Multiple NIH branches are investing almost $32 million in fiscal year 2014 via the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, a trans-NIH program launched in December of 2013 aimed at developing new strategies to handle the explosion of complex biomedical datasets—otherwise known as Big Data—resulting from technologies such as DNA sequencing and imaging.
The BD2K awards, the Institutes say, will support the development of new approaches, software, tools, and training programs to improve investigators' access to Big Data and their ability to make new discoveries that could improve human health using them. The funding will establish 12 centers, each of which will take on specific data science challenges, and also support a consortium to cultivate a scientific community-based approach on the development of a data discovery index.
The four main components of the new BD2K awards, according to NIH, are:
- Centers of Excellence for Big Data Computing, 11 centers that NIH says will develop Big Data-related novel approaches, methods, software, tools, and other resources while focusing on specific research questions. Data integration and use, analysis of genomic data, and managing data from electronic health records will be among the areas investigated. The Center for Causal Modeling and Discovery of Biomedical Knowledge from Big Data at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Center for Predictive Computational Phenotyping at the University of Wisconsin at Madison are among the centers.
- BD2K-LINCS Perturbation Data Coordination and Integration Center, a data coordination center co-funded by BD2K and the NIH Common Fund for the Common Fund’s Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) program. The center will support data science research focusing on interpreting and integrating LINCS-generated data from different data types and databases in the LINCS-funded projects. (LINCS aims to characterize how different types of cells, tissues, and networks respond to disruption by drugs and other factors.)
- BD2K Data Discovery Index Coordination Consortium, a program aimed at creating a consortium to begin a community-based development of a biomedical data discovery index that NIH says will enable discovery, access, and citation of biomedical research datasets.
- Training and Workforce Development awards to support the education and training of researchers specialized in data science fields as well as those whose work may require expertise in the use of or generation of large amounts of data and data resources.
“Data creation in today’s research is exponentially more rapid than anything we anticipated even a decade ago,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. “Mammoth datasets are emerging at an accelerated pace in today’s biomedical research, and these funds will help us overcome the obstacles to maximizing their utility. The potential of these data, when used effectively, is quite astounding.”
A complete list of grant recipients can be found here. NIH says the BD2K initiative is projected to have a total investment of nearly $656 million through 2020.