Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fresh Start for NCI Informatics

This year the National Cancer Institute made a thorough reassessment of their Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) program. The goal is to chart a new course for the informatics infrastructure needed to adequately support NCI’s research programs. While many of the principles of caBIG are valid, NCI wants to see their interoperable biomedical information systems built on community-driven data standards.

NCI’s new National Cancer Informatics Program (NCIP) will use the lessons learned from caBIG. A number of successful caBIG projects will be maintained and integrated into NCIP while other projects have been scaled back or eliminated as recommended by the Board of Scientific Advisors Working Group’s report. The newly formed Informatics Oversight Committee of the National Cancer Advisory Board is developing plans for NCIP.

NCI is undertaking two immediate tasks to initiate plans for NCIP. First, NCI is recruiting a new Director from their Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT) and the director’s responsibilities will include overseeing NCIP. In the interim, George Komatsoulis is serving as the Acting Director of CBIIT.

Secondly, NCI has organized a meeting where leaders in the research community gathered to discuss the development of NCIP. The meeting attendees included basic and clinical scientists, informaticists, managers of core facilities, and representatives of the advocacy community.

Some of the recurrent themes at the meeting to launch NCIP were:

  • There is a driving need for data integration at every level of the biomedical enterprise
  • There is a need for the integration of analysis methods from informaticists, computational biologists, experimental biologists, and clinical researchers
  • There is a need for targeted training programs
  • NCIP should serve as a coordinating role at the beginning as this may work best with smaller rather than larger research groups tackling specific and sharply focused research challenges
  • Acknowledge the importance of clinical trial participants in the clinical information infrastructure
  • Develop lightweight informatics solutions in response to specific scientific needs that can be developed quickly within a matter of months and be user friendly
To view the new NCI Biomedical Informatics Blog, go to http://ncip.nci.nih.gov/blog/?p=511.