intermediate goals -> activity goals.

Strategic Goals

The seven strategic goals correspond directly with the seven cross-sectors.

If your idea aligns to this cross-sector… …choose this strategic goal
Cancer, Reproductive, Cardiovascular and Other Chronic Disease Prevention SG 1: Reduce occupational cancer, cardiovascular disease, adverse reproductive outcomes, and other chronic diseases.
Hearing Loss Prevention SG 2: Reduce occupational hearing loss.
Immune, Infectious and Dermal Disease Prevention SG 3: Reduce occupational immune, infectious, and dermal disease.
Musculoskeletal Health SG 4: Reduce occupational musculoskeletal disorders.
Respiratory Health SG 5: Reduce occupational respiratory disease
Traumatic Injury Prevention SG 6: Improve workplace safety to reduce traumatic injuries.
Healthy Work Design and Well-Being SG 7: Promote safe and healthy work design and well-being.

Intermediate Goal(s)

Once you determine which strategic goal(s) are most appropriate for your project, the next step is to identify specific intermediate goals within that strategic goal category using the 10×7 program grid. Look for goals in the cells where each sector and cross-sector intersects. Click the links to review each intermediate goal and its associated goal table, burden statement, and need statement, and then determine if there is a match between your research idea and the goal. The intermediate goal tables provide additional details about research needs and each row is intended to be read independently.

Note that choosing multiple goals is not necessarily better. Often it is more beneficial to align to one intermediate goal very well than somewhat align to several goals. That said, if a research topic is very broad, such as young workers in any sector, it may make sense to use multiple intermediate goals. If there is no goal in a cell, that area is not a priority for NIOSH.

If your idea doesn’t match to any goals, consider how you could adjust your concept. NIOSH has carefully chosen the priorities in the NIOSH Strategic Plan using burden, need, and impact criteria in order to get maximum benefit from its investments. Projects funded within NIOSH are expected to respond to at least one strategic and intermediate goal. For extramural investigator-initiated research, priority is given to proposals that clearly address strategic and intermediate goals in making funding decisions. Please note that NIOSH has identified priority goals for extramural research to fill important research gaps that are currently not being addressed by NIOSH intramural or internal projects.

Activity goal(s)

Lastly, you must select an activity goal that appropriately classifies the type of research your project will be performing. NIOSH has adopted an organizing framework comprised of four types of research:

  • Basic/etiologic: Builds a foundation of scientific knowledge to base future interventions. Most laboratory research falls into this category, as well as exposure assessment.
  • Intervention: Engages in the development, testing, or evaluation of a solution to an occupational safety and health problem or the improvement of an existing intervention. Intervention is a broad term that includes engineering controls, personal protective equipment, training, and fact sheets and other written materials intended to inform and change behavior, among other occupational safety and health solutions.
  • Translation: Discovers strategies to translate research findings and theoretical knowledge to practices or technologies in the workplace. This type of research seeks to understand why available, effective, evidence-based interventions are not being adopted.
  • Surveillance: Develops new surveillance methods, tools, and analytical techniques.

Investigators external to NIOSH may contact the NIOSH Office of Extramural Programs with questions. NIOSH investigators may contact the NIOSH Program Portfolio Coordinator.

Page last reviewed: October 27, 2020