Letter from Dr. Stephen I. Katz: NIH Tools That Ensure Transparency and Accountability

Special Announcement
August 18, 2016

Letter From Dr. Stephen I. Katz: NIH Tools That Ensure
Transparency and Accountability

Photo: Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D. Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.

Dear Colleagues:

The NIAMS has a three-pronged mission: to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis, musculoskeletal, and skin diseases; to train the next generations of researchers; and to disseminate information about research progress. We are held accountable for how we spend more than $500 million annually in taxpayer funds, and sharing that information is a critical component of our communications efforts. NIAMS and NIH have a variety of resources available to provide transparency on the projects and programs we support.

First and foremost, the NIAMS website (www.niams.nih.gov) and our e-newsletters, such as the NIAMS Update, feature many of our activities--from recent scientific breakthroughs to funding opportunities, and from public-private partnerships to projects being pursued in our Intramural Research Program. In addition, NIAMS publishes on our website our annual funding plan for the current fiscal year (FY), allowing researchers to gauge whether their grant applications are likely to receive support. Also available is our annual Congressional Justification, a part of the Presidentís Budget. It details how NIAMSí funding will be allocated among our mission areas, and highlights planned future directions.

Here are some additional ways you can examine how NIH invests in science:

  • Impact of NIH Research — Maintained by the NIH Office of the Director, this website provides examples of how NIH improves health by promoting treatment and prevention, contributes to society by driving economic growth and productivity, and expands the biomedical knowledge base by funding cutting-edge research and cultivating the biomedical workforce of today and tomorrow. A new feature called "Our Stories" describes several examples of the way NIH furthered important biomedical advances.
  • NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) — This online database, maintained by the NIH Office of Extramural Research, provides access to reports, data, and analyses of NIH research activities, including information on NIH expenditures and the results of NIH-supported research. A number of tutorials are available to help users find the projects they are most interested in. Some popular tools include:
    • NIH Categorical Spending — Beginning in FY 2008, at the request of Congress, the NIH initiated a new process to classify research projects into more than 250 discrete Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC). The RCDC systemís use of data mining improves consistency and reduces variability in defining the research categories that are reported. The data, updated annually for the prior FY, represent the official record of NIH spending on particular research areas. In FY 2016, the categorical spending tables were updated to include mortality and prevalence data. These statistics offer the public and policymakers information that is helpful for understanding the NIH research portfolio and its relationship to public health needs. Further descriptions of these disease statistics can be found here.
    • RePORT Expenditures and Results Tool (RePORTER) — RePORTER is a flexible data mining tool to identify funded research projects. Users can search based on a wide variety of parameters, including principal investigator, funding year, NIH Institute or Center, receiving institution, key words, Congressional district, and many others. After obtaining a list of projects, users can quickly access project abstracts, public health relevance statements, and additional grant information. Users can also take advantage of several unique data and visualization tools to examine the portfolio more closely. Recently, the tool was improved to allow for quick identification of publications and patents resulting from particular projects, as well as related news and media coverage.
    • NIH Data Book (NDB) — The NDB provides basic summary statistics on extramural grants and contract awards; grant applications; the entities, trainees and fellows that NIH supports; and the national biomedical workforce. A variety of tables and charts showing funding trends and history are available. In addition, the Funding Facts page allows you to ask simple questions to quickly access key information.
  • ClinicalTrials.gov — ClinicalTrials.gov is a web-based resource that provides patients, their family members, health care professionals, researchers, and the public with easy access to information on publicly and privately supported clinical studies on a wide range of diseases and conditions. Many NIH-funded clinical trials are included in the registry. In addition, you can conduct an advanced search of the registry to identify trials that are receiving NIH or other federal agency dollars.

We work hard to enhance transparency, and ensure that everyone has ready access to a variety of tools. We hope you will take advantage of them, and share with interested colleagues and patients.

Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health