NICHD Appoints a Neuropsychologist as Deputy Director, OSTP Releases Budget Priorities for FY21

September 11, 2019

Credit: National Institutes of Health

Alison Cernich, Ph.D., has been selected as deputy director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. Cernich will assist the NICHD Director in overseeing the institute’s research programs in biological, behavioral and clinical research related to conception and pregnancy, typical and atypical development in childhood, reproductive health, and medical rehabilitation.

A board-certified neuropsychologist with expertise in cognitive neuroscience, Dr. Cernich previously served as the deputy director at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In that capacity, she was the senior liaison to the Department of Defense on psychological health and traumatic brain injury and provided oversight and supervision of the center’s research portfolio.

Dr. Cernich was heavily involved in the recent revision of NICHD’s Strategic Plan — the final version is scheduled to be released on September 18th. She has also represented NICHD on large trans-NIH initiatives, including the All of Us Program and the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM) Initiative.

On August 30th, the White House and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a memo outlining Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities for fiscal year 2021.

The memo takes a new tone from previous years, describing a vulnerable science enterprise facing internal problems and foreign governments. The document identifies five budget priorities:

  • ensuring a strong military;
  • advancing cutting-edge technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence;
  • innovating energy technologies and quantifying Earth system predictability;
  • fostering medical breakthroughs; and
  • promoting space exploration.

The memo also describes five ‘priority crosscutting actions’: highly skilled workforce, transformative research, leveraging the power of data, strategic multisector partnerships, and research environments that reflect American values – a common refrain from OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier.

Despite a stated commitment to ‘continuing American science and technology leadership in the Second Bold Era’ this memo does not recommend increasing the federal investment in scientific enterprise, rather, the administration has proposed significant budget cuts to federal agencies supporting science.