The Power of Big Data


I had a great time at Stanford Medicine’s Big Data Conference last week. It was a breath of fresh air to hear about the developments in medicine that are being driven by big data. Big data has the potential to solve some of the nation’s most pressing challenges; not just in healthcare and medicine, but in education, energy, commerce, disaster prevention, cyber security and more.

As an astrophysicist, I’m no stranger to the concept of big data. We have been dealing with big science for many years, including big data sets, big simulations and sometimes huge collaborations, such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The impact of this on our knowledge of the universe has been tremendous. Imagine the potential impact of big data in biomedicine to improve healthcare and quality of life!

NSF has invested in data science for decades and we will continue to do so. Our strategy: 

  • Support fundamental research to help develop and prototype  new techniques and technologies that derive knowledge from data;
  • Invest in research infrastructure at national and international levels;
  • Support education and workforce development;
  • Enable community building, collaborations, and partnerships to support interdisciplinary science and to accelerate the transition of research into practice; and
  • Last but not least, create a policy framework (public access plan was released in mid-March) to enable broad dissemination and sharing of data and knowledge.