Common Fund Program Lifecycle


Strategic Planning: Phases 1 and 2


The Common Fund is intended to be a flexible resource for NIH to make strategic investments in programs that will have high impact NIH-wide. Strategic planning is undertaken regularly to identify research areas that address key roadblocks in biomedical research or that represent emerging scientific opportunities ripe for Common Fund investment.


Strategic planning involves the identification of trans-NIH challenges and opportunities that address the Common Fund criteria. Broad topics identified in Phase 1 are refined into a series of well-defined programs and initiatives in Phase 2. In Phase 1, ideas for potential new Common Fund programs may be solicited from NIH Leadership, NIH Institute and Center Directors, and members of the broad scientific community. In Phase 2, refinement of ideas may include analyses of the NIH, national, and international research portfolios; workshops and meetings with scientific experts in the field; and input from scientific leaders across the NIH. The Council of Councils for the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) acts as an external advisory panel to the DPCPSI and NIH Directors for consideration of potential new Common Fund programs. Final decisions on new Common Fund programs are made by NIH Leadership, with input from DPCPSI and NIH Institute and Center Directors. 

Strategic Planning Updates

Fiscal Year 2021 Programs

To plan for new Common Fund programs in fiscal year 2021, OSC solicited ideas from NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs), which were submitted in early November 2018. Additionally, in October 2018, the Common Fund hosted a series of web-based workshops with editors from a diverse array of biomedical and behavioral research journals. The objective of these workshops was to learn about new scientific trends, emerging areas of research, and cross-cutting challenges that may contribute to planning for new Common Fund programs. An executive summary of the three journal editor workshops is now available.  

NIH Leadership considered the ideas put forth and selected several topics for further development:

  • Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa – This program would explore whether advances in data science applied in the African context can spur new health discoveries and catalyze innovation in healthcare and health research on the continent. This concept was cleared by the Council of Councils on September 6, 2019 (view the presentation). Final plans will be reviewed by DPCPSI and NIH Leadership in the fall. 
  • Artificial Intelligence for Health Research – Development and planning of this topic will be informed by the findings of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Artificial Intelligence. Preliminary recommendations were delivered in June. Final recommendations are expected in December. A program proposal will be considered by the Council of Councils in early 2020. 
  • Precision Nutrition – To harness the potential of precision nutrition research, the NIH is planning for a study to generate an open source discovery engine that is amenable to artificial intelligence approaches and provides a resource for the collective nutrition research community to discover and validate novel algorithms relevant to precision nutrition. If successful, this bold, high risk initiative will deliver validated algorithms for precision nutrition that have the potential to advance the role of nutrition in improving human health. Planning for this potential program is ongoing, with an anticipated launch date in fiscal year 2022. 
  • Additional early stage planning activities are exploring approaches to enhance the diversity of early stage investigators at academic institutions. 

These topics are in development, and so the focus and scope may change as additional planning activities take place. All planning activities are subject to availability of funds. 


As each Common Fund program is unique, the implementation of each program varies. To read more about the currently supported Common Fund programs, see Common Fund Programs.



Common Fund programs are designed to achieve a set of high-impact goals within a 5-10 year time frame. At the conclusion of each program, deliverables will either stimulate IC-funded research or will transition to support by ICs or other entities that find these resources useful. Programs that have transitioned from Common Fund support can be found on the Former Programs page.

Common Fund programs are evaluated throughout the lifecycle as the need arises.

This page last reviewed on October 1, 2019