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NIH Approves New Vision for NLM

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins has approved a report that provides a list of recommendations for improving the National Library of Medicine with a goal of better supporting and promoting biomedical knowledge generation, dissemination, and understanding locally and abroad.

The 17-page report was presented yesterday at a meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director. It was put together by an interdisciplinary working group set up by Collins in February in response to the planned retirement of then NLM Director Donald Lindberg, who had led the agency for more than 30 years. The group, which included experts in biomedical research, bioinformatics, library sciences, publishing and patient care, was asked to assess the NLM's current mission, activities, and programs and then recommend a course of action that would ensure that it was well positioned to meet the biomedical community's scientific and technological needs; facilitate the collection, storage, and use of biomedical data; and maximize the usefulness of its programs among other tasks.

"Biomedical data science is moving at lightning speed with the increasing use of big data and the melding of many diverse data types," Collins said in a statement following the publication of the report. "It is critical that NIH pave the path forward for data science, and this move will enable researchers, medical practitioners, and many others to use the wealth of vast knowledge and data available to them through the NLM."

Based on their analysis, the working group came up with six recommendations for the future of the NLM. They called on the agency to take the lead on efforts to support and catalyze open science, data sharing, and research reproducibility; and also to serve as the intellectual and programmatic hub for biomedical data science at the NIH and beyond.

They also called for the NLM to be responsible for maintaining and preserving the legacy of biomedical research and medicine in the country and ensuring its availability for long-term use; and to strengthen its role in providing training for future professionals in biomedical informatics, data science, and related disciplines.

The NIH said that it will work with Congress to implement the necessary infrastructure changes to move this vision forward. Collins also said that the NIH will consider the infrastructure requirements and implications of centering the NIH's biomedical data science activities within the NLM.