Since NEI was established over 50 years ago, strategic planning activities have culminated in a series of national plans and workshop reports that identify needs and opportunities in vision research. These planning efforts have relied primarily on the expertise of NEI-funded investigators and the vision community to review the state of the science and describe current research required to advance progress in treating and curing visual disorders and blindness. The last report was published in August 2012: Vision Research: Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities (PDF 2.8 MB). The plan was organized around NEI’s six core program areas: 1) Retinal Diseases; 2) Corneal Diseases; 3) Lens and Cataract; 4) Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies; 5) Strabismus, Amblyopia, and Visual Processing; 6) Low Vision and Blindness Rehabilitation.

The 2012 NEI planning process also led NEI to launch the Audacious Goals Initiative. AGI started with an ideation challenge competition broadly seeking audacious yet feasible ideas to transform vision care. Following a large strategic planning summit in 2013, NEI announced the audacious goal to restore vision through regeneration of the retina.

NEI 2021 Strategic Plan

NEI Strategic Planning is conducted under the auspices of National Eye Advisory Council (Council), with direction from the NEI Director. Council provided concept clearance to conduct a cross-cutting NEI Strategic Plan consistent with new requirements in the 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-255).

Areas of Emphasis

Council selected seven Areas of Emphasis organized within three research domains that cut across the NEI core programs.

Visual System in Health and Disease

  • From Genes to Disease Mechanisms
  • Biology and Neuroscience of Vision
  • Immune System & Eye Health

Capitalizing on Emerging Fields

  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Data Science

Preventing Vision Loss and Enhancing Well-Being

  • Individual Quality of Life
  • Public Health & Disparities Research


Stakeholder Input

The strategic planning process relies heavily on community input. The current planning process started with a public request for information (RFI) soliciting research needs, gaps, and opportunities. The RFI was open November 2019-January 2020 and generated 252 responses. The results of this RFI were used to inform expert panel selection and the topics for discussion. Panelists were provided the full responses to the RFI, and the results were discussed during panel calls.

For each of the seven Areas of Emphasis, NEI hosted a diverse group of expert panels that examined the traditional vision research disciplines and ways to capitalize on scientific opportunities, which included key themes from the RFI. High-level outputs of the panel discussions, which includes NEI’s scientific needs, gaps, and opportunities are summarized in the strategic plan.

NEI released a draft plan on May 17, 2021, and requested public feedback by June 7, 2021. Public comment period is now officially closed. NEI received fifty two responses from the public and conducted a qualitative thematic analysis to determine high-level changes that need to be applied before publication, such as technical edits, missed key points, misrepresentation of key points. NEI will carefully consider each comment during the process of resolving and finalizing the final plan for publication and release in Fall 2021.

Reference: View the draft NEI Strategic Plan (PDF 1.83 MB)

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

Last updated: June 28, 2021