NIH to get data chief

NIH director says institute will play a leading role in addressing complex data issues

The National Institutes of Health is looking to establish the position of associate director for data science to uncover the potential in vast stores of biomedical research data related to genomics, imaging and electronic health records. It would be a rare, high-ranking government position that would be tasked exclusively with managing a data-centric agency.

Francis Collins, director of the NIH, said the institute will play a leading role in addressing complex data issues internally, as well as in the research community and in other government and private agencies involved in scientific data generation, management and analysis.

Until the position is filled, Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, will act as associate director of the data science group.

Last March, the administration announced a $200 million investment in research and development related to the mining, processing, storage and use of big data. The National Science Foundation also announced a $10 million grant to the University of California, Berkeley for researchers to build new algorithms and tools to sort through large data sets.

As part of the government's big data initiative, NIH plans to put a data set of the human genome project in Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) EC2 computer cloud, with tools to make the information easily accessible to researchers.

Responding to a report and recommendation from TechAmerica, agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission have already appointed a chief data officer (in 2010). It has since named officers for each of its divisions.

For more:
- see NextGov's coverage of the White House big data announcement

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