White House Unveils Big Data Projects, Round 2 - InformationWeek

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11/18/2013
09:06 AM
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White House Unveils Big Data Projects, Round 2

The White House announces dozens of new government-business-nonprofit collaborations to use big data for medical research, economics, and more.

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The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Networking and Information Technology R&D program (NITRD) on Tuesday introduced a slew of new big data collaboration projects aimed at stimulating private-sector interest in federal data. The initiatives, announced at the White House-sponsored "Data to Knowledge to Action" event, are targeted at fields as varied as medical research, geointelligence, economics, and linguistics.

The new projects are a continuation of the Obama Administration's Big Data Initiative, announced in March 2012, when the first round of big-data projects was presented.

Thomas Kalil, OSTP's deputy director for technology and innovation, said that "dozens of new partnerships -- more than 90 organizations," are pursuing these new collaborative projects, including many of the best-known American technology, pharmaceutical, and research companies.

Among the initiatives, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and NASA have set up the NASA Earth eXchange, or NEX, a collaborative network to provide space-based data about our planet to researchers in Earth science. AWS will host much of NASA's Earth-observation data as an AWS Public Data Set, making it possible, for instance, to crowdsource research projects.

[ Is the government equipped to handle big data? Read Federal Agencies Advised To Brace For Big Data. ]

An estimated 4.4 million jobs are being created between now and 2015 to support big-data projects. Employers, educational institutions, and government agencies are working to build the educational infrastructure to provide students with the skills they need to fill those jobs.

To help train new workers, IBM, for instance, has created a new assessment tool that gives university students feedback on their readiness for number-crunching careers in both the public and private sector. Eight universities that have a big data and analytics curriculum -- Fordham, George Washington, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Northwestern, Ohio State, Southern Methodist, and the University of Virginia -- will receive the assessment tool.

OSTP is organizing an initiative to create a "weather service" for pandemics, Kalil said, a way to use big data to identify and predict pandemics as early as possible in order to plan and prepare for -- and hopefully mitigate -- their effects.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), meanwhile, is undertaking its "Big Data to Knowledge" (BD2K) initiative to develop a range of standards, tools, software, and other approaches to make use of massive amounts of data being generated by the health and medical research community.

Several of the initiatives are aimed at specific healthcare challenges.  For instance, IBM Research, Geisinger Health Systems, and Sutter Health will use a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to devise ways to use big data to develop tools for doctors to identify patients at risk of heart failure years earlier than can now be spotted. The trio will draw on data covering patient demographics, medical history, allergies, medications, and other characteristics to develop predictive capabilities.

A complete list of the initiatives can be found here.

Healthcare providers must look beyond Meaningful Use regulations and start asking: Is my site as useful as Amazon? Also in the new, all-digital Patient Engagement issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: IT executives need to stay well informed about the strengths and limitations of comparative effectiveness research. (Free registration required.)

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Alex Kane Rudansky
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Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 12:09:03 PM
Government support
I think these initiatives show the government's recognition of the importance of big data. As we've seen with the adoption of electronic health records, if the government gets behind a technology initiative, it can really take off. Government backing is an important first step in the development of private sector big data projects.
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