Table 2Excerpts from VHA Handbook 1508.05

Generalizable Knowledge:
Information that is designed to expand the knowledge base of a scientific discipline (or other scholarly field of study).
Operations Activities:
Operations activities are certain administrative, financial, legal, quality assurance, quality improvement, and public health endeavors that are necessary to support VHA’s missions of delivering health care to the nation’s Veterans, conducting research and development, performing medical education, and contributing to national emergency response. VHA operations activities include (but are not limited to):
  1. Conducting quality assessment and improvement activities; systems redesign activities; population-based activities relating to improving health, ensuring safety, or reducing health care costs; and case management and care coordination.
  2. Reviewing the competence or qualifications of health care professionals; evaluating provider and health plan performance; training health care and non-health care professionals; and accreditation, certification, licensing, or credentialing activities.
  3. Underwriting and other activities relating to the creation, renewal, or replacement of a contract of health insurance or health benefits and ceding, securing, or placing a contract for reinsurance of risk relating to health care claims.
  4. Conducting or arranging for medical review, legal analyses, or auditing services, including fraud and abuse detection and compliance programs.
  5. Business planning and development, such as conducting cost-management and planning analyses related to managing and operating an entity.
  6. Business management and general administrative activities.
Research is a systematic investigation (including research development, testing, and evaluation) designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge by expanding the knowledge base of a scientific discipline (or other scholarly field of study). NOTE: Research typically involves the testing of concepts by the scientific method of formulating a hypothesis or research question, systematically collecting and recording relevant data, and interpreting the results in terms of the hypothesis or question to expand the knowledge base of a field of study. Research is further discussed in the Federal Policy (Common Rule) for the Protection of Human Subjects at 38 CFR Part 16; in VHA Directive 1200; and in VHA Handbooks 1200.01 and 1200.05.
Systematic Investigation:
A systematic investigation is an activity that is planned in advance and that uses data collection and analysis to answer a question. Although research must include systematic investigation, many non-research activities also include systematic investigation. Systematic investigation does not, in and of itself, define research. Examples of systematic investigations, which may or may not constitute research, include (but are not limited to) activities involving:
  1. Questionnaires or surveys
  2. Observations
  3. Focus groups
  4. Interviews
  5. Analyses of existing data
  6. Analyses of biological specimens
  7. Medical chart reviews
  8. Epidemiologic reviews or analyses
  9. Program evaluations
  10. Quality assessment, quality improvement, and quality management
  11. Interventional studies
  12. Clinical trials


Cover of Maintaining Research Integrity
Maintaining Research Integrity: A Systematic Review of the Role of the Institutional Review Board in Managing Conflict of Interest [Internet].
Shekelle PG, Ruelaz A, Miake-Lye IM, et al.
Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs; 2012 May.

NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.