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NCI Research Coding and Reporting
    Posted: 07/15/2008    Updated: 08/22/2008
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is scientific coding?

Scientific coding refers to the categorization of research projects according to scientific focus. In this process, research projects are analyzed and classified according to scientific topic and content. Scientific coding allows the development of science-based budget information, which can be used in portfolio analysis to examine the distribution of funds across research areas. Scientific coding is also necessary to answer inquiries about the scientific and budgetary aspects of Institute-funded research.

NCI employs a sophisticated system of scientific coding in which trained professionals and/or scientific staff analyze grant applications, contracts, and intramural projects to classify each project for its degree of relevance to Special Interest Category (SIC) and Organ Site (SITE) codes. This coding structure is meant to describe in a consistent way the major scientific disciplines that are of stated or growing interest to NIH, DHHS, Congress, and the public. A critical characteristic of coded data is comparability from one fiscal year to the next. This process allows the Institute to respond quickly to requests for information from NCI staff and the broader community. The coding definitions used by the NCI intramural program are consistent with those used for extramural grants and research and development (R&D) contracts to maintain accuracy across the Institute's portfolio.

What role do NCI Divisions play in reporting the research funding in their specific portfolios?

NCI Divisions administering extramural funding are encouraged to work with NCI's Division of Extramural Activities to clarify the research being conducted under specific projects. The Divisions provide category funding information for all in-house spending, including intramural, Research Management and Support, and control in-house funding mechanisms.

Interaction of NCI's Divisions and Centers with the research documentation groups is one component of the NCI Data Quality Plan. Additional components include the alignment of coding guidelines and procedures, written definitions, and training. Members of the staff analyze the scientific coding and provide quality-control assurance to maintain consistency in interpretation/definition and approach from project to project and across fiscal years. The coding definitions used by the intramural program are consistent with those used for extramural grants to maintain comparability across the NCI portfolio.

When does NCI report research category funding?

At the close of each fiscal year, NCI's Office of Budget and Finance (OBF) asks each scientific organization at NCI to report its research funding according to specific research categories. OBF takes the intramural and extramural research category funding submissions and combines them to get the Institute's funding totals for the individual research areas. Analysts within OBF review the submissions and evaluate trends to understand unusual funding changes. OBF often contacts the coding staff for more detailed information to help clarify unanticipated funding changes. OBF reviews the total research category funding and, taking into account input from staff and the general budgetary outlook, makes out-year estimates for categories. After the collection and funding category totals are finalized, OBF reports to the NIH Office of Budget on those categories for which NIH annually requests information.

How can I see what research NCI funds?

Visit the NCI Funded Research Portfolio Web site, which contains information about research grant and contract awards made by NCI. This site provides access to various NCI budget reports associated with research funding by research categories. It also provides the ability to search the database in various ways, including a text search of the project abstract and a search of the NIH research categories that are assigned to the projects by extramural and intramural groups.

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