NIDRR has based the development of the Plan on its mission statement. The mission statement emphasizes participation in the community by persons with disabilities as the overall objective of NIDRR's investment activities. NIDRR's mission statement was derived from the enabling legislation for NIDRR. In developing its research agenda, NIDRR drew upon accountability guidelines from the Department and OMB, which focus on outcomes of research activities.
To provide a theoretical framework for the Plan and guide its implementation, NIDRR developed its program Logic Model (see Appendix 2), which represents graphically the different types of short-term and intermediate outcomes that NIDRR's investments in R&D are designed to produce or contribute to and the interrelationships among these intended outcomes. The Logic Model also serves as the framework for depicting NIDRR's planned performance assessment and outcomes evaluation processes, which are key to demonstrating the Institute's accountability for research results. The width and density of the upward-directed arrows, at the bottom of the Logic Model diagram, indicate that the degree of accountability and hence intensity of NIDRR efforts in assessment and evaluation is greatest for the short-term outcome arenas.
How the NIDRR Logic Model Contributes to the Long-Range Plan
The value of any logic model is that it provides: A tool for outcomes planning and performance management that depicts the "chain of events" linking outcome goals to outputs, activities and inputs.
A vehicle for communicating program goals and guiding program improvement and evaluation.
A graphic representation or "blueprint" of the key elements of a program or intervention, and how these elements will work under certain conditions to "solve" identified problems.
Definitions of Components of the NIDRR Logic Model
The uppermost block in the Logic Model, labeled "situation," highlights the gaps in knowledge, skills, policy and practice that hinder attainment of parity in employment, health and function, and participation for people with disabilities compared to the non-disabled population (see Appendix 2). The Logic Model depicts the short-term and intermediate outcomes that NIDRR seeks to achieve directly and indirectly through its investments in research and related activities to eliminate these gaps and inform needed changes in policy, practice, behavior, and system capacity. These advancements and changes, in turn, contribute to the long-term outcome of improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Major Domains of NIDRR Mission
The substantive focus of NIDRR's investment activity is R&D applied to maximizing the participation of people with disabilities. This activity is centered on the three major life domains of interest to NIDRR: (a) Employment, (b) participation and community living, and (c) health and function. In the Logic Model, interlocking circles represent these inter-related domains (see Appendix 2). The achievement of goals related to the three major life domains is facilitated by technology, which addresses both access and function, and knowledge of the demographics of disability, including characteristics and trends in the population of people with disabilities. Policymakers, service providers, researchers, and disability advocates are the principal users of demographic data. NIDRR is uniquely positioned to address these inter-connected domains.
The employment circle of the Logic Model represents research on employment-related activities and strategies to improve employment outcomes and labor force participation. Lack of parity in employment remains one of the greatest barriers to independence for people with disabilities. Research is needed on strategies to enable Americans with disabilities to access careers, integrate into the workforce, and participate as full citizens in the economic marketplace. Employment, although an integral part of community participation, is treated as a separate domain because of NIDRR's statutory relationship with the Federal-State vocational rehabilitation program, and because of its overwhelming significance to people with disabilities and society.
The participation and community living circle of the Logic Model represents the interaction with the social and built environment in a way that maximizes full inclusion and integration of people with disabilities. This domain focuses on direct supports that increase the availability of acceptable options and opportunities to make choices and enhance participation in everyday activities. For the promise of full participation and community living to become a reality, people with disabilities need safe and affordable housing, access to transportation, access to the political process, and access to the services, programs and activities offered to all members of the community at public and private facilities.
The health and function circle of the Logic Model represents individual factors such as the structure and function of the human body, as well as strategies to prevent, identify, assess or resolve causes and consequences of disability. In this domain, as in the others, NIDRR stresses the importance of individual choice--choosing providers, services and objectives. The health and function domain encompasses research to achieve outcomes at the individual level-- improved functioning, fitness, and health, including mental health. This domain also addresses goals at the system level, such as more effective service delivery systems, better access (financial and logistical) to health care services, and the assessment of rehabilitation effectiveness.
The outer ring of the Logic Model includes two additional domains: technology for access and function and demographics of disability. Technology for access and function is essential to community integration, employment, and health and function, and plays a major role in enabling a good fit between individuals with disabilities and the environment. The domain of demographics of disability emphasizes describing and characterizing people with disabilities to provide a better understanding of the phenomenon of disability. Improved statistics on disability and participation are critical to developing policies and strategies that will be effective in addressing barriers to participation faced by individuals with disabilities, and in assessing the Nation's progress in improving life outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
Generally, outcomes refer to anticipated or actual changes in a target system that occurs from carrying out program activities and outputs. Long-term outcomes are the desired end-results of a program at the societal level; long-term outcomes are indicated by changes in overall conditions of the target population. Given their scope, long- term outcomes go beyond the direct or indirect influence and control of any one agency. Because of this, NIDRR is not accountable for producing, by itself, societal level improvements in the overall conditions of people with disabilities. Rather, the Institute's long- term outcomes, which focus on eliminating disparities in employment, participation and community living, and health and function, serve as critical anchor points guiding all strategic planning and research management efforts. Consistent with the Act, NIDRR's span of accountability centers on generating, promoting and disseminating short-term outcomes that consist of new knowledge resulting from the combined accomplishments of its grantees. These short-term outcomes, when combined with KT activities, can be used to inform policy, change practice and behavior, and expand system capacity, which in turn will contribute to improving the lives of individuals of all ages with disabilities.
Short-Term Outcome Arenas
Short-term outcomes refer to advancements in understanding, knowledge, skills and learning systems that result from the successful implementation of program activities and the use of R&D related outputs. Within the Logic Model and in the context of disability and rehabilitation research, there are three short-term outcome arenas, corresponding to NIDRR's investments in three functional programs. These functional arenas are: (1) C-B (2) R&D; and (3) KT, corresponding to NIDRR's three strategic goals (See Part C). Given its centrality to the NIDRR mission, the R&D arena is further divided to reflect three stages of knowledge development. The three stages recognize that advancements in knowledge may occur through (a) discoveries, (b) new or improved theories, measures and methods, or (c) interventions, products, devices, and environmental adaptations. The generation of new knowledge in this short-term outcomes block is the primary area of direct responsibility for which NIDRR holds itself accountable. Although the three strategic goals are discussed separately in Part C of the Plan, they are inextricably intertwined, in that research is supported by C-B and feeds KT, but the process is not linear. Inevitably, the generation of new knowledge raises new questions, calls for new skills and leads to further discoveries, theories and interventions, multiplying the efficacy of NIDRR's investment.
Research and Development
R&D is divided into three generally sequential, but closely related, outcome arenas, corresponding to stages in knowledge development. Characteristically, research begins with significant discoveries (stage one) and moves through theory, measure and method development (stage two) ultimately to enable the development of effective new and improved interventions, products and devices, and environmental adaptations (stage three). In this context, a product may be a new device or technique. An adaptation may include methods to improve physical, behavioral or virtual environments. The first two stages--discoveries and new or improved theories, measures and methods--provide the critical foundation for new ideas, information, analyses, and scientific tools (i.e., theories, measures, methods) upon which to base the conduct of valid and reliable research and development activity. NIDRR will shape future priorities based on considerations of the state of knowledge development in a particular subject area to determine, for example, if an adequate theoretical basis exists upon which an intervention can be developed.
NIDRR will focus its specific C-B activities primarily on the need to train new investigators to enable them to pursue topics of importance to NIDRR's research agenda, and to otherwise increase the capacity of the system to carry out complex studies. The Institute's training agenda includes cross-training of individuals already skilled in other disciplines in topics relevant to disability issues, and training of promising young investigators, with particular emphasis on underrepresented groups and persons with disabilities to facilitate their participation in the research process. In addition, NIDRR specifically supports institutional C-B through targeted initiatives. Finally, NIDRR plays an active leadership role throughout the Department and the Federal government in raising awareness of the needs of people with disabilities and issues of equity.
Equally critical to NIDRR's mission is the ability to effectively translate and transfer the knowledge and products generated through R&D activities. NIDRR must successfully disseminate this information for use by intended target audiences, including individuals with disabilities and their families and caregivers. Indeed, NIDRR will include an assessment of the potential for translation of knowledge gained through the project to the target audiences in considering new projects for support. KT includes the important work of technology transfer that directly promotes the widespread commercialization and utilization of research results. Previously referred to as the "Knowledge Dissemination and Utilization (KDU)" component of NIDRR's agenda, this arena has been renamed KT to reflect the evolution of translation science as a field and increased emphasis in the Federal government on the importance of systematic review and synthesis of R&D results.
This component refers to the immediate intended beneficiaries of NIDRR products and services as well as the recipients of the outputs and outcomes generated by NIDRR-funded grantees. This array of recipients includes individuals with disabilities and family members, researchers, clinicians and engineers, educators, service providers, product developers, policy experts and decision-makers, Federal and non-federal partners, industry representatives, employers, media, and consumer advocates.
Intermediate Outcome Arenas
Intermediate outcomes refer to changes in policy, practice, behavior, and system capacity that occur in part as a result of the external use or adoption of NIDRR-funded outputs and advances in knowledge. Unlike short-term outcomes, intermediate outcomes are under the indirect influence of program activities and outputs and consist of changes in decision-making and societal action. Because of the multiple influences on these intermediate outcomes, NIDRR can only partially influence these outcomes, and thus cannot be held accountable to the same degree as for short-term outcomes.
The intended beneficiaries of NIDRR's overall investments are people with disabilities and their families. These individuals may benefit either directly, or more likely, indirectly through changes in policy, practice, behavior and system capacity brought about through NIDRR's investments. The of purpose of NIDRR's activities, as described above in discussing the Long-term Outcomes, is the elimination of disparities in employment, participation and community living, and health and function. Intended beneficiaries include people with impairments or limitations in mobility, communications, cognition, and behavior.
Performance Assessment & Outcomes Evaluation
The last component of the NIDRR Logic Model depicts NIDRR's multi- level evaluation system. The intensity of the assessment and evaluation efforts is proportional to the thickness of the arrows of the Logic Model, and is greatest for short-term outcomes (see Appendix 2). Performance assessment takes place annually and is focused on evaluating grantee progress and the quality and relevance of the aggregate of R&D findings and accomplishments. Moreover, the performance assessment identifies the strengths and weaknesses of portfolio areas, which are defined as clusters of projects in NIDRR's domains and the Institute's program funding mechanisms. Data from these annual performance assessment and portfolio reviews are used to satisfy GPRA and PART requirements and inform program improvement efforts. Outcomes evaluation, in contrast, occurs periodically and is focused primarily on a retrospective assessment of the long-term achievements in a portfolio area relative to both short-term and intermediate outcomes, as well as any contributions at the societal level toward improving the overall condition of people with disabilities. Both types of evaluations are performed by independent review panels comprised of scientists, engineers, clinicians, service providers, policy analysts, industry representatives, consumer advocates, individuals with disabilities, and family members.
Some of the factors that may change the activities implemented by NIDRR, either directly or indirectly, are called "contextual factors" and are shown at the base of the Logic Model (see Appendix 2). Changes may be mandated directly in changing policies or indirectly in a changing environment that might require new strategies. The contextual factors include variable funding, scientific and technological advancements, societal attitudes, economic conditions, changing public policies, and coordination and cooperation with other government entities.
This text was taken from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research's (NIDRR's) Notice of Proposed Long-Range Plan for Fiscal Years 2005 to 2009 published in the Federal Register July 27, 2005.
NIDRR's Long-Range Plan for Fiscal Years 2005-2009 was announced February 15, 2006. It highlights capacity building, research and development and knowledge translation as its targeted short-term outcome arenas.
Available formats for NIDRR's Long-Range Plan: