June 07, 2018

NIH Releases Strategic Plan for Data Science

On June 4, 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its first Strategic Plan for Data Science, to provide an overview of how it will modernize its biomedical data science ecosystem.

Under terms of the plan, NIH research data will now adhere to the following FAIR principles:

(F)indable – Data must have unique identifiers.
(A)ccessible – Data must be easily retrievable via open systems and authorization procedures.
(I)nteroperable – Data should “use and speak the same language” via use of standardized vocabularies, and
(R)eusable - Data must be adequately described to a new user, have clear information about data-usage licenses and have a traceable “owner’s manual” or source.

The plan identifies the five overarching goals and tactics for its implementation:

  1. Supporting a highly efficient and effective biomedical research data infrastructure including storage and security optimization.
  2. Promoting modernization of the data-resources ecosystem including funds for improvements to data-repository utility and accessibility, storage and sharing of individual datasets, and better integration of clinical and observational data into biomedical data science.
  3. Supporting the development and dissemination of advanced data management, analytics, and visualization tools including separation of NIH approaches and funding for databases of core data elements (e.g., images), knowledge bases (e.g., information related to core data sets), and tools (e.g., functions that use artificial intelligence approaches to find complex patterns in data from multiple sources, such as electronic health records, images and lab tests.
  4. Enhancing workforce development for biomedical data science.
  5. Enacting appropriate policies to promote stewardship and sustainability including governance guidelines for data resources and other policies to ensure that NIH-supported data resources adhere to FAIR principles.  

The recently announced Chief Data Strategist will work with the Scientific Data Council, Data Science Policy Council, IC leadership, and staff to implement the strategic plan and manage the new system. NIH will also develop performance measures and milestones to evaluate progress and suggest modifications.