Susan Gregurick Previews Potential Elements of NIH’s Next Strategic Plan for Data Science – Bio-IT World

June 28, 2022 | In the latest episode of Bio-IT World’s Trends from the Trenches podcast, Susan Gregurick, Associate Director for Data Science and Director of the Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), gave a peek into what’s coming in the next iteration of the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science.  

“What we learned from COVID, really, was we thought we were just doing great at data science. We really patted ourselves on the back; everything was going well,” Gregurick told Stan Gloss, host of the podcast and founder of BioTeam. “Then COVID just told us how much we weren’t doing, and how challenging it is to really get FAIR data into the hands of researchers in a timely fashion so they can find it, access it, and use it. We are nowhere close to actually accomplishing that goal.”  

That’s not to say the past five years have not been fruitful. Gregurick highlighted some real wins that have come out of the COVID era, in particular the Researcher Auth Service. “RAS provides a standardized method for accessing data and for logging and auditing these accesses,” Gregurick explained. “It works by linking your researcher identities with access privileges and layers of security, primarily through eRA commons.” (Rebecca Rosen, project owner for this work, recently spoke about RAS at the Bio-IT World Conference.) 

Gregurick also reported that NIH has piloted ideas about recording linkage across multiple data platforms in the hope that we could indicate, for example, participants for an All of Us clinical trial. “That was a successful pilot,” she said, “but it also told us that we are nowhere close to having in place all of the right policies for allowing that kind of data aggregation and linkage to happen.”  

The next strategic plan will focus on 2023 to 2028, a five year span that Gregurick believes is a “reasonable amount of time for a strategy for data science, though the field moves so quickly.”  

Gregurick forecasted many areas of possible focus for the next plan that would all build on work already done, but “hopefully go far beyond.” She highlighted deeper thinking about data infrastructure and services, particularly a research data mesh, a decentralized and distributed system that would harmonize data services. Common APIs and common metadata standards may play a role in the new plan, working with digital object identifiers and indexing approaches, particularly with CRDC and BioData Catalyst data ecosystems.  

“Of course, we’re going to enhance Research Auth Services,” she added. “That’s really showing to be a very valuable activity. We want to use smart tokens to aid in communication… allowing for accountability and auditing.”  

Hybrid data compute infrastructures are also probably on the table, Gregurick said, increasing data availability.  

She predicts new language around artificial intelligence and machine learning—something not included in the prior strategic plan—particularly around data infrastructures, computation …….


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