The Sunshine Project, an organization devoted to promoting transparency in research on biological and biochemical weapons, today released CRISP-ER, a new tool to search and organize research grant data from the National Institutes of Health.

The new tool searches the NIH’s CRISP database — Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects — a searchable database of federally funded biomedical research projects conducted at universities, hospitals, and other research institutions. It then joins the results with financial data from the NIH Office of Extramural Research, allowing a user to see amounts spent on specific projects and to track spending over periods of time.

For example, a sample search shows that, from 1999 to 2004, grants for research into bacterial agents such as anthrax and the plague increased 2,488 percent, while spending was reduced on research into HIV by 20 percent and hepatitis by 58 percent.

An announcement of the new service says:

“While CRISP-ER is optimized to research projects involving biological weapons agents, it can be used by anyone with an interest in National Institutes of Health research, for example, to research spending on biotechnology, biodiversity, specific diseases, or in specific locations.”