3 ways big data affects biomedical research

Findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable.

These are the guiding principles for researchers and publishers that together add up to a “FAIR” way to manage scientific data.

This concept is not only important for the pharma industry, but for digital healthcare on a whole. FAIR began in the academic community and has since been embraced by science funding agencies such as the European Commission as well as the National Institutes of Health in the US.

The Pharma Documentation Ring hosted a special workshop on the FAIR-ification of external data. In anticipation of the event, Helen Malone, the PDR’s president and director of the Global Information Hub at GlaxoSmithKline, sat down with CCC’s Chris Kenneally for the Beyond the Book podcast series to share details about FAIR, and what the workshop will entail.

You can listen to Chris and Helen’s full conversation, or read some excerpts below.


What is “FAIR”?

Essentially, Helen explains, FAIR can improve both discoverability and reuse of digital resources and data. Research data that is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable, will allow scientists to uncover hidden connections and insights. The result of that has enormous potential – it could mean developing more personalized and targeted medicines for patients in need.

Breaking down the acronym:

  • Findability means that the data should be able to be found by an appropriate person at an appropriate time.
  • Accessible means that it’s accessible either internally through a license or publicly available.
  • Interoperable in terms of how the data is formatted. It’s standardized and annotated.
  • And reusable for both people and machines.

“The FAIR principles are all about ensuring that both internal data, like R&D clinical trials, and external data, such as scientific or healthcare literature, is FAIR,” Helen says. “At GSK, for example, we’ve started on the FAIR journey, and we’re looking first at what we can do to improve our internal data. And what we hope is that FAIR is going to help us break down those silos between different departments and get us that better usage across data and across the R&D pipeline.”

Helen explains that while most organizations have focused attention up to now on internal data, the availability of external data is growing exponentially.

“[External data is] much more accessible than it ever was to anybody,” Helen says. “So, companies such as GSK are more outwardly looking than ever before. That’s really the opportunity.”

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Author: Molly Tainter

Molly Buccini is a marketing communications manager at CCC. Her background before CCC includes B2B content marketing and local news reporting. Outside of the office, she enjoys reading, traveling, and theater.
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