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Reporting Considerations When Writing Your Application

Table of Contents


NIH uses a system called Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) to report annually to Congress and the public the amount of money allocated to a list of research topics of congressional and public interest.

RCDC reports allocations automatically for most topics; for the remainder, NIH or the institutes manually prepare reports. NIAID supports research in most of these areas.

Congress and the NIH Office of the Director use these data to better understand NIH research spending. While RCDC affects how some of NIAID's budget numbers are reported, it will not affect funding allocations or peer review scores.

The accuracy of RCDC data relies on you, the applicant, to include the most relevant terminology in key parts of your application. Terminology you use also can affect how NIH chooses the best institute and peer review study section for your application.

Read the next two sections for details on how terminology is weighted and tips to keep in mind when writing your application.

How RCDC Works

Categorization starts with a fingerprint, the unique set of weighted terms that define one research area, condition, or disease. NIH scientists collaborated to develop and validate the fingerprints.

RCDC searches for fingerprint keywords in a project’s title, project summary/abstract (description), and specific aims. When searching keywords, RCDC looks for three elements:

  • Where they appear: The title “weighs" more than the project summary/abstract or specific aims, so a fingerprint term appearing in the title will almost certainly put the project into that category.
  • How frequently they appear: The more frequently a keyword appears, the more likely it is that the project will match the category.
  • How germane they are to a fingerprint: The term “hay fever” is germane to the Asthma category; the term “allergen” is relevant but less germane. The term “hay fever” will count for more in the Asthma category than the term “allergen."

Categories are not mutually exclusive, so a project may fall under multiple RCDC categories, each at 100 percent of the fiscal year dollars.

For example, RCDC will report an NIAID project to develop a protease inhibitor for West Nile virus in multiple categories, including West Nile Virus and West Nile virus protease inhibitor.

Tips for Preparing Your Application

Here's how you can adjust your terminology in your application's title, abstract/summary (description), and specific aims to ensure it's classified in the proper categories.

  • Clearly state all research areas, conditions, or diseases relevant to your project in your project title, project summary/abstract (description), and specific aims.
  • Try not to refer to concepts loosely related to your subject area.
  • Ensure that all terms are spelled properly, especially those terms most significant to the research area.
  • Avoid using acronyms in the title, and use them prudently in the project summary/abstract (description) and specific aims.
    • Though RCDC will be able to recognize many synonyms and acronyms, an acronym commonly used in one scientific discipline may have a different meaning in another discipline.
    • Do not create new acronyms.
  • Avoid using unclear nouns, such as “the disease,” or pronouns, such as “it."
  • Avoid negative phrases such as “This project will not study lung cancer.” In this example, RCDC would see the term “lung cancer” and categorize the project as such.

Note: Our recommendations supplement the application instructions. Always follow those instructions to the letter.

For more application advice, see our All About Grants tutorials and the Questions and Answers section.

Last Updated May 08, 2012

Last Reviewed May 08, 2012