Rock Talk

Helping connect you with the NIH perspective

Seek and Ye Shall Find (But Maybe We Can Help…)

From time to time on the blog, I’ve discussed the various tools available to you for finding research of interest on RePORT, our comprehensive resource on NIH-funded research. Today, I’d like to highlight a search feature that has been available on RePORTER for some time but may not be widely known.

You all know that you can search for projects of interest on RePORTER using a simple text search of NIH project titles, abstracts, and project terms and of course, you can narrow down that search with careful use of the Boolean AND/OR/NOT operators in the advanced search option (for more info on structuring your text searches see section 3 in the RePORTER manual).

These searches cover grant project descriptions, but wouldn’t it be great to run the same also through the publications generated by NIH grants? Now we can. For example, we can take a search for community-based research and expand it to include publication abstracts, by choosing the “Projects and Publications” option:

Screen capture of the RePORT search box showing a boolean search for ("community-based" OR "community based" OR "local community" OR participatory OR neighborhood) NOT (education OR training) -- and selection of the "advanced" text search radio button and the "projects & publications" search in radio button optionPublication abstracts can be used to find projects relevant to your search even when the exact terms used in your search don’t appear in the project description. The “Projects & Publications” option extends the search beyond just NIH awards, and also runs the search through research publication titles, abstracts, and keywords (MeSH headings), to pull up NIH grants linked to publications identified by the search. So for this example, adding publications retrieves twice the number of projects found when searching project information alone. For example, because the phrase “community assessment” doesn’t appear in our search criteria, this study wouldn’t appear in a search of projects:

Screen capture showing the project "community assessment of freeway pollution and health" project number 5-R01-ES015462-05By expanding the search to include publications, we found this very relevant project, because the keywords for one of the publications linked to this grant include “community-based participatory research.”

Even using these strategies, finding what you’re looking for can be challenging. Our tools are still rudimentary and our data are far from perfect. We’re continually working to improve our databases and make our search tools better. As I’ve written about in a previous post, some of the projects we’re involved in, such as SciENcv, have the potential to dramatically improve your access to the information on NIH-funded research, the people conducting it, and its results. RePORTER has come a long way in three short years, and I’m looking forward to see where it goes next.

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3 thoughts on “Seek and Ye Shall Find (But Maybe We Can Help…)

  1. A comment on the statement that your “tools are still rudimentary”.

    Rather than re-inventing the search engine, why can’t you partner with someone like Google to use their custom search tools?

    Wouldn’t this provide a quicker and more accurate search results, which may also be more cost-effective to achieve?

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