The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) is a federal agency that supports research and development designed to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. The agency's mission is tied to improving long-term outcomes of these individuals in terms of independence, employment, and participation in their communities.
As part of an effort to assess and improve its performance, NIDRR asked the Board on Human-Systems Integration to (1) evaluate the processes by which it establishes priorities and awards and monitors grants; and (2) examine the quality of the results of agency-funded research based on a sample of publications, devices, and other "outputs" produced by NIDRR grantees.
A 16-member committee conducted the evaluation and reviewed a sample of outputs from 30 grants funded through a variety of NIDRR's program mechanisms.
The committee determined that NIDRR's long range planning, priority-setting, peer review, and grant management processes were generally successful and made recommendations as to how NIDRR could further strengthen them, such as by forming an advisory council, expanding the pool of high-quality peer reviewers, and continuing to improve monitoring procedures that affect grant-level planning and budgets.
In order to assess the quality of NIDRR outputs, the committee developed a set of criteria including the four domains of technical quality, advancement of knowledge or the field, likely or demonstrated impact, and dissemination. About 75 percent of the reviewed outputs received ratings of "good to excellent" across these four domains, while about 25 percent fell in the lower-quality range. The committee made recommendations as to how NIDRR could improve the quality of outputs through clarifying expectations and including bibliometric analysis as part of performance measurement.