Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

'Monitoring the Future' receives $35 million to continue for another five years

"Monitoring the Future," one of the largest and longest-running studies of American youth, as well as of college students and young adults, will receive a $35 million award to continue for another five years.


Learn more about "Monitoring the Future."

"Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of the Lifestyles and Values of American Youth" (MTF) began 37 years ago with funding from the White House and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), and it has received continuation funding from NIDA (one of the National Institutes of Health) since then. The project is conducted annually at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

Because MTF is an investigator-initiated research project, the investigators must submit renewal proposals every five years, which then are evaluated by a committee of their peers.

"Every five years we do our best to make the case that this scientific study is worth its considerable cost," says Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator. "But to some degree it's a crapshoot because of the way reviewers are chosen. Every committee has a different composition. Further, the competition for research monies is severe."

The new awards will total $35 million, making MTF one of the largest, if not the largest, investigator-initiated research study supported by any of NIH institutes.

The collaborative team that conducts the study, in addition to Johnston, consists of Jerald Bachman, Patrick O'Malley, John Schulenberg, and Megan Patrick — all U-M research professors in the Survey Research Center at ISR. Also participating are researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, and Columbia University.

"Monitoring the Future" is best known for its studies of smoking, drinking, and drug use of many types among secondary school students; but it covers a large number of other subjects. Some 47,000 students are surveyed annually in about 400 secondary schools nationally, and the results are reported and used widely.

MTF also has tracked substance use among the nation's college students for more than 30 years, as well as among young adults the same age who do not attend college. And each high school senior class since 1976 has been followed over the years by means of mailed surveys. The oldest class now is reaching age 55.

"Having longitudinal data across much of the life span on repeated class cohorts drawn from the normal population is very rare — perhaps unique — and such data are extremely valuable for answering a great many research questions," says Johnston. "We hope that this study will be a national institution which continues beyond the careers of the current investigators, several of whom actually started it 37 years ago."