management offers benefits to the organization as a whole, but it poses challenges for the Hearing Loss Research Program’s ability to develop and implement a program plan and to allocate resources among the varied research needs related to occupational hearing loss prevention. The committee notes that even the most talented leadership will find it difficult to successfully manage a program distributed across separate organizational units and to catalyze the planning and mobilization of resources necessary for a cohesive program. The small size of the program also demands skill in setting priorities for program activities and allocation of program resources. The program as a whole requires leadership specifically dedicated to championing a better Hearing Loss Research Program, as do each of the program areas represented by the four research goals.
In addition to having excellent management skills, leaders should be well-regarded experts in hearing loss prevention, noise control engineering, or surveillance methods. They should be involved with other organizations through activities such as participation in standards committees, advisory panels, and boards. The program’s leaders should also bring experience in implementing hearing loss prevention or noise control engineering practices in the field.
Since 1996, the Hearing Loss Research Program has had to respond to significant organizational and leadership challenges. The incorporation of activities at the Pittsburgh Research Laboratory added a new and physically separated component to the program. The Hearing Loss Research Program also lost two experienced and recognized leaders in the field. Furthermore, the Hearing Loss Research Program has had to respond to the NIOSH-wide effort to look toward a second decade of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) and the demands of preparing for the review by this committee.
Although the Hearing Loss Research Program has persevered admirably during these transitional times, the committee sees a need to foster leadership that can provide coherence to the program, increase collaboration, and serve as an effective advocate within the matrix environment in which it operates. The committee is encouraged to see that NIOSH has recently appointed from within the NIOSH management staff an overall program manager who is expected to monitor the program’s activities and resources. In this role, the program manager will have an advisory and consultative relationship with the organizational units in which the Hearing Loss Research Program’s work is done, but he will not have authority to mandate the allocation of resources to the program as a whole or its components. The program manager did not make a formal presentation to the committee, and even though he is new to this position, it would have been valuable to the committee to hear his views on the program and the Institute of Medicine review.