In the Washington Watch column in the September 2013 issue of the journal BioScience, Eve McCulloch explores the potential benefits of and challenges for the big data revolution.

The complete article is now online at The following is an excerpt from the article:

A data revolution is changing the face of science. Scientists are confronting research challenges that require the analysis of large amounts of information on topics ranging from global climate patterns to genetic blueprints. These big data challenges are often summarized in four words: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity. Managing these four parameters could unlock revolutionary new applications, tap the potential of crowdsourcing, and produce a new way of doing science.

Scientists struggle to capture, curate, share, analyze, and visualize continuously generated data. In March 2012, the White House announced the Big Data Research and Development Initiative, committing more than $200 million to accelerate scientific discovery, strengthen national security, and transform education. Six federal departments and agencies are participating in the initiative. In addition, the Obama administration released the Open Data Policy, promising to make information generated by the federal government—including health care data (e.g., the Health Data Initiative)—more accessible to innovators, researchers, and the public.

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