Mining the Big Data Mountain

Cartoon of three men mining mountains of data

Credit: Chris Jones, NIH

Biomedical researchers and clinicians are generating an enormous, ever-expanding trove of digital data through DNA sequencing, biomedical imaging, and by replacing a patient’s medical chart with a lifelong electronic medical record. What can be done with all of this “Big Data”?

Besides being handy for patients and doctors, Big Data may provide priceless raw material for the next era of biomedical research. Today, I want to share an example of research that is leveraging the power of Big Data.

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Transforming Big Data into Big Knowledge

Data

As technology allows us to tackle mind-boggling tasks like sequencing an entire human genome (or ten) in a few hours, or recording thousands of neurons chattering in the brain, or imaging an entire organ or body in super high-resolution, we are generating enormous quantities of data. I’m talking enormous quantities—think tera-, peta-, and even exa-bytes. The challenge presented by this revolution is the need to develop and implement hardware and software that can store, retrieve, and analyze this mountain of complex data—and transform it into knowledge that can improve our understanding of human health and disease. Continue reading