NIH turns on Big Data funding faucet

NIH Director Francis Collins

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has kicked off its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative with an initial $32 million in funding. Harvard, Stanford and other universities received some of the cash to set up Centers of Excellence for Big Data Computing, each of which will tackle a different aspect of turning numbers into biomedical understanding.

NIH is funding the creation of 11 Big Data centers, which will research computational phenotyping, machine learning and other topics related to the objectives of BD2K. Cash is also being set aside for a data coordination and integration center. The center will integrate data from NIH's Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) programs, such as the database-driven approach to neuromuscular research that received funding last month.

The BD2K investment--which could swell to $656 million by 2020--is part of NIH's attempt to establish the tools and infrastructure researchers will need to make the most of the rapid increase in the availability of biomedical data. "Mammoth data sets are emerging at an accelerated pace in today's biomedical research and these funds will help us overcome the obstacles to maximizing their utility," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement.

To advance this strategy, NIH is also funding the creation of the BD2K Data Discovery Index Coordination Consortium (DDICC) and supporting training programs. DDICC is focused on making it easier to find, access and cite biomedical data, while the training program is designed to increase the number of data science specialists in the workforce.

- read the NIH release