HHS Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated to the Public. III. Types of Information Disseminated by NIH to the Public


Each year, NIH components produce 400 or more publications of various types, and about 140,000 static Web pages. All publications that carry the NIH imprimatur, i.e. are considered official NIH publications or releases, must follow NIH policy and procedures for preparation, review, approval, and distribution (see Section V). The types of information disseminated by NIH to the public include the following, however, the OMB guidelines are not directly applicable to all of the information in these categories (See Section II):

  1. Program Reviews, Analyses, and Evaluations.

    This category includes research project descriptions [e.g., abstracts of funded grant proposals available through the NIH Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) database2], bibliographies, collection of abstracts, reviews, and recurring reports. Summaries of research findings are routinely shared with interested parties (e.g., the public, other researchers, the press, Congress). These findings can be released in the form provided by the investigator, or the investigator-supplied information can be used as the basis of a narrative describing research progress in a particular program area. Syntheses of research findings are used for many purposes, including in meeting annual reporting requirements, such as the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Highlights of research findings are posted on the NIH Web site, and can be found in testimonies and speeches by NIH staff in many venues, including annual Appropriations Hearings, presentations on NIH funding opportunities, and literature reviews.

  2. Grants and Funding Opportunities.

    The NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/description.htm) is the official document for announcing the availability of NIH funds for biomedical and behavioral research and research training, and disseminating policy and administrative information. Current and past issues of the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts are available on the NIH Web site, along with other information on grants policy, peer review, award data, research contracts, application forms, and the RePORT database, and links to each of the 27 ICs.

  3. Scientific Reports.

    Can be in the form of a book, chapter of a book or textbook, monograph, journal article, proceedings, or the like. These are generally authored or co-authored by NIH staff scientists as part of their official duties, or may be authored by working groups convened by the NIH. Ordinarily first report of any scientific research results or other professional findings is made by publication in a scientific or professional journal; or presentation at a meeting of a professional organization.3

  4. Statistical Compendiums.

    Examples of statistical compendiums include annual appropriations by IC, employment data (e.g., numbers of staff and staffing by professional degree), and data books produced by statistical agencies (e.g., Census Bureau, NCHS) under contract to NIH (e.g., Aging World, 65+ in America). Also prominent is the annual table showing research dollars allocated by disease entitled Funding for Research Areas of Interest released by the NIH Budget Office. The estimated spending amounts are self-reported by individual ICs. Although ICs are requested to use consistent methods across years, estimation methods and assumptions across ICs may not be consistent.

  5. Guidelines or Authoritative Health Information.

    This type of information is issued after careful review and deliberation of available scientific evidence, usually with the assistance of a panel of outside experts, and is generally associated with a formal meeting or consensus panel specifically convened for the purpose. Prime examples are NIH Consensus Statements and State of the Science Statements issued as part of the NIH Consensus Development Conference program managed by the NIH Office of Medical Applications of Research (see Section V.2.c), and the Report on Carcinogens prepared by the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH (see Section V.2.d).

  6. Editorials, Commentaries, Letters-to-the-Editor.

    Only if they are provided by NIH staff representing official NIH viewpoints.

  7. Consumer Information.

    NIH provides a number of resources for the general consumer to learn about health conditions, participate in research studies, look up drug information, contact the NIH, find health literature references, and read about special programs. A considerable amount of this information is developed and distributed through IC-established clearinghouses, some of which are required by law. Other sources of consumer information include MedLine Plus, a health database maintained by the NIH's National Library of Medicine; the NIH Research Matters, a newsletter of articles on health maintenance and prevention; A-Z topic index with primary Institute contact; PubMed, a comprehensive database of article titles and abstracts; Clinical Trials database on medical studies around the country; a MEDLINEplus guide to over 9,000 medications; and much more. Other information provided to the public includes Information about NIH, Visitor Information, Job Opportunities, Employee Directory, and FOIA provisions.

  8. Science Education Materials and Training Modules.

    NIH provides science education materials as well as training modules for clinical investigators and extramural scientists. The NIH Curriculum Supplement Series are interactive teaching units that combine cutting-edge scientific research discoveries with state-of-the-art instructional materials for grades K-12. Examples of training aids available to extramural researchers include Human Subjects Assurance Training, and various self-instructional guidebooks and videotapes.

  9. Press Releases.

    NIH press releases are archived 2 weeks after their release date and made available on the NIH Web site. Interested persons can subscribe to receive these press releases via email.