Every dollar the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests in research in the United States is categorized and reported electronically through a free, online research tool called the Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization, or RCDC.  Available for public use, RCDC reports on NIH’s funding of 229 categories of disease, condition, or research area for the four most recent fiscal years. Data for Fiscal Year 2011 went live on the site this month, and is now available for searching. RCDC lists all of NIH’s Parkinson’s disease grants, and the data is easy-to-read, can be downloaded, and can be sorted by state.
Why is this important to the Parkinson’s community? The information provided by RCDC is a great resource in raising awareness and educating the public about the importance of federal funding for biomedical research, and specifically, around Parkinson’s disease.
In fact, many people are surprised to learn that the NIH funds many research grants at local area colleges, universities, and teaching hospitals across the country, and in their very own communities.
Many Parkinson’s advocates use RCDC to prepare for reaching out to Members of Congress. Members are often unaware of how NIH funding directly affects their constituents, or how much is being invested in their state or district. Data pulled from a quick search on RCDC can really illustrate how, if NIH funding is cut, groundbreaking science conducted in their state could be halted, affecting local jobs as well.
RCDC information is also helpful in community outreach. When speaking at community organizations or events, Parkinson’s advocates include local NIH biomedical research investment information as part of their presentations. Raising awareness in the community about how NIH funds research in any city, state, or town is an important step in stressing the importance of federal funding.
Another interesting tool for learning more about how Parkinson’s research is funded is NIH RePORTER.  RePORTER allows users to search the NIH funding database by institutions, principal investigators, geography, and congressional district. This can be particularly useful when reading about a new study or scientific breakthrough – if you want to find out if that study or lead researcher had federal funding, NIH RePORTER will tell you!
As both systems continue to evolve over time to meet technological demand, the categorization methodology may change. For example, Parkinson’s disease went from $187 million in funding in FY 2007 under the old categorization system to $152 million in FY 2008 under the RCDC system when it was first launched. The NIH has published a well thought-out explanation of how and why some of these adjustments may have occurred. 
To use RCDC to learn about how much NIH is investing in Parkinson’s disease and other research in your state, click here. 
To use NIH RePORTER, click here.  You will see a city and state search option, as well as the ability to search by congressional district.
RCDC Historical Background, and PAN’s Involvement
When NIH was up for reauthorization in 2006, transparency at the nation’s leading health research institute was at the top of the agenda. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), PAN’s 2008 Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service recipient, was a leading advocate for increased transparency and accountability at NIH. What came of those negotiations and discussions regarding NIH reform became the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006. Part of that landmark bill, which PAN fervently supported, included the Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) system.