Any open-science ideas for the NIH-wide Strategic Plan?

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asked Aug 8, 2015 in Open Science by Daniel Mietchen (1,170 points)

Following a request from the US Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are currently working on a 5 year Strategic Plan and inviting public feedback by August 16. This process is somewhat separate from strategic plans being developed in the individual Institutes and Centers that make up the NIH.

Not sure what the plan will mean in practice, but supposing it is useful and the process behind it indeed open for public input, I'd like to use this thread to entertain some thoughts as to what to submit in order to raise awareness of open science amongst those who are involved with that plan or similar strategic plans developed elsewhere.

Along with some metadata, the form asks for the following information (each with a maximum of 300 words):

  • Potential benefits, drawbacks/challenges, and areas of consideration for the current framework
  • Compatibility of the framework with the broad scope of the NIH mission
  • Additional concepts in ICO strategic plans that are cross-cutting and should be included in this trans-NIH strategic plan
  • Comprehensive trans-NIH research themes that have not been captured in the Areas of Opportunity that Apply Across Biomedicine
  • Components of the Areas of Opportunity that Apply Across Biomedicine that are not applicable to an NIH-wide Strategic Plan
  • Future opportunities or emerging research needs

Attachments are permitted in "PDF, DOC, DOCX" formats.



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commented Aug 18, 2015 by Alexander Konovalov (135 points)
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1 Answer

+1 vote
answered Aug 17, 2015 by Daniel Mietchen (1,170 points)
 
Best answer

I just submitted my response:

  • Potential benefits, drawbacks/challenges, and areas of consideration for the current framework
    • The "Unique moment of opportunity in biomedical research" that the framework refers to has a range of flavors, many of which revolve around the digital transformation that our society is currently undergoing, and research with it.
    • While the framework specifically refers to "[u]nprecedented opportunities on the basis of molecular knowledge", the digital transformation is affecting all of the Areas of Opportunity, along with every major aspect of how research is being planned, performed, disseminated, adminstrated, evaluated, funded and reused. This should be reflected in the Strategic Plan, both in that elements of the plan cover strategies to manage those changes, and in that elements of the strategy remain valid despite the changes.
    • One way to approach this would be an emphasis on sharing more of the research process rather than just the outcomes (be they narratives, data, code, materials or other resources), and engaging the relevant communities - intra- and extramural researchers as well as patients, physicians, citizen scientists or the wider public - much earlier than is typical today, so as to pave the way for breakthroughs to actually "come from unexpected directions", as stipulated under "Advance Treatments and Cures". Potentially, this might even mean to involve these communities already during the planning stage of research projects, in the drafting of proposals, or in the process of funding decisions.
    • Such an emphasis on open science would further help to "[e]nsure rigor and reproducibility", an important topic that is currently buried as the 6th bullet point in the 6th and last part ("Enhancing Stewardship") of the framework — I think it should have a higher visibility, perhaps as part of the "Fundamental Science" part.
  • Compatibility of the framework with the broad scope of the NIH mission
    • The digital transformation affects key components of the NIH mission, providing new opportunities "to foster fundamental creative discoveries, innovative research strategies, and their applications as a basis for ultimately protecting and improving health" and "to exemplify and promote the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science" as well as for "conducting and supporting research [..] in directing programs for the collection, dissemination, and exchange of information in medicine and health, including the development and support of medical libraries and the training of medical librarians and other health information specialists."
    • An emphasis on openness throughout the research cycle, as outlined above, would certainly help advance NIH in these directions.
  • Additional concepts in ICO strategic plans that are cross-cutting and should be included in this trans-NIH strategic plan
    • The report on the strategic vision for the National Library of Medicine recommends that NLM should
      • "be a leader and innovator in open science efforts worldwide"
      • "lead efforts to support and catalyze open science, data sharing, and research reproducibility, striving to promote the concept that biomedical information and its transparent analysis are public"
      • and, in particular, "lead efforts to promulgate and implement best practices in open source, open science, standards, and data harmonization, forming partnerships across communities, stakeholder organizations, agencies, and countries" as well as "be an active participant in the design and oversight of programs that incentivize and celebrate the open sharing of data and resources."
    • While I fully support these recommendations, I think it makes sense to expand the idea of leadership in open science beyond NLM and across all of NIH.
  • Comprehensive trans-NIH research themes that have not been captured in the Areas of Opportunity that Apply Across Biomedicine (boxes 2-4)
    • What I am missing here is an item on open science under "Promote Fundamental Science" (perhaps "Open science increases the impact and efficiency of research", i.e. analogous to its data science item) as well as the notions of sustainable infrastructure and of crowdsourcing beyond current standards.
    • The latter two points do not neatly fit into any of the three main Areas of Opportunity, as they extend across all of them. Infrastructure is necessary for progress in any of the areas listed, but sustainability is an issue here, especially in light of a continuously evolving and increasingly international and networked reserch landscape.
    • As for crowdsourcing, many research databases are curated by a community rather than individuals or labs, and via citizen science, the public gets more and more involved in how research is being conducted. In addition to that, patient-led innovation can complement innovation led by researchers, physicians, companies or others, and the optimal parameters for that interplay have yet to be explored.
    • The recent BD2K RFA on Crowdsourcing and Interactive Digital Media is an important step along these lines, and the Precision Medicine Initiative lends particular weight to such approaches.
  • Components of the Areas of Opportunity that Apply Across Biomedicine that are not applicable to an NIH-wide Strategic Plan
    • I do not see any components of the proposed framework that would not be applicable to an NIH-wide Strategic Plan.
  • Future opportunities or emerging research needs
    • One aspect of the digital transformation that I haven't yet touched upon in my response is that of new pathways to discovery, which may involve data management plans, social media, robot scientists or many other components that have not traditionally been part of the research process.
    • Finding ways to experiment with such pathways will likely be beneficial for navigating NIH through those next five years.
    • On a practical note, I would welcome it if such RFIs would provide an option to make submissions public, so that everyone interested could share in their thoughts and engage with them more directly than will be possible through the upcoming report that will summarize the submissions. Mine is available via https://github.com/Daniel-Mietchen/datascience/blob/master/nih-strategic-plan.md .


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commented Aug 18, 2015 by Daniel Mietchen (1,170 points)
Just accepted my answer because the submission deadline is over.

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