The next time you are filling out your interim or final Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) for your NIH grant, pay special attention to writing the project Outcomes section (Section I). That’s because any project outcomes submitted on or after Oct. 1, 2017 will be made available to the general public via NIH’s Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORTER).
You may wonder why the scientific community needs to report on outcomes and why we are making the outcomes available to the public. Reviewing reported outcomes is part of our stewardship of the public’s investment in research. Publicly posting grant outcomes provides transparency and lets the taxpayer understand what they have paid for (We informed you that outcomes would be made public in Guide Notices NOT-OD-17-085, NOT-OD-17-037 and NOT-OD-17-022). Therefore, it is important for grantees to write the outcomes for the public appropriately. Keep the description of outcomes concise and crisp, written for the layman in clear and comprehensible language. Do not include any proprietary or confidential information or trade secrets. Aim for Grade 10, so that even a 15 to 16-year-old will be able to understand the results of your research (see our pointers on using plain language to communicate the value of your research).
To help the research community understand what is an acceptable report, I wrote up a specific example from my time at the Cleveland Clinic on the outcome of a R01 funded study from 2001-2004 on ‘Heart Rate Recovery and Mortality.’ It wasn’t easy to break it down into non-scientific speak. I ran my first attempt through a readability checker and it reflected a Grade 12 understanding. I tried again and eventually succeeded in getting it down to a Grade 10 level.
Note that NIH will publish outcomes exactly as they are submitted by the grantee. So, it is critical that this item in the report is written for the lay person. While NIH program officials (POs) will review this item in the Final RPPR or Interim RPPR for elements such as relevancy (i.e. it is a description of project outcome and not unrelated comments that the grantee would not want to see on the Internet), they will not edit the text submitted. POs may contact PIs to submit revised project outcomes, using the capability in eRA Commons to submit additional materials for interim and final RPPRs (see Guide Notice NOT-OD-18-103). But it is imperative that the PI provide the text (in the web form, not as an attachment) exactly as the PI would like it to appear to the general public on RePORTER. What you write in that web form is what the public will see!