Data science consortium outlines a vision for the future of genomic Big Data

Last year 18 universities, companies and government agencies founded the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS). The consortium has a broad brief but soon established the challenges and potential of Big Data are writ largest in one field--genomics. Having gathered its members to discuss the topic, NCDS has made 6 recommendations to advance the nascent sector.

NCDS focused the recommendations on some of the biggest questions still facing genomics, such as how to promote data sharing while maintaining privacy. To address the thorny issue of data sharing and privacy NCDS recommends a mix of technical solutions--such as homomorphic encryption--and more traditional incentives. The use of bail bonds to encourage people to comply with data-sharing policies is one of the low-tech suggestions made by NCDS.

Incentives to push journals, biopharma, hospitals, academia and government agencies to share data are also part of NCDS' vision for the future of genomics. Such data sharing programs will only fulfill their potential if there is a degree of harmonization of the structuring, management and analysis of datasets. The joint National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) Big Data initiative covers some of what NCDS wants to see, but the consortium views it as just the first step.

Achieving harmonization will require organizations working on overlapping areas to coordinate their activities, and NCDS is encouraging a similarly collaborative approach to software development. In particular, NCDS highlights the need for people working in data science, information technology, genomics and other disciplines to come together for software development hackathons. Initiatives such as the annual BioHackathon are already trying to promote interoperability and standardization.

- here's the report (PDF)

Industry Voices: Inside Genomics--Q&A with Bina CEO Narges Bani Asadi and Dr. Ralph Snyderman