Staying at the cutting edge involves more than just keeping up with the journals and attending scientific conferences. Here’s how to use NIH databases to learn about emerging trends in funded research—and potentially find new collaborators, too.
NIH's Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) site offers many reports on NIH spending, as well as two key tools for you to explore: Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC) and RePORTER.
RCDC for the Big Picture
First, get an overview of how NIH spends its money across hundreds of research categories using Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC). NIH offers over a decade of historical data and uses actual data to project estimates for the most recent and current fiscal years.
NIH assigns research to the relevant categories based on the text you use in your applications. (Go to NIAID's Write Your Research Plan for tips on how to best describe your research.)
Try the RCDC search box or click any of the underlined dollar values for details. If you drill down far enough through the RCDC site, you'll end up in the RePORTER system.
RePORTER for Specifics
The NIH RePORTER search form is your gateway into NIH's free database of funded projects, investigators, publications, and patents.
Its search results show you lists of projects and names of funded researchers. This can be a great way to get a snapshot of your field and look for potential collaborators or competitors. You may spot research areas that are underrepresented or highly supported.
To see active projects broken out by NIH institute or center, use RePORTER's Browse NIH option.
The Matchmaker function allows you to paste in text, such as keywords or a scientific abstract. Then choose one of the two buttons below the form:
- Similar Projects button
- Use the resulting list of projects to work out which institute and study section to target, or names of others in the field to connect with.
- Keep in mind, if a study section code begins with “Z”, then the study section was a Special Emphasis Panel and you cannot request this option in your application.
- Similar Program Officials button
- This gives you a graph of relevant institutes as well as a table of NIH program officers ranked by the number of relevant projects in their portfolios.
- Click the number in the Projects column to see the list of awards.
If you have an eRA Commons account, you can use eRA's LikeThis (A Thesaurus-Based Search Tool) to find funded projects and publications as well. Both Matchmaker and LikeThis leverage RePORTER data, so try both and see which you like best.
RePORTER’s Search Publications feature lets you enter up to a thousand comma-separated PubMed ID (PMID) numbers. It will return publications associated with extramural or intramural funded projects.
As an example, we entered the PMID number 26252731 in Search Publications and got information about the associated R01, plus options to view similar publications or citations through PubMed or Google Scholar.
Search Publications defaults to PMID numbers, but the form has a control that lets you switch to PubMed Central reference numbers (PMCIDs) instead.
Here are some tips to modify your query on the RePORTER search form:
- To get the most recent results, set the most recent Fiscal Year (FY) using the field on the upper right of the search form.
- To be more inclusive, use the default value of "Active Projects" in that same field.
- To search using RCDC spending categories, go to Project Details and use the NIH Spending Category field.
Save Your Work
In RCDC or RePORTER, you can save your search results at any time using the green Excel Export button.
To leverage that data further, consider ExPORTER. It allows you to download the raw data behind RePORTER for in-depth analysis. You can even load it into your own data system.
If you decide to compare your search results with NIH's official year-end reports, remember that many projects are assigned to more than one RCDC category. Searches by RCDC category may not match official reports of spending by category. For more explanation, read the front page of ExPORTER and the questions starting at Do the numbers in RCDC reports add up to the total NIH budget?