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NEI Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future (2021-2025)

NEI released the National Eye Institute Strategic Plan: Vision for the Future on November 1, 2021.

As part of the strategic planning process, we revised our NEI mission statement for the first time in over 50 years, working with both internal and external stakeholders. This strategic plan identifies emerging opportunities for NEI to achieve our mission through leadership to:

  • Drive innovative research
  • Inspire and train a talented and diverse next generation
  • Translate progress into practice

We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many underlying health disparities, and this plan describes proposed steps for making scientific advances more accessible to the entire population.

Accompanying Editorials

Concomitant with the release of this plan, we also published a series of 5 editorials in leading vision journals to elaborate on several aspects of this Strategic Plan: Ophthalmology, JAMA Ophthalmology, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, American Journal of Ophthalmology, and Optometry & Vision Science.

Areas of emphasis

NEI’s strategic plan includes 7 areas of emphasis that represent challenges impacting multiple facets of vision science. Note that these areas don’t replace the existing core program structure at NEI. Instead, they highlight important perspectives and expertise — particularly in evolving areas that will require collaboration across disciplines.

The 7 cross-cutting areas of emphasis in this plan are: From Genes to Disease Mechanisms; Biology and Neuroscience of Vision; Immune System and Eye Health; Regenerative Medicine; Data Science; Individual Quality of Life; and Public Health and Disparities Research. They intersect with each of NEI’s six core extramural programs, which are: Retinal Diseases; Corneal Diseases; Lens and Cataract; Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies; Strabismus, Amblyopia, and Visual Processing; and Low Vision and Blindness Rehab

Planning process

Throughout the strategic planning process, we relied heavily on community input. NEI actively pursued stakeholder input by:

  • Issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for perspectives on research needs. NEI issued this RFI to researchers, clinicians, patient advocates, professional societies, and the public. NEI received 252 responses to the RFI, which are summarized in Appendix 1 of the plan.
  • Hosting a diverse group of expert panels for each area of emphasis. These panels examined the traditional vision research disciplines and ways to capitalize on scientific opportunities, which included key themes from the RFI. The plan captures high-level takeaways from panel discussions on the state of the science, bold predictions for the future, and vision research needs, gaps, and opportunities.


NEI has already started implementing our new strategic plan by:

  • Driving innovative research. NEI staff is identifying key initiatives for implementation as solicited projects with input from external stakeholders. In February 2021, we announced the creation of new NEI coordinating offices for data science and population health.

  • Fostering collaboration. NEI is exploring collaborative initiatives within NIH and with other organizations. This will require a workforce of people trained in different disciplines, and NEI will examine ways to identify the most talented scientists and engineers with methodological expertise. NEI seeks to train different types of clinicians (e.g., M.D., O.D., D.V.M.) for the scientific workforce to create more opportunities for translational and population-based research.

  • Recruiting a talented and diverse workforce. NEI is expanding workforce diversity initiatives in both extramural and intramural programs. We recognize that meaningful change will require long-term effort that engages the entire community. To focus on priorities at the Institute level, NEI established a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility (DEIA) Council.

  • Educating providers, scientists, policymakers, and the public. NEI is working to improve communication through conferences, publications, social media, collaboration with other organizations, and mechanisms like the National Eye Health Education Program.


For questions about NEI’s strategic planning, please contact:

Office of Program Planning and Analysis
National Eye Institute
31 Center Drive MSC 2510
Bethesda, MD 20892-2510

Photo of Dr. Michael F. Chiang, Director of NEI.

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For updates from NEI Director Michael F. Chiang, M.D. on strategic plan implementation and other NEI news, follow @NEIDirector on Twitter.

Last updated: November 1, 2021