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Administration Issues Strategic Plan for Big Data Research and Development

This Plan is an important milestone in the Administration’s Big Data Research and Development (R&D) Initiative.

A national Big Data innovation ecosystem can help the United States make the most of the new opportunities created by large and diverse data sets, such as accelerating the pace of scientific discovery, reducing traffic congestion, increasing energy efficiency, and developing therapies that are tailored to the needs of individual patients.  The Obama Administration launched the Big Data Research and Development Initiative in 2012 to develop Big Data technologies, demonstrate applications of Big Data, and train the next generation of data scientists.  The Administration has also recruited the first Chief Data Scientist to the White House, made “open data” the new default for Federal agencies, and worked to ensure that Big Data is used in ways that advance our core values, such as privacy and civil liberties.

Today, the Administration is pleased to release The Federal Big Data Research and Development Strategic Plan,  which highlights emerging Big Data capabilities and provides guidance for developing or expanding Federal Big Data research and development (R&D) plans. This Plan is an important milestone in the Administration’s 2012 Big Data Research and Development Initiative to harness benefits from the rich sources of Big Data, and is based on a shared vision:

We envision a Big Data innovation ecosystem in which the ability to analyze, extract information from, and make decisions and discoveries based upon large, diverse, and real-time datasets enables new capabilities for Federal agencies and the Nation at large; accelerates the process of scientific discovery and innovation; leads to new fields of research and new areas of inquiry that would otherwise be impossible; educates the next generation of 21st century scientists and engineers; and promotes new economic growth.

15 Federal agencies participated in the development of the Plan under the auspices of the Big Data Senior Steering Group (BD SSG), an interagency group under the National Science and Technology Council’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program. The Plan is built around seven focus areas:

  • Create next-generation capabilities by developing Big Data foundations, techniques, and technologies.
  • Support R&D to explore the trustworthiness of data, to make better decisions and enable breakthrough discoveries.
  • Build and enhance research cyberinfrastructure that enables Big Data innovation.
  • Increase the value of data through policies that promote sharing and management of data.
  • Understand the privacy, security, and ethical dimensions of Big Data collection, sharing, and use.
  • Improve the national landscape for Big Data education and training to fulfill increasing demand for analytical talent and capacity for the broader workforce.
  • Support a vibrant Big Data innovation ecosystem with collaboration between government agencies, universities, companies, and non-profit organizations.

The Plan also provides examples of the progress made in Federal Big Data R&D and defines goals, including addressing challenges such as preventing age-related macular degeneration, keeping fire fighters safe when they respond to a call, and supporting collaborative science around the world.  

The Federal Big Data Research and Development Strategic Plan is an important milestone in the Administration’s data-science efforts. The BD SSG member agencies will continue to execute the strategy, deepen understanding of the issues, and enhance Federal agency collaboration in this important area of R&D.

Keith Marzullo is the Director of the NITRD National Coordination Office.