NIH Announcement: Big Data Gets Big Support

The new Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program signals NIH's faith in computational research

In December, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved a new trans-NIH initiative called Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K). With this action, the NIH signals its intention to invest a significant amount of money in computational research above and beyond the ongoing investment by individual institutes, says Mark Guyer, PhD, deputy director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).


One significant piece of BD2K will be new “big data” centers of excellence for which RFAs (Requests for Applications) will be announced in FY 2013 and funding provided in FY 2014-15.  While total dollar amounts and sizes of these center grants are yet to be firmed up, Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, deputy director of NIH indicated in his December presentation that up to 15 investigator-initiated centers and 2 to 5 NIH-specified centers could be funded under the program.  In addition, BD2K will fund significant new training opportunities in biocomputing.


While the NIH does not call BD2K a “replacement” for the National Centers for Biomedical Computing (NCBCs)—which are set to term out in 2014/2015—it is certainly a follow-on to that program, Guyer says.  And it is likely that several current NCBC grant recipients will be among those seeking funds through the new initiative, says Russ Altman, MD, PhD, professor of genetics, bioengineering and medicine at Stanford University, and principal investigator for Simbios, the National Center for Physics-Based Simulation of Biological Structures. 


The NIH will host a series of workshops over the course of the next several months to figure out in specific detail what the BD2K grant programs will be and how they will complement existing programs, Guyer says. These workshops will help NIH gather the full spectrum of community opinion in short order, he says. “We are planning on an accelerated basis because the money starts in FY14.”  


The December 7, 2012 BD2K announcement is posted at (See "Data and Informatics Implementation Plan"). NIH will create a BD2K web site in the near future and all announcements about the initiative will also be provided at the NIH guide to grants and contracts web page,

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