The Obama Administration has announced the Big Data Research and Development Initiative to help accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering. The initiative aims to improve the tools needed to access, organize, store, and analyze large data sets.

To launch the initiative, six federal departments and agencies announced more than $200 million in new funding commitments. The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced seven new efforts it is launching in coordination with the Big Data Initiative. Among them is a new joint funding opportunity by NSF and the National Institutes of Health. The Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science and Engineering is a cross agency solicitation that aims to advance the core technological means of managing, analyzing, visualizing, and extracting useful information from large, heterogeneous data sets. NSF also publicized a $1.2 million award that will bring together biologists and statisticians to develop network models and scalable algorithms and tools to advance our understanding of protein structures and biological pathways.

The United States Geological Survey is performing state-of-the-art synthesis of long-term earth science data at the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. One example of recent work conducted at the center is a reconstruction of the Earth’s climate in the Pliocene era, which will be used in climate models to improve predictions of climate change. The Center is currently accepting applications for projects for next year.

At an event to the launch the initiative, the President’s Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. John Holdren outlined the need for an “all hands on deck” effort by government, industry, universities, and non-profits. The government cannot tackle big data on it own, stated Holdren.

The White House released a summary of the Big Data Initiative and the government programs that comprise it. The summary can be downloaded at


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