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National Institutes of Health (U.S.). Office of the Director. Congressional Inquiries Correspondence 1949-1971
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of Congressional correspondence regarding various aspects of NIH's research programs, appropriations and policy. Topics covered range from mundane constituent letters asking for money to support hospitalization or treatment, to top-level policy questions from Senate and House members. These letters demonstrate the direct access to upper-level NIH administrators once afforded to both Senators, Congressmen and their constituents, and the general public and how discussions of national research policy were openly discussed.

As letters were received by the central NIH congressional liaison office, secretaries classified them using general topical terms and then forwarded them to the institute responsible for the particular research program. Later, each Institute would have their own communications office. Responses were then generated for individual directors by communications staffers for institute directors.

Collectively these correspondence files represent an underdocumented portion of NIH's early years as it was growing into the world's largest biomedical research organization. Known internally as "pinks," so named after the color of the carbon copies, each letter contains the original request and the NIH response, often with preliminary drafts or other related information attached. Much of NIH's research agenda was driven by interpersonal relationships between Institute Directors and Congressional leaders, as demonstrated by the many requests for statistical and policy information coming directly from Senator's offices, with answers coming from Institute leadership. Moreover, the general public had ready access to these same information resources and received personalized responses to their questions, a relationship that would become impossible to maintain by the late 20th century.

The collection is organized by topic or institute and chronologically therein. Little original organization survived before processing but the original categories given by NIH secretaries are written in pen on the upper portion of the letter. In cases where the original topics were too generalized, more definitive terms were supplied, e.g. 'Information' being refined to 'Grants.' In other cases where a generic term was applied to a group of letters devoted to a more specific topic, the topical term was used, e.g. 'Policy' being refined to 'Animal Experimentation.'

The majority of information requested relates to grants, research information, and diseases, however all three terms were often used interchangeably to group letters. For instance, folders titled Research or Information are usually related to specific disease research programs and progress-to-date, but also can include questions about individual grant application status, how much funding is devoted to research on a specific treatment or disease, or public health and population statistics such as race, numbers of people within the U.S. afflicted, or the costs associated with disease treatment (health services research).

Letters to NIMH, or NIMH-related subjects, are the bulk of the collection. Topics include local and national alcohol and drug addiction programs and children mental health services. Other topics of national interest found throughout the collection include national blood blanking policy, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease, anti-vivisection, and program funding

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