Earning an NCI designation is a remarkable achievement for a cancer center that demonstrates the immense value of their research and secures funding to support the institution. As such, cancer centers are very serious about meeting each and every requirement outlined by the NCI Cancer Centers Program to the best of their abilities.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Regina Schwind outlined how recent updates to the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) requirements focus on the impact institutions have on their communities and how they can expand training beyond fellows and post-doctoral staff. The NCI also recently updated their CCSG Data Table and eData Table guides, which dictate the format for the five tables required for CCSG applications, progress reports and renewals.
As the Research Evaluation System (EVAL) product manager at Forte, it’s my job to help interpret new guidelines to ensure functionality and output from EVAL properly addresses NCI requirements for our customers. But the CCSG guidelines are not always black and white. When we encounter a situation where a change is open to interpretation, we have a simple process to determine how we move forward.
1. Internal Research
When analyzing changes to data table 2A, our first step was to carefully evaluate the 2.0 and 3.0 guidelines side by side. While we were able to identify several straightforward changes, there were others that we felt could be interpreted in different ways, which led us to step 2.
2. Customer Collaboration
Forte’s Onsemble customer community is comprised of many of the nation’s top research institutions. We strive to provide the best platform possible for our customers to collaborate and move clinical research forward. It’s also a great way for our customers to provide input on the products that they use day in and day out. For example, the image below is from the NCI’s 3.0 eData sample. The bottom two rows represent a grant that’s split 60/40 between two research programs. You’ll notice the two empty cells in the bottom row. This makes sense, as repeating the direct costs would mean double-counting them. However, none of that’s spelled out in the eData spec.
It’s in the non-eData sample report scenario explanations, and is simply understood to apply to the eData report as well. When we presented this to our cancer center collaborators they quickly confirmed our interpretation. However, occasionally we run into a scenario where even our Onsemble community is stumped, which leads us to step 3.
3. Work Directly with the NCI
While it’s our goal to collaborate with researchers whenever possible, occasionally we need to go straight to the NCI for answers. In the example below, there are three elements to this picture that aren’t explained in the eData guide. Two are explained in the printable spec (similar to the example above), but the circled values weren’t familiar to us or to our customers. They weren’t explained in the guidelines, though the same pattern appears in the printable sample report. It would mean double-counting the cancer-relevant project direct costs for administrative projects, since the $40,000 and $300,000 are part of the project costs already counted in the multi-component SPORE.
In this case, we decided the best course was to approach the NCI for clarification. After carefully explaining the confusion surrounding their example and working together to agree on the best approach, we treated the ZY-allocated subprojects as normal. Problem solved!
The situations above are just a few examples of how collaboration helped Forte and (more importantly) our customers ensure we’re moving forward in a way that aligns with NCI requirements. In the case of the CCSG Data Table Guide 3.0, we walked through the complete Data and eData guide specs, working with internal teams, with our community and occasionally with the NCI. The process took several months, but the time and effort resulted in a thoroughly-vetted report that our customers can trust. If you’ve ever put a 2A report together, you know how valuable that is.
If your institution needs to submit CCSG applications, renewals and progress reports, Forte’s Research Evaluation System (EVAL) can help. EVAL provides data table 1 and 2 reporting, and tracks the required data to meet 2017 CCSG guidelines. It’s an ideal solution to demonstrate the true impact of your research to those inside and outside your organization. Download the Forte EVAL overview.