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National Institutes of Health

Index of articles from National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Health logo The NIH mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward that mission by: conducting research in its own laboratories; supporting the research of non-Federal scientists in universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions throughout the country and abroad; helping in the training of research investigators; and fostering communication of biomedical information.

The NIH is one of eight health agencies of the Public Health Service which, in turn, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Comprised of 24 separate Institutes, Centers, and Divisions, NIH has 75 buildings on more than 300 acres in Bethesda, MD. From a total of about $300 in 1887, the NIH budget has grown to more than $13.6 billion in 1998.

What is the Goal of NIH Research?

Simply described, the goal of NIH research is to acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat disease and disability, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold.

How Does the NIH Help Scientists Reach This Goal?

The NIH Supports Research

A principal concern of the NIH is to invest wisely the tax dollars entrusted to it for the support and conduct of biomedical research.

More than 81 percent of the investment is made through grants and contracts supporting research and training in more than 1,700 research institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad. In fact, NIH grantees are located in every State in the country. These grants and contracts comprise the NIH Extramural Research Program.

Approximately 11 percent of the budget goes to NIH's Intramural Research Programs, the more than 2,000 projects conducted mainly in its own laboratories. About 8 percent of the budget is for both intramural and extramural research support costs.

NIH Research Grants

Final decisions about funding extramural research are made at the NIH headquarters. But long before this happens, the process begins with an idea that an individual scientist describes in a written application for a research grant.

The project might be small, or it might involve millions of dollars. The project might become useful immediately as a diagnostic test or new treatment, or it might involve studies of basic biological processes whose practical value may not be apparent for many years.

Peer Review

Each research grant application undergoes a peer review process.

A panel of scientific experts, primarily from outside the government, who are active and productive researchers in the biomedical sciences, first evaluates the scientific merit of the application. Then, a national advisory council or board, comprised of eminent scientists as well as public members who are interested in health issues or the biomedical sciences, determines the project's overall merit and priority in advancing the research agenda of the particular NIH funding institute.

Altogether, about 36,000 research and training applications are reviewed annually through the NIH peer review system. At any given time, the NIH supports 35,000 grants in universitites, medical schools, and other research and research training institutions both nationally and internationally.

The NIH Conducts Research

The Intramural Research Programs, although representing only a small part of the total NIH budget, are central to the NIH scientific effort.

First-rate scientists are key to NIH intramural research. They collaborate with one another regardless of institute affiliation or scientific discipline, and have the intellectual freedom to pursue their research leads in NIH's own laboratories. These explorations range from basic biology, to behavioral research, to studies on treatment of major diseases.

NIH Research Laboratories

NIH scientists conduct their research in laboratories located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, and in several field units across the country and abroad.

Following are some of the NIH on-campus facilities:

Other On-Campus Sites: Off-Campus Sites:

Who Are the Scientists NIH Supports?

Scientific progress depends mainly on the scientist. About 35,000 principal investigators -- working in every State and in several foreign countries, from every specialty in medicine, every biomedical discipline, and at every major university and medical school -- receive NIH extramural funding to explore unknown areas of biomedical science.

Supporting and conducting both NIH's extramural and intramural programs are about 19,000 employees, more than 4,500 of whom hold professional or research doctorate degrees. The NIH staff includes intramural scientists, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, nurses, and laboratory, administrative, and support personnel, plus an ever-changing array of research scientists in training.

The NIH Nobelists

The rosters of those who have conducted research, or who have received NIH support over the years include the world's most illustrious scientists and physicians. Among them are 93 scientists who have won Nobel Prizes for achievements as diverse as deciphering the genetic code and learning what causes hepatitis.

Five Nobelists made their prize-winning discoveries in NIH laboratories: Drs. Christian B. Anfinsen, Julius Axelrod, D. Carleton Gajdusek, Marshall W. Nirenberg, and Martin Rodbell.

Who Are the NIH's Other Partners in Research?

NIH is a key element in a partnership that has thrived for decades and includes universities and academic health centers, independent research institutions, and private industry where research programs and product development activities help make federally-funded research findings more widely available.

The partnership, which has produced many of the medical advances that benefit Americans today, also includes voluntary and professional health organizations, and the Congress, which consistently has supported this vast enterprise.

What Impact Has the NIH Had on the Health of the Nation?

NIH research played a major role in making possible the following achievements of the last few decades:

NIH Research in the 21st Century

The NIH has enabled scientists to learn much since its humble beginnings as a one-room laboratory in 1887. But many discoveries remain to be made:

These are some of the areas where the NIH's investment in health research promises to yield the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

NIH's Institutes, Centers, and Divisions

Office of the Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Cancer Institute
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
National Eye Institute
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institute of Mental Health
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institute on Aging
National Institute of Nursing Research
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
National Library of Medicine
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Center for Research Resources
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Center for Scientific Review (formerly Division of Research Grants)
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
John E. Fogarty International Center
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center
National Institute of Dental Research
Division of Computer Research and Technology
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
*Visitor Information Center
(Call for information on tours of NIH for the general public)

Prepared by the Office of Communications, Office of the Director, NIH September 1997

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