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Executive Summary of Epigenomics Program Evaluation

 

What progress has the National Institutes of Health’s Epigenomics Program made to-date? What can program managers do to improve the administration of the program and ensure that the program meets its planned targets and goals?

The Epigenomics Program was launched by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008 to transform the field of epigenetics by: (1) providing the research community with high quality genome-wide maps of selected epigenetic marks in a wide range of primary cell types and tissues for their use in a number of research applications; (2) supporting research projects that examined whether epigenetics plays a role in human health and disease; and (3) developing revolutionary tools and technologies to more easily conduct epigenetics research.

A process evaluation was undertaken to inform and assist the program managers in their administration of the Epigenomics Program. The evaluation results compiled in 2011 indicated that the Epigenomics Program is meeting or exceeding the planned targets for the funded projects, demonstrating synergy, and achieving the catalyzing effects of large-scale funding. The results and innovations to-date are increasing researchers’ abilities to characterize epigenomic changes and to use these results to interpret genome-wide association studies that try to correlate common genetic variants with disease traits. These results suggest that the program will change the way epigenomics research is performed and utilized – a transformative outcome.

The evaluation also revealed some specific ways in which program implementation could have been enhanced: (1) the implementation of the multi-component program as an integrated whole has been slower than originally anticipated; (2) initiating all the program components at the same time resulted in timing mismatches; (3) making data mining, visualization, and analytic tools from an on-going program available to the public needs to be a stronger part of program planning and implementation; (4) the program’s products must continue to be promoted among the research community; (5) consistency in how the program and NIH are displayed and acknowledged across the program’s web-based resources/sites is needed to improve the visibility and legacy of the NIH contribution; and (6) there is an increasing need for regular information on program outputs.

The evaluation results contribute much useful information to support decision-making for the future administration of the program and its components.

 

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