Health Care 1 Doctor

Health: Health Research Funding (2012-14)

The National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs can improve sharing of information to help avoid the potential for unnecessary duplication.

Year Identified: 2012
Area Number: 14
Area Type: Fragmentation, Overlap & Duplication


Action 1

To improve sharing of information needed to evaluate research for potential duplication when making funding decisions, the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs should determine ways to improve access to comprehensive electronic information on funded health research shared among agency officials and improve the ability of agency officials to identify possible duplication.

Executive Branch
Last Updated
March 6, 2015

NIH, the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have improved access to information on the health research shared among agency officials, as GAO suggested in February 2012. For example, NIH and VA are continuing efforts to integrate information on their health research into the NIH database that houses information on all applications related to NIH health research activities. According to VA, in September 2014, approximately 80 percent of VA applications had been incorporated in the NIH database—an increase from about 25 percent at the time of GAO's February 2012 report. Currently, the database includes electronically submitted NIH and VA applications that can easily be accessed by officials in either agency. In addition, according to NIH and VA officials, the agencies have improved the integration of VA information with NIH information in the database. For example, according to NIH officials, VA grants and applications are compatible with the same automated, natural language text-mining tool used for NIH grants and applications, with a common set of keywords to describe the research projects. NIH officials note that these improvements make it easier to identify the commonalities between VA and NIH research portfolios. In addition, DOD, NIH, and VA have integrated some information on DOD health research with NIH and VA research. As part of this effort, NIH and DOD started a pilot project in February 2014, according to DOD officials, under which data on about 55 DOD research proposals were transferred to the NIH database. According to NIH officials, the pilot was completed in March 2015. According to DOD officials, preliminary results suggest that they will be able to ensure data comparability and reliability and deal with other technical challenges. According to the officials, one of the next steps planned is to establish a long-term memorandum of understanding between NIH and DOD to further expand this effort to include more DOD health research data and to allow for greater compatibility with the NIH database. In addition, according to DOD officials, separate from this pilot, information on additional research projects funded by DOD has also been added to Federal RePORTER, a new multiagency database of federally supported research that includes research from NIH, VA, DOD, and other agencies. Having data on DOD-funded health research applications in the same database that also houses the NIH and VA applications should allow the three agencies to improve their ability to search for potential duplication in their health research efforts and make more effective funding decisions.

Implementing Entity:
Department of Defense
Department of Veterans Affairs
National Institutes of Health
GAO Contacts