Data tsunami surfer
Name: Martin Leach
Title: Chief information officer
Organization: The Broad Institute
Biomedical researchers are grappling with how to contend with the oft-called data tsunami. Martin Leach, the chief information officer of the Broad Institute, has emerged as one of the standouts in informatics for his deft work in making research data an asset rather than a scary mess of info.
When it comes to generating obscene amounts of digital research data, the Broad Institute seems to pride itself on being one of the world's worst offenders. As of August, the Cambridge, MA-based genomics institute had flown beyond the 10-petabyte mark for storage capacity, Leach said in a post on the group's blog. His job at the institute, where he started work last year after a four-year stint at Merck ($MRK), calls for ensuring that the organization has an optimal environment for managing DNA and other data as well as the computational tools to derive insights from the data.
Leach has a track record for using and enabling data to help researchers be productive. While working for Merck, where Leach ran IT for discovery and preclinical sciences in North America, he championed a reward system to give scientists points for accomplishing certain research tasks, borrowing some of the mechanisms that drive people to play video games and, for many people like Leach, enjoying the experience.
"Reward and recognition are important to encourage people," Leach said in an interview for the internal blog. "Once I get more established here, I'd love to take some of the lessons learned and see how we incorporate feedback, using technology, in how things are done at Broad."
At Broad, scientists tackle some of the biggest mysteries about the genome and the circuitry of cells. And their innovative research calls for innovative computational resources. Leach and his team have been forced to try new IT solutions to meet the needs of the growing group at the Broad Institute.