The era of ‘Big Data’ presents spectacular opportunities and immense challenges for the field of scientific inquiry. Researchers produce and consume massive amounts of data, yet many important questions remain unanswered, such as how will this data be stored? How long should it be stored? How will it be accessed? Who will be in control? What are the hardware and software challenges to facilitate big data management? How will data be shared? What are the best analytical methods to use?
The NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative is designed to address these issues and facilitate broad use of biomedical big data through new data sharing policies, catalogs of datasets, and training. Behavioral and social scientists should be aware of several recently-issued RFAs. In these RFAs NIH is requesting applications for Centers of Excellence, Data Coordination Centers, training enhancement, and data facilitation. If you are involved in mHealth, this might be a great opportunity for you, or if you are pooling data for the purposes of GxE interaction studies in the behavioral and social sciences this initiative might also fit you well. Critically consider your current research and ways that Big Data may already be part of your portfolio.
At the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), we recognize the complex interaction between human behavior and many of the diseases being studied at NIH, and we want to encourage behavioral or social scientist to look at these funding opportunities and consider applying. Be mindful when you apply that the term “biomedical” includes the behavioral and social sciences. Moving the science of Big Data forward efficiently will require scientists from all disciplines.