New NIH research categories in 2018: RCDC team at work

RCDC team picture: Christine, Nancy, Brock, Evelina, Hayley, Adwait, Matthew, Samantha

DSFederal RCDC team, from left: Christine Cullinane, Nancy Praskievicz (Sr. SIA and Project Manager), Brock Heller, Evelina Cebotari, Hayley Schaefer, Adwait Lonkar, Matthew Phillips, Samantha LeDuc.

DSFederal supports NIH’s Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) program, which works to provide consistent, transparent reporting on NIH-funded research. Working onsite at NIH, our award-winning team of Scientific Information Analysts (SIAs) collaborates directly with NIH staff and other contractor teams to classify NIH-funded programs and maintain hundreds of biomedical research categories, from Alzheimer’s Disease to Zika.

In 2017, the group contributed to the development of three brand-new research categories (Maternal Health, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding), receiving recognition awards from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). This year, our team is working to develop new categories in the areas of immunotherapy, opioid abuse, and pediatric obesity.

Scientific Information Analysts possess a unique skill set, combining professional and academic biomedical research backgrounds with strong technical skills, including scientific text mining and natural language processing (NLP). Working with specialized software and technology such as UberIndexer and Collexis software, Portfolio Visualization (PVIZ), and machine learning tools, SIAs maintain and update classification categories, analyze research topics to properly classify them, and help to develop new research categories. Our team is expert in NLP, taxonomy, clustering and statistical machine learning tools; and they possess extensive content knowledge spanning the medical research spectrum relative to NIH’s mission.

At a recent team meeting, DSFederal’s SIAs discussed what attracted them to the RCDC program, emphasizing a shared interest in policy and public health. As Senior SIA and PM Nancy Praskievicz explained, RCDC offers scientists a chance to understand the “bigger picture” and the broader implications of their research work.

Before she joined the RCDC team, SIA Hayley Schaefer worked as a scientist at a virology testing laboratory. Though she found the work interesting and challenging, she believes that RCDC allows her to contribute to the advancement of biomedical research in a way that a narrowly focused bench role does not. Nancy, who worked for over a decade as a research scientist focused on human pathogens, agrees.

Because RCDC serves every NIH Institute and Center, SIAs are exposed to a variety and breadth of research topics that few bench scientists get to see. RCDC’s work is instrumental to delivering clear, transparent, and consistent reporting on NIH-funded research, to both policy-makers and the public.