Access and Feeds

Big Data: NIH Funds the Use of Big Data in Biomedical Research

By Dick Weisinger

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced funding aimed at developing Big Data analytic techniques for use with biomedical data.  The funding will be $24 million for each of the next four years and will be used to establish six to eight “Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Centers of Excellence”.

Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., NIH acting associate director for data science and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, said that “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.  The Centers of Excellence will provide a key component of the overall initiative.”

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D and NIH Director, said that “this funding opportunity represents a concerted effort to leverage the power of NIH in developing cutting-edge systems to address data science challenges.  The goal is to help researchers translate data into knowledge that will advance discoveries and improve health, while reducing costs and redundancy.”

NIH originally announced the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative in December 2012.  The initiative is designed to support basic data science research.  The hope is that the effort will create and promote tools and skills that can be used to better understand and interpret biomedical data.  This is the first funding being made available for BD2K and more funding is expected to be allocated in the near future.

Goals for the BD2K project include:

  • Providing access to data and software tools
  • Standardizing data and metadata
  • Extending policies and practices for data and software sharing
  • Organizing, managing, and processing biomedical Big Data
  • Developing new methods for analyzing biomedical Big Data
  • Training researchers for analyzing and for designing tools for analyzing biomedical Big Data effectively
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