Editor’s Note: Following up on Ron Roizen’s two-part think-piece on the NIAAA and NIDA merger, we offer the comments of Paul M. Roman, Regents Professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia and Director of their Center for Research on Behavioral Health and Human Service Delivery in the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research. Roman currently studies organizational change and innovation adoption in the delivery of treatment for substance use disorders. Earlier in his career he conducted extensive research on the adoption and implementation of employee substance abuse and assistance programs in the workplace.
Ron Roizen offers us a great contribution about the merger of NIAAA and NIDA. There is a remarkable amount of history and organizational process embedded in this event, which may provide some surprises as it unfolds. I want to add some reflections, largely from the perspective of someone with active research grants from both NIDA and NIAAA that I hope can be continued beyond their current funding, but also from that of someone who “was there at the founding” of NIAAA. In Ron’s piece, I am initially struck by the vision of the two Institutes, like ships, being “decommissioned” although I guess the metaphor fails when we consider their being taken out to sea and sunk.
From my own perspective, my expectation of the merger has consistently been of a bigger and more visible NIDA with NIAAA tagged on as a division, and perhaps another division that would include tobacco, depending on where that goes. If indeed we see a truly new organization, that will be striking. For Points readers’ socio-historical skills, these developments are a challenge for close observation and recording. I would add a prediction that for the first 5 years or so, there will be scrupulous and highly visible attention to alcohol research project support,