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NIH to Fund Consortium to Help Build Biomedical Data Commons

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced today that it has earmarked $21 million over the next four years to fund a network of research groups that will help build a data commons to serve as a cloud-based platform for storing, sharing, accessing, and computing biomedical data and other digital objects.

In 2013, the NIH launched the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program, which aims to facilitate the broad use of biomedical big data by developing and disseminating analysis methods and software, enhancing training relevant for large-scale data analysis, and establishing centers of excellence for such data. Now in its second phase, the the BD2K initiative is working on methods for making NIH-funded datasets, semantics, and computational tools available through communal, collaborative platforms on public clouds.

As part of that effort, the NIH is planning a pilot program in which three high-value datasets will serve as test cases for the principles, policies, processes, and architectures that need to be developed for the BD2K program. Test datasets include ones from the Genotype-Tissue Expression program and the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine program, as well as several model organism databases from the Alliance of Genome Resources.

The NIH said it is now seeking applications from researchers interested in participating in the pilot program by designing solutions to meet the computational, data, and scientific needs of the data commons. Pilot program participants will be awarded funding, and are expected to operate "collectively as a consortium and work cooperatively toward achieving NIH's comprehensive vision for an interoperable, FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable)-compliant, multi-cloud NIH Data Commons founded on open source and open standards," according to the agency.

Consortium members will have 180 days following a kickoff meeting to present their designs, plans, and prototypes, after which the NIH will renegotiate awards to consortium members to detail the goals and milestones for each award and how they will contribute to the overall consortium plan. The NIH added that it may also issue additional awards and discontinue others. 

Additional details can be found here.