Big Data Driving Data Integration at the NIH

Big Data Driving Data Integration at the NIH
Big Data Driving Data Integration at the NIH
The National Institutes of Health announced new grants to develop big data technologies and strategies.

“The NIH multi-institute awards constitute an initial investment of nearly $32 million in fiscal year 2014 by NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative and will support development of new software, tools and training to improve access to these data and the ability to make new discoveries using them, NIH said in its announcement of the funding.”

The grants will address issues around Big Data adoption, including:

  • Locating data and the appropriate software tools to access and analyze the information.
  • Lack of data standards, or low adoption of standards across the research community.
  • Insufficient polices to facilitate data sharing while protecting privacy.
  • Unwillingness to collaborate that limits the data’s usefulness in the research community.

Among the tasks funded is the creation of a “Perturbation Data Coordination and Integration Center.”  The center will provide support for data science research that focuses on interpreting and integrating data from different data types and databases.  In other words, it will make sure the data moves to where it should move, in order to provide access to information that’s needed by the research scientist.  Fundamentally, it’s data integration practices and technologies.

This is very interesting from the standpoint that the movement into big data systems often drives the reevaluation, or even new interest in data integration.  As the data becomes strategically important, the need to provide core integration services becomes even more important.

The project at the NIH will be interesting to watch, as it progresses.  These are the guys who come up with the new paths to us being healthier and living longer.  The use of Big Data provides the researchers with the advantage of having a better understanding of patterns of data, including:

  • Patterns of symptoms that lead to the diagnosis of specific diseases and ailments.  Doctors may get these data points one at a time.  When unstructured or structured data exists, researchers can find correlations, and thus provide better guidelines to physicians who see the patients.
  • Patterns of cures that are emerging around specific treatments.  The ability to determine what treatments are most effective, by looking at the data holistically.
  • Patterns of failure.  When the outcomes are less than desirable, what seems to be a common issue that can be identified and resolved?

Of course, the uses of big data technology are limitless, when considering the value of knowledge that can be derived from petabytes of data.  However, it’s one thing to have the data, and another to have access to it.

Data integration should always be systemic to all big data strategies, and the NIH clearly understands this to be the case.  Thus, they have funded data integration along with the expansion of their big data usage.

Most enterprises will follow much the same path in the next 2 to 5 years.  Information provides a strategic advantage to businesses.  In the case of the NIH, it’s information that can save lives.  Can’t get much more important than that.