AMIA Outlines Priorities for Data Science Research

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Nation’s health and biomedical informatics professionals urge the National Library of Medicine to lead Data Science efforts across the National Institutes of Health

In comments submitted yesterday, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) offered numerous suggestions on how the National Library of Medicine (NLM) could lead data science research efforts in health and biomedicine. Further, the nation’s experts in health and biomedical informatics provided policy and research ideas in support of the NLM fulfilling a 2015 Advisory Committee recommendation to become the “intellectual and programmatic epicenter for data science at the NIH.”

The NLM issued a Request for Information in September, seeking input from stakeholders on promising directions for new data science research in health and biomedicine, including on ways to make science more open and reproducible. The RFI also asked for input on trends in workforce development and new partnerships that could bolster data science in health and biomedicine.

In response to the RFI, AMIA said “the NLM is uniquely positioned to foster data science competencies, develop, or fund, data science tools/services, and otherwise be the pan-NIH home for data science.” The group recommended that the NLM (1) focus research on the “basic science” of data standards; (2) enable and improve open science and research reproducibility through research that will foster trust and assurance in the scientific process; and (3) build on its leadership in informatics education and training through cross-cutting and multidisciplinary programs.

AMIA noted that health and biomedicine are undergoing rapid digitization, supported by an evolving IT and data ecosystem, and that now is the time to make progress on the systematic and strategic use of data. AMIA recommended that the NLM lead an effort to develop granular data specifications so that different combinations and substitutions of discrete data elements could facilitate data re-use and interoperability. Other areas of basic research could include improved methodologies for data capture from patients and providers, data storage, measuring data accuracy and development of metadata, especially for data traceability, provenance, and accuracy, AMIA said.

“To make the kinds of progress envisioned by the 21st Century Cures Act and to deliver on the vision articulated by Triple Aim, we must be able to better process and apply data,” said Thomas Payne, MD, FACP, FACMI, AMIA Board Chair and Medical Director of IT Services at the University of Washington’s UW Medicine. “This starts by ensuring we understand the fundamentals behind data science, and can apply that knowledge to health and biomedicine and evolve the field in an evidence-based manner.”

AMIA also recommended that the NLM lead NIH-wide efforts to improve data sharing by making Data Sharing Plans scorable elements of grant applications subject to the existing policy, and that the NLM could help develop metrics to evaluate the quality and fit-for-purpose of digital repositories, as well as help develop citations polices that could promote open science.

Finally, AMIA recommended that the NLM build on its leadership in informatics education and training by (1) ensuring that basic informatics training is supported broadly across health and biomedical domains; (2) encouraging cross-cutting and multidisciplinary programs at the post-graduate and undergraduate levels; and (3) initiating new research on how scientists document their data analysis and information methods.

“The future of health and medicine is data,” said Douglas H. Fridsma, MD, PhD, FACP, FACMI, AMIA President and CEO. “As the science of collecting, analyzing, and applying data to health challenges, informatics can be a powerful complement to data science tools and methodology. AMIA views the NLM as a natural home to ensure that both fields evolve towards mutual goals.”

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AMIA, the leading professional association for informatics professionals, is the center of action for 5,400 informatics professionals from more than 65 countries. As the voice of the nation’s top biomedical and health informatics professionals, AMIA and its members play a leading role in assessing the effect of health innovations on health policy, and advancing the field of informatics. AMIA actively supports five domains in informatics: translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, consumer health informatics, and public health informatics.