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Commenting on establishment of new ARPA entity in NIH

APA submitted comments to the congressional offices drafting the authorization for ARPA-H (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health).

Cite this
American Psychological Association. (2021, July 21). Commenting on establishment of new ARPA entity in NIH.

Francis Collins, PhD, wearing a medical face mask

In President Biden’s State of the Union address, he proposed the creation of a new research agency within the National Institutes of Health: a health-focused Advanced Research Projects Agency, called ARPA-H. He proposed a staggering $6.5 billion budget for the new agency. For comparison, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a current budget of $3.5 billion. (The budget for the new agency was set at $3.5 billion in the 2022 funding bill approved by the House Labor-HHS-Education Committee, but that bill has not yet passed the House.)

U.S. Reps. Diana DeGett (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) have announced their intention to introduce a bill later in fall 2021 that will authorize the new agency. The authors of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act (PDF, 2.210MB) are drafting a Cures 2.0 bill that will include several health research and services bills. They invited stakeholders to provide input into the legislation by releasing a series of questions about the new agency.

In response, APA wrote, 

“Many of the ARPAs’ current projects are very technology-heavy. Freedom to contract for the engineering of new tech tools without a peer-review structure is part of the attraction to the ARPA model for many. Health, however, is very human-centered, and should balance technology applications with knowledge of and regard for the importance of the human as a driver of health. Some of the most pressing health research questions of our time involve the cognition, perception, beliefs, and behavior of people, and research on health inherently includes research on human behaviors. Health is based largely on cultural, social, psychological, and mental health determinants, and thus the critical contributions of social and behavioral science research should be strongly considered in ARPA-H’s aims. As psychologists, APA recommends ARPA-H’s structure embrace the difficulties involved in research on human behavior in cultural and social environments.”

APA also suggested that the new agency consult with industrial/organizational psychologists to ensure the structure and function of the new agency fits with its ultimate purpose and values.

For more information, contact Pat Kobor.