NIH commits $96 million to make sense of big data

The National Institutes of Health has committed $96 million to fund big data research centers, aimed at improving the ability of the research community to use and make sense of large and complex datasets.

Over a four-year span, $24 million annually will be set aside to establish six to eight Big Data Knowledge Centers of Excellence. The money will be used for the "development and distribution of innovative approaches, methods, software, and tools for data sharing, integration, analysis and management," according to NIH.

The ability to manage big data is a problem for many healthcare providers, researchers and patients alike. Much of that, NIH says, is due to a lack of tools, accessibility and training. The Big Data to Knowledge Initiative plans on announcing even more funding opportunities in upcoming months.   

"This funding opportunity represents a concerted effort to leverage the power of NIH in developing cutting-edge systems to address data science challenges," NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. "The goal is to help researchers translate data into knowledge that will advance discoveries and improve health, while reducing costs and redundancy."

Products from the research will be shared and distributed to the research community, and the centers are supposed to interact as a "consortium" that builds on individual research efforts.

It's been predicted that big data could save $450 billion in healthcare costs, but big change could be necessary for meeting such goals first. Providers and patients must both recognize that data can be an effective tool, according to Kent Bottles, M.D, a senior fellow at the Thomas Jefferson University School of Population Health.

To learn more:
- read the NIH announcement
- see the BD2K site

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