NIH All About Grants Podcasts
How RePORT Can Help Applicants and Awardees
March 13, 2019
David Kosub: Hello and welcome to another addition of NIH's "All about Grants" podcast. I'm your host, David Kosub, with the NIH's Office of Extramural Research. As scientists, we enjoy data and information, the more, the merrier. We use these data to help us understand how things work. And this includes understanding how NIH works, To get a better understanding of the funding decisions that we make, a suite of quite powerful web tools are available at your fingertips, providing access to a wealth of data on the NIH grants process. But how do you get started with these web tools? Can they actually help you find someone here at NIH to ask questions? And better yet, can they be used to strengthen your application? Well, that's what brings us here today. We have with us, Dr. Brian Haugen and Dr. Cindy Danielson, with the Division of Data Systems and Data Quality within the NIH Office of Extramural Research. They're the ones who develop and maintain the RePORT suite of tools which aim to increase access and the quality of the information on the NIH's Extramural Research Programs. And they also want to provide some advice on how you can use these tools throughout the grant's process. Thank you very much for being with us. Okay, Brian, starting with you first. Can you tell us a little bit about RePORT and what information and tools are available through it?
Dr. Brian Haugen: Sure. The Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools – or RePORT for short – is located at report.nih.gov. It's NIH's one-stop-shop for serving out consistent and reliable information on NIH programs. It provides access to reports, data and analysis on NIH research activities and serves over 120,000 unique users per month. There's a wide variety of tools available through the RePORT website and they provide access to data at multiple levels of complexity. So for instance, from the NIH RePORTER Database, you can search for individual grants based on the topic. We also have the NIH Data Book that summarizes trends and answers to the most commonly-asked questions about the budget and extramural programs at NIH. And there's also the NIH Awards by Location and Organization tool that provides year-by-year summaries of funding to congressional districts and research organizations. Finally, there's the ExPORTER Database that lets you download the bulk data that are behind the RePORTER Database.
David Kosub: Wow, it definitely sounds like a lot of tools available through RePORT , but probably getting started with all these tools could be quite daunting, especially trying to understand the NIH process when you're thinking of applying for the first time. There is a tool called MatchMaker. Perhaps you could talk a little bit more about that and how you might find someone here at NIH, to ask them some questions?
Dr. Brian Haugen: Yes, NIH MatchMaker is a tool that we provide to the public, for researchers to find projects that are similar to work that they are proposing. The way the tool works is that a user can submit any scientific text and then that text is analyzed through our text mining algorithms, to identify the key concepts and terms. So you don't need to decide those on the front end. Our system then compares those key concepts to NIH's full database of NIH-funded research. The tool will return a list of similar projects based on those similarities. But there's also some handy tools built-in that can help you plan your application. You can quickly see which ICs fund projects like yours, which activity codes those projects use, and which study sections reviewed those projects before they were awarded. You can even find a list of program officials who manage projects similar to the ones that you might be proposing. Once you find someone that you might be interested in working with, you can easily get their contact information and send them an email.
David Kosub: Alright, well let's say somebody did use MatchMaker. They found the right person to talk to and they got some ideas and some advice on their research application. Where should they turn next? Perhaps we could focus on another tool that some of our investigators may be familiar with called RePORTER. Cindy, would you be able to briefly tell us what RePORTER is, the database, as well as what kind of information may be available on a specific grant award?
Dr. Cindy Danielson: Sure, so RePORTER sounds a lot like RePORT, and it has the same acronym plus and extra E and R at the end. That stands for Expenditures and Results, because RePORTER lets you see information about the funding awarded to each project and also, how those projects are connected with publications and other types of results. RePORTER is just one tool available through this suite of tools, but it is a very popular tool. Over 70,000 people use RePORTER each month, running about 20,000 queries every day. RePORTER is a searchable database with a comprehensive search form, including many options to help you narrow down your search and find exactly what you're looking for. But most of the time, people are looking for a particular principal investigator, organization, project number or keyword. In addition to viewing the abstract and other details about funded grants, you can also see links to research outcomes. This includes publications, patents, clinical studies and press releases, for example.
David Kosub: Well, let's actually go a little deeper. Can you tell us how someone might use RePORTER to help strengthen their application?
Dr. Cindy Danielson: So, one way you can use RePORTER as you're developing an application is to find funded research projects in areas similar to yours. You can run keyword searches on RePORTER to find particular scientific areas and see what's been funded in those areas already or get additional background information on prior research that might help in your application, or even identify collaborators. And if you already know what Funding Opportunity Announcement you'll be applying to, you can use RePORTER to find projects that were awarded earlier under similar funding opportunity announcements.
David Kosub: Well, let's turn to life post-award for just a minute. What might an institution be looking for when using RePORTER about their specific grant award?
Dr. Brian Haugen: Newly-funded grants are added to RePORTER after they pass their budget start date, as listed on the Notice of Grant Award. And the RePORTER site is updated weekly. So, if you just received your Notice of Grant Award today, you may have to wait a few days until it shows up on RePORTER. Because funding is awarded annually, even for long-running projects, there's a separate award record for each support year. On rare occasions, there may be a gap between the most recent budget period and the next budget period. In these cases, the budget will temporarily appear inactive on RePORTER until the next budget period begins. But you can always find the older rewards by changing the query to search all fiscal years and not just the active projects.
David Kosub: Alright, great. Well, when information is available and found on RePORTER and an institution sees it, is it set in stone or can they have an opportunity to amend it if there are any errors?
Dr. Cindy Danielson: RePORTER always shows the most up-to-date information about an award. So, any changes that are made in the underlying grants system will automatically appear on RePORTER, as well, because RePORTER pulls in information from the eRA system. We can't make those changes ourselves, but we can point people to the right point of contact. We often hear from investigators whose projects may have changed scope and they need to update their abstract text or project title to reflect that. Or sometimes the PI on the project needs to be changed. In all of these cases, they need to reach out to their program officer responsible for managing their award. The PO will need to approve these changes and then work with the eRA service desk to make the changes in the underlying system. Once that happens, the same updates will appear on RePORTER, as well. You may also need to change the department listed for a particular award, to make it easier to search and report on academic departments. NIH uses standardized lists of both department and organization types from the information provided on the applications. Institutional Signing Officials can update this information using the grant reassign tool in eRA Commons or by contacting the eRA service desk.
David Kosub: Wonderful, so building on that, if an institution would like to see how many awards or the dollar amount that NIH provides for all of their awards, they can use a tool called Awards by Location, I believe Brian you mentioned that earlier?
Dr. Brian Haugen: Yes. The Awards by Location tool can be reached from the RePORT homepage and it's a quick way to see how much funding was awarded to the organization in a particular year and drill down to see the full list of awards. One unique feature of Awards by Location is that it makes use of frozen data sets for past fiscal years. That means if you look up the number of awards to your institution received in 2018, you'll see the same number today as you'll see a year from now.
David Kosub: Okay, great. So, so far, you've showed us that Matchmaker can help us find people here at NIH to ask questions to, you've talked about RePORTER and getting specific information on an award. But is there larger, more aggregate information that's available through RePORT and perhaps using that information to get a glimpse into which research areas to apply for?
Dr. Cindy Danielson: The NIH Data Book may be what you're looking for here. It has an interactive look and feel to it that allows you to easily find information, simply view the data or download it, too. The Data Book summarizes the most commonly asked questions about the budget and extramural programs. This tool has interactive visualizations, options for customizing the data you're looking at and simple tools for searching and sharing the information you find here. For example, you might be looking to apply to a particular funding mechanism, perhaps a career development program, and want to know your chances of getting funded. Take a look at the success rate section and you can look at those trends over time. Or maybe you're considering your requested budget and want to know the average funding for particular types of awards. There's a chart for that, too. If you have a question, just type some keywords into the search box to start exploring what's available there.
David Kosub: Great. So before we go, can we briefly talk about where exactly do all of these data come from? Are you pulling them from, like, a grant application or an award or from other databases like PubMed?
Dr. Brian Haugen: So, as Cindy mentioned earlier, the information about the grants themselves comes from the underlying eRA databases. Most of that information comes from the grant application, from the progress report or from an investigator's profile within eRA Commons. But in addition to that information, RePORTER integrates data from other sources to various types of research results. For example, RePORTER shows you the publications that acknowledge support from a particular project. This information is integrated from multiple sources, but ultimately depends on information in the PubMed record. Acknowledgements within the manuscript are indexed by PubMed and an investigator can add grant associations through the NCBI My Bibliography tool, as part of the progress report. RPORTER also includes clinical studies registered at clinicaltrials.gov that list a valid grant number as supporting the study.
David Kosub: Wonderful. Thank you very much Brian and Cindy for this opportunity to hear more about the RePORT suite of tools. As Brian mentioned earlier, about 120,000 unique visitors come to this website every month. So, we highly encourage you to do so, as well, and see what information' is out there. There are training videos and screenshots on the RePORT website, as well, for you to learn more about how to use them. And the team is here, ready to answer any of your questions. just send an email to RePORT@mail.nih.gov. This has been David (Kosub with NIH's "All About Grants." Thank you.