Word Cloud of Every CIRM-funded grant yields some surprising insights

CIRM, the California stem cell agency, has funded hundreds of grants during its relatively short existence. You can do searches of these grants through a handy dandy web portal that CIRM has made available–it’s a very cool tool and I commend CIRM for making it available.

I wish the tool had more options however including searching for specific key words and also sorting or delimiting by year. CIRM, can you please add those to your search tool?

What are CIRM’s priorities as reflected strictly by its funded grants?

Taking one angle to find out, I took every title of CIRM-funded grants and plugged them together into Wordle, a free word cloud forming utility, and out popped the above word cloud.

Not surprisingly, the top 3 words can be put together into a phrase:

Human stem cells (cell)

Human stem cell research is the heart of CIRM. It will fund work on stem cells from other species, but only rarely.

Coming in next in the list of top words of CIRM-funded grant titles was “embryonic” reflecting CIRM’s overall strong commitment to funding of embryonic stem cell research.

I found it fascinating that the next top word was “differentiation“. As much as we all focus on stem cells in their native state, clearly the differentiation of stem cells is critically important.

Next we found two words essentially tied: Pluripotent and disease.

CIRM will fund research on non-pluripotent stem cells, but clearly it is most interested in the pluripotent type.

I find it interesting that the word “disease” popped up. Part of this might reflect its presence in some CIRM ‘disease team’ grants. But after all, a crucial goal is fighting disease.

Development and training came up next.

A surprise for me was how small the word “induced” was considering the excitement over induced pluripotent stem cells. I also find it surprising how few specific diseases come up significantly. I see “cancer” and “Parkinson’s” but they are pretty small words and I don’t see other diseases.

Whether you are a CIRM employee or a CIRM grantee or a future CIRM grant applicant or a patient advocate, pay attention to the big words in this word cloud. They reflect arguably more than anything else CIRM’s funding priorities.



3 thoughts on “Word Cloud of Every CIRM-funded grant yields some surprising insights”

  1. Paul, thanks for putting together this cool word cloud. One thing to keep in mind is that what you used is the public abstracts and statements of benefit that are provided to CIRM by grantees. I’m not sure what difference that makes, but it is worth noting. For example, our grantees might talk more generically about finding new therapies for disease, rather than discussing particular diseases, which would explain why you don’t see many specific disease names?

    I wanted to comment on your request for search and year delimiters. We’re currently building a new version of that grants list, which will have several new features including additional information displayed for each grant such as progress reports. I’m excited about that addition. I’m trying to build into that the ability to search terms just within those pages. Stay tuned for that.

    For now, sorting by year is a two-step process. This page has a list of all rounds of funding and the year they were approved:

    You can use that page to see what was funded in a given year, then select those awards on the grants page. That will pull up all awards funded in a given year. This isn’t an elegant solution, but it works for now.

    Thanks for this post.
    Amy Adams
    CIRM Communications Manager

    1. Thanks for your comment, Amy, and help on searching. It is cool to here that more search options will be available too. One note–the word cloud was generated from the titles of all CIRM grants. I did not use the abstracts.

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