In what might be the best deployment of resources the government has made in decades, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is establishing a small number of “centers of excellence” to help researchers from throughout the nation improve their ability to ask bigger questions of data, including incredibly large datasets that have never been fully addressable before.
We have been watching several initiatives under NIH and like many others have already witnessed very promising research. But to date most activities can be described as prototypes or proof of concepts. The establishment of centers of excellence are a huge positive step for turning these many activities into enduring capabilities that generate real results for citizens and humanity as a whole. We are very positive on this effort.
What will the results of this investment be? It will be very hard to project, but NIH is there to aim high. The goal of NIH is to acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose and treat disease and disability, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold. Their mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone.
For more on this big data initiative, see the below from a 22 July press release:
NIH commits $24 million annually for Big Data Centers of Excellence
Efforts will harness power of complex datasets to improve health, aid discovery, reduce duplication
The National Institutes of Health will fund up to $24 million per year for four years to establish six to eight investigator-initiated Big Data to Knowledge Centers of Excellence. The centers will improve the ability of the research community to use increasingly large and complex datasets through the development and distribution of innovative approaches, methods, software, and tools for data sharing, integration, analysis and management. The centers will also provide training for students and researchers to use and develop data science methods.
Biomedical research is increasingly data-intensive, with researchers routinely generating and using large, diverse datasets. Yet the ability to manage, integrate and analyze such data, and to locate and use data generated by others, is often limited due to a lack of tools, accessibility, and training. In response, NIH launched the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative in December. This initiative supports research, implementation, and training in data science that will enable biomedical scientists to capitalize on the transformative opportunities that large datasets provide. The investigator-initiated BD2K Center of Excellence funding opportunity is the first of several BD2K funding opportunities to be announced in coming months.
“BD2K aims to enable a quantum leap in the ability of the biomedical research enterprise to maximize the value of the growing volume and complexity of biomedical data,” says Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., NIH acting associate director for data science and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. “The Centers of Excellence will provide a key component of the overall initiative.”
By encouraging the formation of interdisciplinary teams in a collaborative environment the BD2K Centers of Excellence also seek to increase the involvement of investigators outside of traditional biomedical areas who are experienced with data science.
“This funding opportunity represents a concerted effort to leverage the power of NIH in developing cutting-edge systems to address data science challenges,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The goal is to help researchers translate data into knowledge that will advance discoveries and improve health, while reducing costs and redundancy.”
Applicants responding to the BD2K Center of Excellence funding opportunity announcement should identify a research topic and propose research in data science. They should develop approaches, methods, software, and tools for data integration, analysis, database development and management, and visualization and modeling to address important research questions. The products from this research and development will be shared and distributed broadly to the research community. The centers are expected to interact as a consortium that cooperatively builds on individual research efforts.
An information webinar for prospective applicants will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. More details about this event and the overall BD2K initiative can be found at http://bd2k.nih.gov. Applications will be due on Nov. 20, 2013.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.