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Glossary of Terms Related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The following describes common terms and acronyms related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Actand research supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The official name of the federal economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009 (Pub. L. No. 111-5). Also referred to as the Recovery Act, or ARRA, the Act makes supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and state and local fiscal stabilization. Of the $10.4 billion allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) was allocated $763 million to support biomedical research. For more information, visit


The abbreviation for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Basic Science Research

Research undertaken to increase the understanding and knowledge of an area of science. In the biological sciences, it is often concerned with the mechanisms and pathways involved in certain diseases by studying how cells and molecules change and interact under certain conditions, such as with the development of a certain disease or condition. Other research models, such as studies involving animals, are used to better understand the physiological workings of biological systems. Basic research does not typically lead to results that are immediately relevant for medical care, but the knowledge gained is often essential for scientists to progress in the various steps to enable development of better diagnosis, treatment, or prevention strategies. Examples of basic science research supported by the NHLBI include studies of how heart cells communicate with each other and how “misspellings” in DNA can best be identified.

Biomedical Core Center

A Biomedical Core Center is a community of multidisciplinary researchers focusing on areas of biomedical research relevant to the NIH, such as centers, departments, programs, and/or trans-departmental collaborations or consortia. These Core Centers are designed to provide scientific and programmatic support for promising research faculty and their areas of research.

BRDG-SPAN (Biomedical Research, Development, and Growth to Spur the Acceleration of New Technologies)

A pilot program designed to accelerate the transition of research innovations and technologies toward the development of products or services that will improve human health, help advance the mission of the NIH, and create significant value while also providing an economic stimulus.  The purpose is to address the funding gap between promising research and development (R&D) and transitioning to the market by contributing to the critical funding needed by applicants to pursue the next appropriate milestone(s) toward commercialization.

Challenge Grants

A new program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will support research on specific scientific and health research challenges in biomedical and behavioral research that would benefit from significant infusion of funds over two years. The research in the challenge areas should have a high impact in biomedical or behavioral science and/or public health. The NIH Institutes and Centers selected specific challenge topics within each of the challenge areas. The application due date was April 27, 2009, and award announcements are expected in late September 2009.
NIH Challenge Grants and the NHLBI’s Challenge Topics: More information.

Clinical Research

Patient-oriented research conducted with human participants. Studies may focus on, for example, mechanisms of human disease, interventions to prevent or treat disease, clinical trials, or the development of new technologies to detect, diagnose, or treat disease. Other clinical research explores outcomes, such as quality of life, and use of health services. Clinical research studies include epidemiological studies (study of the numbers of people and patterns of a disease or condition in a population), observational studies (in which individuals are observed and their outcomes are measured by the investigators), and clinical trials (in which the participants are assigned by the investigator to a treatment or other intervention, and their outcomes are measured).

Clinical Trial

A research study of human participants designed to answer specific questions about behavioral  or biomedical interventions, including drugs, treatments, or devices, or other ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Clinical trials are designed to determine whether new therapies or treatments – or new ways of using known drugs, treatments, or devices – are safe and effective. Examples of clinical trials supported by the NHLBI include the testing of new screening tools to detect heart disease, new approaches to prevent asthma symptoms, and new treatments to control high blood pressure. A searchable database of federally and privately supported clinical trials is available at


Often used in research studies to denote a well-defined group of participants who share a common background or characteristic and are being followed for an extended length of time. For example, the thousands of participants in the original Framingham Heart Study are collectively referred to as the Framingham Heart Study cohort.

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER)

The conduct and synthesis of research comparing the benefits and harms of different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions in “real world” settings. The purpose of this research is to improve health outcomes by developing and disseminating evidence-based information to patients, clinicians, and other decision-makers, responding to their expressed needs, about which interventions are most effective for which patients under specific circumstances. Learn more about CER and the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.

Early-Stage Investigator (ESI)

A “new investigator” within 10 years of completing his/her terminal (final) research degree or medical residency.

Economic Stimulus Package

Another name for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Fiscal Year (FY)

The annual period established for government accounting purposes. A fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year. Example: FY 2010 starts October 1, 2009, and ends September 30, 2010.

Genome-Wide Association Study

A genome-wide association study (GWAS) is a scan of the entire DNA (i.e. the genome) of many individuals in order to find genetic variations, or “misspellings,” associated with a particular disease or condition. It is a study approach that has revealed numerous relationships between genetic variations and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disorders.

GO Grants

The “Grand Opportunities” or “GO” grant program is an NIH initiative developed in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. GO grants support projects that address large, specific biomedical and biobehavioral research endeavors that will benefit from significant two-year funds without the expectation of continued NIH funding beyond two years. Research supported by GO grants should provide a high short-term return and offer a high likelihood of enabling growth and investment in biomedical research and development, public health, and health care delivery.   Information on the NHLBI GO Grants.

New Investigator

A new investigator is an individual who has not previously competed successfully for an NIH-supported research project other than small or early-stage research awards. For a list of the awards that preclude an applicant from being classified as a new investigator, see:


A percentile-based funding cutoff point determined at the beginning of the fiscal year (FY) by balancing the projected number of applications coming to an NIH Institute with the amount of funds available. As a result of the Recovery Act funding, the NHLBI was able to expand its FY 2008 and FY 2009 paylines. For more information, see NHLBI Research Grants.

Peer Review

A system for evaluating research applications using reviewers who are the professional equals of the applicants.


The relative position or rank of each priority score (along a 100.0 percentile band) given to a grant application among all of the scores assigned by the study section.

Principal Investigator

The lead researcher who directs the project or program supported by a grant, contract, or other agreement. Some projects have more than one principal investigator.

Request for Application (RFA)

A solicitation for grant or cooperative agreement applications to accomplish a specific program purpose in a defined scientific area. RFAs generally identify a single application receipt date and indicate the amount of funds set aside for the competition.

Recovery Act

A shortened name for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Regenerative Medicine

A broad term for the process of creating living, functional tissues that will enable the body to repair, replace, restore, and/or regenerate damaged or diseased cells, tissues, and organs. Key research areas within this field include cell-based therapies and tissue engineering (including the use of stem cells), and biomaterials such as those used in implants.

Study Section

A group of scientific experts that conducts initial peer review of grants in a designated scientific area.

Translational Research

Translational research is designed to move discoveries from the laboratory to clinical studies in human participants and then to clinical practice to advance public health. The process is two-fold: (1) discoveries generated during basic science research in the laboratory and in preclinical studies are applied to the development of clinical trials and studies in humans, and (2) findings from human studies are translated into cost-effective practices that are adopted by clinicians in communities to improve public health.

Additional resources for understanding research terms and acronyms include:

Last Updated September 4, 2009

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