Skip to Main Content
Mobile Menu

News and Media

Grid-Enabled Measures (GEM): A Crowdsourcing Tool to Support Team Science

Re-posted From: National Cancer Institute Blog Wednesday May 27th 2015 by Richard P. Moser, PhD, and Kisha I. Coa, PhD

“To historians looking back a hundred years from now, there will be two eras of science: pre-network science, and networked science…Over the next couple of years we have an astonishing opportunity to change and improve the way science is done.” — Michael Nielsen, Reinventing Discovery

Use of the internet is ubiquitous for most people as a way of learning, connecting, and sharing information. Likewise, scientists have taken advantage of collaborative web technology to accelerate discovery in a new online participatory environment, a phenomenon referred to as Science 2.0. This builds off the idea of Web 2.0— defined by technologies such as wikis, blogs and other means for sharing information and collaborating with other users. Science 2.0 refers to the application of these technologies to the scientific arena. Internet-based collaborative research spaces have transformed how research is accomplished and have directly facilitated team science. As Michael Nielsen (2012) so astutely claimed, we are now in the era of networked science, the participative web, with all the opportunities that it holds for advancing team science.

Within this participative web, the use of crowdsourcing, a method for obtaining input by soliciting contributions from a large group of diverse stakeholders, oftentimes accomplished on the internet, has become one important tool to accomplish tasks or resolve difficult problems. Although crowdsourcing is not a panacea, it has been shown to be an effective tool to address problems under the right circumstances. These circumstances include independent opinions from a diverse group of contributors, the ability to aggregate results, and decentralized decision making (Surowiecki, 2005). Within science, there are recent examples of successful use of crowdsourcing to solve challenging scientific problems, including understanding protein structures for amino acids ( and classifying galaxies to understand how they form over time (

With this model in mind, the National Cancer Institute’s Behavioral Research Program developed Grid-Enabled Measures (GEM;, an online tool that runs on a wiki platform and uses crowdsourcing to address particularly vexing issues in health research, especially within the behavioral research arena (Moser et al., 2011). These issues include the lack of an agreed upon ontology, the under-utilization of common measures for prospective research studies, and a resulting dearth of data that are harmonized – defined as data that have a common structure, including comparable measures – which can be shared, integrated, and analyzed as a whole. The inability to integrate data is one major reason why scientific discovery has been impeded, as there is no cumulative knowledge base being created (Curran & Hussong., 2009).

GEM Home

In response to user needs, GEM has developed workspaces that are virtual places to collaborate with others to gain consensus on the ‘best’ measures of specific constructs (e.g., depression, anxiety, quality of life) to use in prospective data collection. Publicly available for anyone to use, these workspaces provide collaborative tools and a forum to discuss issues related to data harmonization efforts, in which colleague can be invited to participate, thus creating a virtual community of researchers.

GEM workspaces are available for anyone to access and use, and the tool has been utilized successfully with several investigator-initiated collaborative projects. These include measurement consensus efforts on psychosocial measures for electronic health records (Estabrooks et al., 2012), survivorship care planning (Parry et al., 2 015) and dissemination and implementation research (Rabin et al., 2012). Though GEM tends to have a focus on self-report measures of behavioral and social science outcomes, such as physical activity and smoking, it also includes anthropometric measures (e.g., waist circumference) and measures related to diverse content areas such as diabetes, sexual behavior, substance abuse, and cardiovascular disease.

GEM Workspaces

GEM users can provide feedback in the form of ratings and comments, and participate in on-line discussions, and these data can be compiled and given to users in the form of reports that include both quantitative data (e.g., mean ratings of measures; standard deviations) and qualitative data (i.e., comments, discussion threads), to help drive consensus on best measures. The crowdsourcing aspect enables input from a wide range of stakeholders, who are typically researchers and clinicians, but can include any stakeholders.

This process can be seen as a ‘bottom-up’ approach to gaining consensus on measures that is different from other efforts that use more of a ‘top-down’, expert-driven approach to achieve consensus. The wiki aspect of the tool encourages collaboration, as users enter (and potentially edit) information about the existing constructs and measures, including definitions and other meta-data. Over time, as users contribute to GEM, there will be inevitable tension as scientists grapple with different ways to define important constructs, and provide feedback on related measures. But science ultimately will advance through these efforts toward understanding and resolving differences.

We encourage anyone who wants to learn about measures related to their research interests, or who wants to contribute feedback about constructs and measures, to use GEM. We also welcome inquiries from any individual or group that would like to leverage GEM workspaces as a tool to gain consensus on best measures to use in prospective data collection. Please contact us for more information, and visit GEM at:


  • Curran, P. J. & Hussong, A. M. (2009). Integrative data analysis: The simultaneous analysis of multiple data sets. Psychological Methods, 14, 81-100.
  • Estabrooks, P. A., Boyle, M.., Emmons, K. M., Glasgow, R. E., Hesse, B. W., Kaplan, R. M., Krist, A. H., Moser, R. P., & Taylor, M. V. (2012). Harmonized patient-reported data elements in the electronic health record: supporting meaningful use by primary care action on health behaviors and key psychosocial factors. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 19, 575-582.
  • Hesse, B. W. (2008). Of mice and mentors: developing cyber-infrastructure to support transdisciplinary scientific collaboration. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35 (2 Suppl). PMID: 18619404.
  • Moser, R. P., Hesse, B. W., Shaikh, A. R., Courtney, P., Morgan, G., Augustson, E., Kobrin, S., Levin, K. Y., Helba, C., Garner, D., Dunn, M., & Koa, K. (2011). Grid-Enabled Measures: Using Science 2.0 to standardize measures and share data. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40, Supplement 2, S134-S143.
  • Nielsen, M. (2012). Reinventing discovery: the new era of networked science. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Parry, C., Beckjord, E., Moser, R. P., Vieux, S., Padgett, L. S., & Hesse, B. W. It takes a (virtual) village: crowdsourcing measurement consensus to advance survivorship care planning. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 5, 53-59.
  • Rabin, B. A., Purcell, P., Naveed, S., Moser, R. P., Henton, M. D., Proctor, E. K., Brownson, R. C. & Glasgow, R. E. (2012). Advancing the application, quality and harmonization of implementation science measures. Implementation Science, 7, 119.
  • Surowiecki, J. (2005). The wisdom of crowds. New York: Random House.

Join a Webinar on Using Data to Drive Better Health Care for High-Need Patients

In a process known as “hotspotting,” the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers works in the high-risk community of Camden, N.J., to identify, better understand, and locate the biggest users of emergency department and inpatient hospital care. Armed with crucial data, experts can then launch interventions to improve quality of care and reduce costs.

A one-hour webinar on Thursday, May 21, at 1 p.m., E.T., will look at resources the Camden Coalition is developing to help other communities identify and care for their high-need, high-cost residents. Among these is a toolkit that provides practical guidance on locating and segmenting the high-use population, and building data-driven interventions. The webinar will also provide insights from clinicians at health systems using the hotspotting approach.

What: Join a Webinar on Using Data to Drive Better Health Care for High-Need Patients

When: Thursday, May 21, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., E.T.


  • Melinda Abrams, The Commonwealth Fund (moderator)
  • Aaron Truchil and Stephen Singer, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers
  • James Schuster, M.D., Health Insurance Division, UPMC
  • Alice Pressman, Ph.D., Sutter Health of Northern California

Please tweet this event with #HotspottingTools

Cynthia Curl Continues to Receive Recognition for Pesticide Study

Cynthia Curl, assistant professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Community and Environmental Health, has received a great amount of attention in the news for her research and recent publication.

In the Feb. 5 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), Curl published a study, “Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis,” which predicts a person’s pesticide exposure based on information about their usual diet. Since then, Curl has received more attention for her work.

According to EHP’s service, Altmetric, that measures the quality and quantity of online attention , there have been nearly 10,000  views of Curl’s article. Of all the 3.7 million articles that Altmetric has tracked, Curl is in the 98 percentile.

Curl has been interviewed by Time Magazine, the Huffington Post, Fast Company, Prevention Magazine, and Consumer Reports, among others. Curl also had the opportunity to interview at Boise State’s Public Radio station which can be heard here.

In addition to the interviews, the Science Communication Network, a nonprofit that works with EHP, tracked the total number of articles that were published about Curl’s study, which totaled around 200 worldwide.

“It has been very exciting to see this article receive so much attention. To be honest, I’m not surprised that people are interested in the topic,” said Curl. “You can’t shop in a grocery store now without having to make a choice about whether or not to spend the extra money to buy organic products. However, there is still a great deal of controversy about what, exactly, we are gaining when we make the organic choice. I hope this research provides consumers with a little more information to help guide these decisions.”

Video of AHRQ Funding Opportunities Workshop Available

On April 15, the Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Research and Innovation hosted a workshop entitled “Getting Funded: An AHRQ Grants Overview“. This introductory workshop was presented by Brent Sandmeyer, MPH, Grants Lead/Social Science Analyst at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy, with the aim of helping PIs better understand:
  • The structure and priorities of the funding agency, including changes that have taken place over the past 2 years;
  • Funding opportunities at AHRQ;
  • How to determine if AHRQ is the right funding source for their research questions, including how AHRQ and NIH differ; and
  • Writing competitive applications to AHRQ.



Jessica C. Venable
Coordinator for Research Development Services
Virginia Commonwealth University

Connecting the What, When, Why, and How of NIH Peer Review

Sally Rockey portrait

Dr. Sally Rockey is NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, serving as the principal scientific leader and advisor to the NIH Director on the NIH extramural research program.

As I’ve written before here on Rock Talk, peer review is the keystone of the scientific process. I’m excited to call your attention to a website update that connects the what, when, why, and how of NIH’s peer review process.


Thanks to the contributions of NIH staff, including scientific review officers across the institutes and centers, our peer review website — Guidance for Reviewers — has a new look! The website now

provides additional context to help reviewers, as well as applicants, better understand our peer review requirements. My staff has consolidated a wealth of information for each stage of the review process, providing step-by-step instructions related to each activity and links to our eRA video tutorial series. We have also compiled reviewer “do’s and don’ts” for the pre-meeting, meeting, and post-meeting periods.

Our goal with this site update is to provide a more engaging and accessible resource for peer review process and peer review policies For new NIH reviewers, this will introduce you to the timeline and activities associated with each step of the process, and hopefully help you be better prepared for what to expect as a first-time NIH peer reviewer.. For experienced reviewers, this site explains the “why” behind the peer review procedures with which you’re already familiar.

While scientific review officers will continue to work closely with peer reviewers at each stage of the review process, I think this site update is a valuable resource for anyone interested in NIH peer review. I hope you find this resource a welcome addition and assistance to navigating NIH peer review!



Attribution: Sally Rocky, NIH Rock Talk, April 30, 2015

SAMHSA FY16 Budget Press Conference

In a recent press conference, SAMSHA’s Administrator Pam Hyde announced a proposed $44.6 million increase from the FY 2015 budget. Increased funding will support some of top behavioral health priorities such as: strengthening crisis systems, prescription drug & opioid abuse, behavioral health workforce, and tribal behavioral health. Hyde referenced SAMHSA’s Theory of Change which includes four key principles that include innovation, translation, implementation, and widespread adaptation as the model upon which their plan is based.

Here are some highlights of funding changes and programmatic priorities anticipated in the FY16 budget.

$10 million additional funding was requested to support the Increasing Crisis Access Response Efforts (ICARE), where $5 million will be allocated to mental health and $5 million to substance abuse. This system will assist communities in responding to behavioral health crises and help health care providers respond appropriately and effectively.

The FY 2016 budget requests $25 million, an increase of $13 million. This increase will be used to provide grants to states to enact a new program entitled Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and improve access to services for abusers. Ten states will also receive grants to reduce opioid overdose-related deaths by helping states purchase naloxone, educating first responders, and providing materials to assemble overdose kits. An additional $10 million was requested for the Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drugs (SPF-Rx), which will provide funds to develop expertise in the use of data from state prescription drug monitoring programs to identify high risk areas.

An increase of $21 million was requested in the FY 2016 budget for the SAMHSA-HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Grant Program. In addition, $10 million will be used for a program which will award grants to provide tuition support and assist community colleges to sustain behavioral health education programs; this will result in 1,200 additional peer professionals in behavioral health workforce.

The additional funding request for FY 2016 totals $25 million for this program, with $10 million in the Mental Health appropriation and $15 million in the Substance Abuse Prevention appropriation. This additional funding will support programs that prevent substance abuse for Native youth, enhance early detection of mental and substance disorders, and promote mental health, and ultimately with the expansion, aim to reduce substance abuse and the incidence of suicide among Native youth.

The FY 2016 budget calls for a $20 million increase to provide grants to behavioral health and primary care providers to integrate substance abuse treatment services and primary care.

An additional $4 million was requested to expand this program which will provide MHFA training to those who work with veterans, military service members and their families.

$2.9 million in new money will be used to evaluate the impact of appropriate trauma screening and responses in primary care settings.

An increase of $2 million will expand support for states so they can further establish evidence-based suicide prevention efforts that support the goals and objectives of NSSP.

The White house has classified prescription drug abuse as a high priority and continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce this kind of abuse. It is expected further funding will be provided to this initiative. Click on the link to learn more about the ONDCP’s Drug Abuse Prevention Plan.


The White House released the Now is the Time plan that supports the President’s efforts to protect children and communities by reducing gun violence and increasing access to mental health services after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is the goal to support behavioral health in youth and help teachers and adults recognize signs of mental illness and improve referrals to health services for young people 16 to 25. Science of Changing Social Norms is a small but important initiative that will help SAMHSA understand the impact of social messaging and improve social acceptance of people with mental disorders. Additional grants will also increase the behavioral health workforce providing greater access to health professionals for at risk youth.

Some programs also experienced a reduction in funding as a result of the FY 16 budget release these programs include:

  • Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration will receive $28 million this year, a $24 million decrease.
  • Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment will receive $30 million, a $17 million decrease.
  • Criminal Justice Activities will have a budget of $61.9 million this year, a $16.1 million decrease.
  • Access to Recovery has been proposed to be eliminated in FY 16.
  • Addiction Technology Transfer Centers will be funded with $8.1 million, $1 million fewer than last year.

As a part of a new fiscal year SAMHSA will shift some funding to support prevention efforts. SAMHSA also released 6 new Strategic Initiatives for the years 2015-2018 which include:

  • Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
  • Health Care & Health Systems Integration
  • Trauma & Justice
  • Recovery Support
  • Health Information Technology
  • Workforce Development

To view the full SAMHSA FY 2016 Budget Report follow this link. To watch the archived broadcast, visit:


Office on Women’s Health to Close Down Quick Health Data Online Website

Re-posted from the Office on Women’s Health:

After many years of hosting Quick Heath Data Online, the Office on Women’s Health has decided to close down the website. The website,, will no
longer be available after March 31, 2015.

In the meantime, it is encouraged you save and download the special features including:

  • The Women’s Health and Mortality Chartbook
  • Health Disparities Profiles
  • State Fact Sheets


If you have questions, please email the Office on Women’s Health.

You can continue to find free and reliable women’s health statistics online.

Hillman Foundation Accepting Proposals for Innovations in Care Program

Re-posted from the Philanthropy News Digest:


The mission of the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation is to improve the lives of patients and their families through nursing-driven innovation. To that end, the foundation cultivates nurse leaders, supports nursing research, and disseminates new models of care that will help make the United States healthcare system more patient-centered, accessible, equitable, and affordable.

Through its Innovations in Care Program, the foundation will award two grants of up to $600,000 in support of innovations that provide care to vulnerable populations, including the economically disadvantaged, racial and ethnic minorities, and other groups that encounter barriers to accessing quality healthcare services. Proposals should address the healthcare needs of vulnerable populations in the areas of maternal and child health, care of older adults, and/or chronic illness management.

Eligible applicants include institutions and care settings from across the spectrum of care, as well as practitioners representing a diverse range of backgrounds.

Visit the Hillman Foundation website for complete program guidelines and application instructions.

Link to Complete RFP

Anyone who is interested in applying contact Terri Soelberg at the College of Health Sciences Office of Research: (208) 426-5397.

ITHS Career Development Series: Using REDCap for Study Data Management

Are you looking for a way to more effectively collect and manage your study data?

Research teams across the world are turning to Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap), a free, rapidly evolving web tool for researchers in the translational domain, for just this reason.

In this month’s Tune-up, Bas de Veer, ITHS REDCap Administrator, provides training sessions for beginning and advanced REDCap users. His four courses cover topics such as project creation, survey setup, branching logic, exporting data, and REDCap best practices.

To view a course, please click on one of the following links:

FDA Creates Unregulated Device Category for General Wellness Products

This article was reposted from the FDA news website.

The FDA has created a new category of devices – general wellness products – that the agency will exempt from regulation. The concept is a boon to makers of apps and other products that help manage weight loss, fitness, stress, sleep, and other aspects of good health.

For devices that the agency views as low-risk and satisfying other criteria laid out in draft guidance, the new category will lift the burden of seeking FDA clearance and manufacturing products under agency quality rules.

In addition, the FDA will even allow makers of the general wellness devices to offer certain disease-specific claims, as long as certain conditions are satisfied.

For devicemakers, the challenge will be sorting out those conditions so that their allowed wellness advertising and marketing claims don’t inadvertently cross into treatment claims, that are not allowed.

In addition, devicemakers will need to be sure that their apps and devices satisfy the agency definitions of low-risk, otherwise the FDA can decide their devices require clearance and will be subjected to traditional regulation.

For more information, devicemakers should register today for FDAnews’ upcoming webinar: General Wellness Products: How to Make the FDA’s New Policy Work for You.Click here and register now.