AMIA, the American Medical Informatics Association, is urging the National Institutes of Health to establish itself as a global leader in data science through dedicated stewardship and substantial financial support. AMIA members are experts in health and biomedical informatics.

In comments regarding NIH plans on data science, AMIA urged the NIH to commit to FAIR data principles and require the recipients of NIH grants to also adopt the principles as a condition of funding.

FAIR is an acronym for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.

The NIH published its draft Data Science Strategic Plan in early March. It includes five areas of data science: Data Infrastructure; Modernized Data Ecosystem; Data Management, Analytics and Tools; Workforce Development; and Stewardship and Sustainability.

The nation’s medical research agency hopes to capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, and to take on critical challenges, such as the growing costs of managing data, siloed data-resources and misaligned funding streams.

AMIA supported the development of a data science strategic plan, arguing that the NIH must establish itself as a global leader in data science through dedicated stewardship and substantial financial support.

“Numerous aspects of the plan were correctly calibrated to achieve the dual goal of capitalizing on data science advances while addressing longstanding challenges,” AMIA said in comments on NIH work. AMIA noted that the plan rightly sought to create a “Platform as a Service – PaaS –  environment for cloud storage, computational, and related infrastructure services needed to facilitate the deposit, storage, and access to large, high-value NIH data sets.” AMIA also noted the new NIH chief data strategist “must have the dedicated authority and resources to compel coordination across the individual NIH institutes and centers.”

“The future of clinical research and medicine is awash in data,” AMIA President and CEO Douglas B. Fridsma, MD, said in a statement. “If data science is discipline by which knowledge or insights are extracted from data, informatics is the application of such knowledge and insights to biomedical and clinical information systems for the betterment of discovery and patient care. Both disciplines are interrelated, complementary, and necessary.”

AMIA Board Chair and Regenstrief CEO Peter J. Embi, MD, commended the NIH for “seizing a historic opportunity to transform how research is performed and how discovery is translated to care, given our ongoing digital revolution.”

“However, the NIH will need a dedicated assembly of experts to support its ambitious goals,” he added. “AMIA and the entire informatics community stands ready to help.”

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