Monday, December 19, 2016
On December 1, 2016, the NIH Office of the Associate Director for Data Science hosted the Open Data Science Symposium, a public symposium exploring how Open Data and Open Science are transforming biomedical research.
This event, which was the first of its kind for the Big Data to Knowledge Initiative (BD2K), demonstrated a growing interest among diverse stakeholders and an understanding of how scientific open principles and open methods are transforming every aspect of the biomedical research enterprise. As Dr. Harold Varmus (former NIH and NCI Director) stated, “…5, 10, 15 years ago, it would be inconceivable to see people flock to a meeting like this.” Indeed, as an estimated 1,200 people attended the event via on-site and online participation. The audience included a broad range of stakeholders from an estimated 18 countries, including NIH program officers and staff; BD2K grantees; members of the research community from government agencies, industry, and medical foundations and societies; media; citizen scientists; and open data advocates. Viewers actively tweeted throughout the day using hashtag #BD2KOpenSci, which was one of the leading Twitter trends several times during the day. There were 1,683 Twitter posts about the meeting using this hashtag alone, reaching an estimated 1,233,271 viewers across the world.
A major highlight of the day was the showcase of the prototypes built by the six Open Science Prize finalists. The live demonstrations by the finalist teams highlighted tangible examples of how open data can be used to benefit public health and biomedicine. We saw an outstanding example of how openly-available data can be repurposed to advance our knowledge of clinical trials results, map the human brain and neurological networks, track disease outbreaks, monitor environmental exposures, and advance rare disease research. The Open Science Prize is a novel funding initiative pioneered by the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Symposium marked the launch of public voting for the Open Science Prize, which is open from December 1, 2016 through January 6, 2017. The NIH and Wellcome Trust are asking members of the public to review the six prototypes and select their favorites. The top three choices will be further considered by the NIH and Wellcome Trust judges for a grand prize of $230,000. Which tool do YOU think is most useful, innovative and creative? Visit the Open Science Prize website and vote!
The Symposium also featured a number of prominent speakers and panels. One of the key highlights was a live, unscripted dialogue on Open Science between NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and Former NIH Director Dr. Harold Varmus, moderated by Chris Wiggins, Chief Data Scientist for The New York Times. These two titans of biomedical science focused on the importance of data sharing for accelerating research. Their discussion covered a broad range of topics, including many of the disincentives that currently inhibit data sharing. Much of the discussion focused on the cultural and policy changes that will be needed to fully enable Open Science. Moving forward, NIH Director Dr. Collins highlighted the 21st Century Cures Act, which recently was signed into law and provides new provisions to require data sharing and will help make clinical trials and other health information even more widely available for researchers and the public at large.
Another highlight of the day included a keynote address by John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer of Sage Bionetworks, titled “Vannevar Bush in the 21st Century.” This talk helped put the notion of science as a public good into a larger context and framed the importance of open approaches to biomedical research in a larger societal context. A key theme of Wilbanks’ talk was the importance of a research community network for supporting maximal use of open data and open science approaches. He noted that it is not enough to make data available, but that it is critical to make it useful for all citizens.
There were also interactive panel discussions on new models for enabling Open Science that are emerging across the globe and a penultimate panel exploring viewpoints from the field, led by the Open Science Prize Expert Advisors, on how open data and open science are impacting biomedicine. The panel presentations underscored growing interest in open science from funders and organizations across the world and featured innovative approaches being piloted by organizations such Elixir, the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, the Wellcome Trust, and the National Cancer Institute (e.g., Genomics Data Commons and Cloud Pilots). A key aspect of these discussions was the importance of public-private partnerships between the funders of research, industry, and nonprofit organizations to further Open Science. Another important aspect of the discussion was the growing need for training of data scientists, both in the Federal Government and the extramural community, to encourage the next generation of scientists and advance Open Science.
As emphasized at the Symposium, there are other roles the public can play to help shape Open Data Science at NIH. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has issued a Request for Information: Strategic Plan for the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, seeking public input on their strategic planning efforts. One of the areas on which they are seeking feedback is on the role of NLM in advancing Data Science, Open Science, and Biomedical Informatics. Specifically, they are seeking input on audacious goals for these areas, new types of research to be conducted, and new data types or data collections anticipated over the next 10 years. Additionally, the NIH Office of Science Policy has issued another Request for Information: Strategies for NIH Data Management, Sharing, and Citation. We, at NIH, encourage your inputs to these Requests for Information, which will move forward the development of the next steps for data science and open science in biomedical research.
Last, but certainly not least, the NIH Office of the Associate Director for Data Science (ADDS) invites your feedback, comments, reactions, etc. on the Open Data Science Symposium. An Executive Summary of the meeting is available on the Open Data Science Symposium Webpage and you may view the Symposium presentations on the Open Data Science Symposium Video Archive. Please take a look and send us your comments using the comment function on this blog. By doing this, you can help shape the future of Open Data Science at NIH!