Request for Information (RFI): Important Considerations for Potential Creation of an Open-Access Repository or Database for Physiological and Anatomical Ontology of Acupoints

Notice Number: NOT-AT-19-030

Key Dates
Release Date: June 26, 2019
Response Date: August 04, 2019

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)



This Request for Information (RFI) seeks public comments on key points to consider regarding potential development of an open-access repository or database to facilitate the deposit, sharing, and comparison of anatomical and/or physiological data associated with acupoints. For this purpose, "acupoints" refers to locations on the body that can be stimulated using a variety of methods including inserted acupuncture needles (with or without electrical stimulation), manual pressure, or laser or skin surface electrodes to achieve physiological responses or therapeutic effects.

Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address one or more of the items under "Information Requested." Instructions on how to respond are provided in “Submitting a Response." The deadline to submit your response is August 4, 2019.


One of the core principles of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is that data and results generated through funding using taxpayer dollars should be made available to the public to the greatest extent possible. A number of current policies reflect this. For example, NIH requires that publications emanating from NIH funding be made publicly available1 and genomic data be shared 2. This principle is being considered for extension to other types of data 3, an effort that would include adopting practices following FAIR Data Principles (i.e., to make data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) 4. Their implementation requires community-based standards for the structure and format of data, and open access repositories to house it.

In the acupuncture research community, many projects generate a significant volume of anatomical, biochemical, and physiological data, but there is no consensus on the location and functional significance of acupoints. On February 11-12, 2019, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), hosted a two-day workshop on Translating Fundamental Science of Acupuncture into Clinical Practice for Cancer Symptom Management, Pain, and Substance Abuse ( Speakers and participants were scientists and representatives from across NIH and other Government agencies as well as distinguished scientists from the acupuncture, neuroscience, and clinical research communities. It was noted at the meeting that there is a significant need for a database to deposit, share, and compare anatomical and physiological data associated with acupoints among various studies. For this purpose, "acupoints" refers to locations on the body that can be stimulated using a variety of methods including, but not restricted to, acupuncture needles, to achieve physiological responses or therapeutic effects. While there might be various small-scale acupuncture-related databases in the public or private domains, currently there are no NIH-sponsored databases or resources available to the research community.

One of the workshop’s key outcomes was strong interest in an open-access “acupoint” database. In this RFI, NCCIH and its NIH partners are interested in obtaining input from the broader research community on the value of this potential resource and on key criteria and elements that would make it most useful.

Information Requested

NCCIH seeks comments on the following topics:

  • The impact the repository/database could have on the acupuncture or related peripheral stimulation research community
  • Appropriate standards/metrics for acupoint stimulations (e.g., needle size, stimulation frequency, amplitude, duration)
  • Appropriate anatomical references and anatomical regions for acupoints
  • Appropriate nomenclature standards for “acupoints”
  • Value of acupoints for treatment of complex diseases and disorders
  • Appropriate outcome measures (e.g., biochemical responses, physiological responses) for acupoints
  • Other key data standards
  • Minimum data requirements for acupoints
  • Importance of harmonizing standards with publication requirements
  • Other types of transcutaneous peripheral stimulation paradigms that might be included (e.g., acupressure, laser, skin surface electrodes)
  • Necessary analysis tools for the most value
  • Minimum size in terms of number and diversity of acupoints for maximum usefulness
  • Desired key features and functionality from different perspectives including: users, data contributors, and/or research community

Submitting a Response

Comments on the topic areas should be submitted online at by August 4, 2019. Respondents are free to address any or all of the items listed above; respondents should not feel compelled to address all items. Please note that the text box for each topic has a maximum limit of 250 words.

This RFI is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a policy, a solicitation for applications, or an obligation on the part of the Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the United States Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for its use of that information.

Responses will be compiled and may be shared publicly in an unedited version after the close of the comment period. Please do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any nonproprietary technical information in summaries of the state of the science and any resultant solicitation(s). NIH may use information gathered by this RFI to inform development of future funding opportunity announcements and policy development.

We look forward to your input and hope you will share this RFI document with your colleagues.


[1] NIH Public Access Policy Details:
[2] NIH Genomic Data Sharing:
[3] National Institutes of Health Plan for Increasing Access to Scientific Publications and Digital Scientific Data from NIH Funded Scientific Research:
[4] Wilkinson MD, Dumontier M, Aalbersberg IJ, et al. The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Scientific Data. 2016;3:160018:


Please direct all inquiries to:

Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
Telephone: 301-451-2989

Dee Gamliel M.S.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
Telephone: 301-451-2989