June 2018 Cancer Epidemiology Matters E-News
Cancer Epidemiology Matters E-News
- Tools to Develop Your Research Idea
- 10 Free Diet and Physical Activity Assessment Resources for Epidemiologists from NCI
Tools to Develop Your Research Idea
For experienced and newer investigators alike, it can be difficult to keep up with the wealth of information that is available for identifying and applying for NIH and NCI grant funding. Below are key resources and advice for investigators developing a research idea for a grant application.
Building on Past and Current Projects
It is a good idea to determine if, and the extent to which, research projects have addressed or are addressing your research question. To supplement your literature reviews, NIH has resources to learn about funded research.
The RePORT Expenditures and Results (RePORTER) system allows users to search a repository of both intramural and extramural NIH-funded research projects and the Matchmaker tool lets you search for similar projects (and their associated NIH Program Directors). The Research Portfolios section on the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) website offers information about currently funded grants, published Requests for Applications and Program Announcements, funding history since 1998, and more. Program Directors (PDs) in DCCPS’ Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) can also point you to information on what EGRP has funded.
Considering the Scientific Priorities of the NIH and NCI
Becoming familiar with key reports and announcements is one way to keep abreast of scientific areas of interest to NCI, other NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs), and NIH broadly. The "Reports" section on the RePORT website provides links to frequently requested reports; strategic plans for NIH ICs and specific research topics, e.g., obesity research; National Academies reports funded by NIH; and many other special reports, such as NCI's Annual Plan and Budget Proposal.
Investigators can get a preview of potential upcoming NCI funding opportunities by reviewing the minutes of the Board of Scientific Advisors meetings, which list new and re-issued concepts for NIH Requests for Applications (RFAs).
In April 2018, NCI Director Norman E. Sharpless highlighted four areas of opportunity that he considers to be particularly important for accelerating progress in cancer research and care: https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2018/sharpless-nci-focus-areas.
Our EGRP Program Directors have knowledge of specific research gaps and can talk with you about how your research interests fit within the strategic priorities of EGRP, DCCPS, and the NCI. Subscribing to NCI email updates or Twitter accounts can also help you stay abreast of important developments.
Assessing Available Resources
One important component of choosing a topic is ensuring that you have the appropriate resources, expertise, and training to address the research question. Here are a few points to consider as you begin:
- Is my expertise and experience appropriate to lead the project?
- Have I assembled a team that has the appropriate skills and background to carry out the research plan?
- Do I and members of the team have adequate time to devote to the project?
- Is the project’s timeline reasonable?
- What specific resources are needed to conduct a successful research project, and are they available?
- What evidence can I provide that my project is likely to be successful (such as preliminary data for an R01 application)?
It is good to write a concept paper (a brief description of the research idea, including specific aims) early on, and use it as you talk to colleagues and NIH PDs about your idea. Getting feedback from others early and often will help you refine and shape your ideas and make your grant more competitive. In particular, EGRP PDs can help you identify funding opportunities that may be relevant to your area of interest.
How Can a Program Director Help?
EGRP PDs support both the scientific priorities of the NCI and extramural researchers. Providing guidance to investigators before a grant application is submitted is an important part of their role. (See the DCCPS New Grantees page for more information on the scope of PDs’ responsibilities [PDF].) A PD has knowledge of research gaps, scientific advances, NIH/NCI priorities, and NIH/NCI policies; and can help you identify pertinent funding opportunities and position your research idea within the strategic priorities of EGRP, DCCPS, and the NCI. Here are a few tips for having a conversation with a PD:
- First, identify a PD who can help you by searching for your area of interest on our Staff List or Research Interest Areas page.
- Email the PD to set up an appointment to discuss specific aims or questions.
- Provide key points you would like to discuss in advance; outlining specific aims and potential public health impact can also be helpful.
- Identify the best way to communicate (e.g., email, phone).
- Be persistent – PDs have many competing demands on their time.
General Grantsmanship Resources for Investigators
Of course there are also many resources related to other stages in the NIH funding process:
- The NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts (NIH Guide) is the official publication for NIH biomedical and behavioral research grant policies, guidelines, and funding opportunities. Subscribe to receive the NIH Guide weekly updates.
- The NIH Office of Extramural Research has a helpful guide to the steps required for an application to proceed from planning and submission through to award and closeout.
- NCI provides a comprehensive overview of the grants process.
10 Free Diet and Physical Activity Assessment Resources for Epidemiologists from NCI
How do you measure the complexity of cancer-related risk factors? The Risk Factor Assessment Branch (RFAB) in the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) has developed and validated a number of resources for investigators interested in incorporating diet and/or physical activity assessment into their research. See below for a list of these resources and their purposes.
Dietary Assessment Resources
24 Hour Dietary Recalls and Records
The Automated Self-Administered 24-Hour Dietary Assessment Tool (ASA24) is a web-based tool available on all mobile devices that enables multiple, automatically coded, self-administered 24-hour recalls or records in English and Spanish (for U.S. versions) as well as French (for Canadian version). It is freely available for use by researchers, clinicians, and educators for research, clinical practice, or teaching; to manage logistics of data collection; and to obtain analytic output files.
The NCI Method for Usual Dietary Intakes was developed by NCI researchers and elsewhere to estimate usual dietary intakes of foods and nutrients using 24-hour recalls but could also be used for food records. This method can be used to estimate the distribution of usual intake for a population or subpopulation; assess the effects of individual covariates on consumption; and predict individual intake for use in a model to assess the relationship between diet and disease or other variables using the statistical technique of regression calibration.
Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ)
The Diet History Questionnaire III (DHQ III) is a freely-available web-based FFQ that can be used on all mobile devices. It can be used by researchers, clinicians, or educators to assess food and dietary supplement intakes.
Screeners and Short Instruments
NCI’s Dietary Screener Questionnaire (DSQ) was designed to collect information on participants' intake of fruits and vegetables, fiber, added sugar, dairy/calcium, whole grains, red meat, and processed meat. Then, scoring algorithms can be employed to convert screener responses to estimates of dietary intake for components. Researchers can use the DSQ in research to estimate intake of dietary factors assessed.
The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2015, jointly developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NCI, is a measure of diet quality, independent of quantity, that can be used to assess compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and monitor changes in dietary patterns. The HEI also is a valuable tool for epidemiologic and economic research and can be used to evaluate nutrition interventions and consumer nutrition education programs. NCI provides Statistical Analysis System (SAS) programs allowing researchers to calculate the HEI for different dietary assessment instruments and for different research scenarios.
General Dietary Resources
The Dietary Assessment Primer provides researchers with extensive information to aid in understanding and determining optimal tools, methods, and analyses related to assessing diet for nutrition research.
The Dietary Assessment Calibration/Validation Register contains studies and publications which compare dietary intake estimates from two or more dietary assessment methods, including food records, recalls, FFQs, diet histories, observed intakes, chemical analyses and biological assessments.
The Register of Validated Short Dietary Assessment Instruments provides easy access to descriptive information about validated short instruments. Unlike food records and 24-hour dietary recalls that aim to capture the total diet, short instruments assess limited aspects of the diet.
For more information on these and other resources related to dietary assessment research, visit the Dietary Assessment Research Resources page.
Physical Activity Assessment Resources
- The Metabolic Equivalent of Task Values for Activities in American Time Use Survey and 2002 Census Occupational Classification System assign metabolic equivalent values to the Activities in American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and Activities in the 2002 Census Occupational Classification System (OCS).
- The SAS Programs for Analyzing NHANES 2003-2004 Accelerometer Data were written to import and analyze accelerometer data downloaded from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
For more information on these and other resources related to physical activity research, visit the Physical Activity Research Resources page.