New discoveries through data-driven research
Scientific instruments, sensors and computer simulations are producing complex data at exponential rates, creating a virtual data deluge. Although these data represent an unprecedented resource, their size and complexity are overwhelming. What’s more, scientists are limited by current practices to extract useful information - but this is changing.
Effectively harnessing these large and complex scientific datasets requires fundamentally different techniques, better tools and a new data-driven practice. These techniques are being developed by data-driven researchers and research software engineers through the interdisciplinary research of data science.
While the research community recognizes the need for new and enhanced skills, there has been a critical shortage of practitioners. Science may be data-rich, but will remain discovery-poor without the institutional commitment, people-power and technology needed to mine data and reveal hidden breakthroughs.
To help catalyze these breakthroughs, our focus has been to support the people who innovate around data-driven discovery, including institutions, people and new tools and methods that can be integrated into scientific research.
In 2012 when we began work in data-driven discovery, there was limited awareness of data science and its application to basic scientific research. By investing in this area at an early stage, we helped researchers apply data science to their work and generated broader use of data science in the natural sciences across the country.
To amplify the gains that grantees have made, we will focus the next few years on boosting development and use of data science tools for the natural sciences, closing out the initiative in 2021. We will have invested more than $80 million over nine years towards advancing new discoveries in the natural sciences using data-driven methods and supporting the people who enable this new way of conducting research.