Opportunities and Challenges for the Life Sciences Community

OMICS A Journal of Integrative Biology, Volume 16, Number 3, 2011
Eugene Kolker, Elizabeth Stewart, and Vural Ozdemir


Twenty-first century life sciences have transformed into data-enabled (also called data-intensive, data-driven, or big data) sciences. They principally depend on data-, computation-, and instrumentation-intensive approaches to seek comprehensive understanding of complex biological processes and systems (e.g., ecosystems, complex diseases, environmental, and health challenges). Federal agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF) have played and continue to play an exceptional leadership role by innovatively addressing the challenges of dataenabled life sciences. Yet even more is required not only to keep up with the current developments, but also to proactively enable future research needs. Straightforward access to data, computing, and analysis resources will enable true democratization of research competitions; thus investigators will compete based on the merits and broader impact of their ideas and approaches rather than on the scale of their institutional resources. This is the Final Report for Data-Intensive Science Workshops DISW1 and DISW2. The first NSF-funded Data Intensive Science Workshop (DISW1, Seattle, WA, September 19–20, 2010) overviewed the status of the data-enabled life sciences and identified their challenges and opportunities. This served as a baseline for the second NSF-funded DIS workshop (DISW2,Washington, DC, May 16–17, 2011). Based on the findings of DISW2 the following overarching recommendation to the NSF was proposed: establish a community alliance to be the voice and framework of the data-enabled life sciences. After this Final Report was finished, Data-Enabled Life Sciences Alliance (DELSA, was formed to become a Digital Commons for the life sciences community.