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So Much Data, So Little Analysis

More and more biomedical projects are generating reams of data, but researchers have barely begun to analyze it, NPR's Shots blog reports.

At the November Partnering For Cures meeting, NPR says that that imbalance was on display. It notes that projects like the Precision Medicine Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, and the International Human Cell Atlas Initiative are poised to generate mounds of data. "It's not just that any one data repository is growing exponentially, the number of data repositories is growing exponentially," the University of California, San Francisco's Atul Butte tells NPR.

However, NPR notes that researchers have barely begun to analyze that data that's now available from such large projects and from efforts to digitize medical records. And that analysis work, it says, will be tricky as many of the databases aren't compatible with one another — especially medical records — and as older papers are disproved by newer studies.

"In a world when anything is possible because you have so much data, how do you figure out who has done the math right?" Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf tells NPR. He adds that one way is to go back to patients to encourage them to participate in studies.