The Provocative Questions Initiative is a research program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training. NCI’s mission is to lead, conduct, and support cancer research across the nation to advance scientific knowledge and help all people to live longer, healthier lives. NCI’s scope of work spans a broad spectrum of cancer research across a variety of disciplines and supports research training opportunities at career stages across the academic continuum.
To support research projects designed to use sound and innovative research strategies to solve specific problems and paradoxes in cancer research identified by the NCI as understudied, paradoxical, or difficult to address.
- Challenge the scientific community to creatively think about and answer important, but non-obvious or understudied, questions in cancer research.
- Stimulate NCI’s research communities to use laboratory, clinical, and population research in especially effective and imaginative ways.
Types of the NCI’s Provocative Questions
Most PQs fall broadly into three categories. The first type of questions brings ignored or neglected cancer-relevant problems back into focus. These problems typically relate to intriguing older observations or issues that cancer researchers may have taken for granted but for which satisfactory, rigorous research answers are still lacking.
A second class of PQs is built on more recent findings that are perplexing or paradoxical, revealing important gaps in current knowledge. Research answers to this type of PQs have the potential to re-shape several of our current key conceptions about cancer.
Finally, a third class of PQs reflects problems that used to be perceived as particularly difficult to explore but became open to investigations because of recent scientific discoveries and technical advances.
- Build on specific advances in our understanding of cancer and cancer control
- Address broad issues in the biology of cancer that have proven difficult to resolve
- Take into consideration the likelihood of progress in the foreseeable future (e.g., 5 to 10 years)
- Address ways to overcome obstacles to answering the question