When programmers at the Informatics Solutions Group at Children’s Hospital Boston were asked to create a grants database for researchers, they knew where to start. They simply asked the hospital’s affiliated Harvard Medical School (HMS) professors about their Facebook-surfing habits.

The goal was to build an online tool to give scientists and clinicians fast, easy access to information on federal funding opportunities. If researchers could find relevant grants more quickly, then they could move on to writing the grant applications and, in turn, be able to spend more time on research. This was the idea that Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, brought to William Crawford, director of the Informatics Solutions Group.

The tool, called Grant Central, was released publicly last month on the Harvard Catalyst Web site. The completed version boasts a searchable collection of more than 1,300 grants compiled from dozens of sources.

Users can also search through a directory of HMS personnel for collaborators and share advice through message boards. Groups of collaborators can create grant proposal projects on the site and use them to keep track of files and task lists. Through Grant Central, HMS researchers may well find relief for the most common grant-writing headaches.