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The Open Science Prize: Seeking Innovative, Ground-Breaking Technology with Open Data

By Audie A. Atienza, Ph.D.

As part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Big Data to Knowledge Initiative (BD2K), NIH is pleased to partner with the Wellcome Trust, with additional support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, to launch the Open Science PrizeExit Link Disclaimer – a prize competition supporting the development of technology platforms and tools that make open biomedical data more discoverable, accessible, analyzable, and citable.

Making biomedical research data and information widely accessible is a key priority for NIH, as highlighted by broad efforts in this area through its BD2K Initiative. The Open Science Prize addresses several aims of BD2K, specifically: 1) to facilitate the broad use of biomedical digital assets by making them discoverable, accessible, and citable and 2) to support the development of methods, software, and tools needed to analyze biomedical “big data”.

According to Philip E. Bourne, Ph.D., the Associate Director for Data Science at the NIH:

“Open Science is at the heart of what we do at NIH and exemplified by our leadership role in supporting open access to the literature and to data through the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative. It is important that global funding agencies work collaboratively to illustrate the value of being open, and the Open Science Prize does just that.”

The Open Science Prize competition is calling on all technology innovators, technology-minded health researchers, and health-focused technology companies, to create platforms to leverage the rapid proliferation of publicly available digital objects related to biomedical research (e.g., datasets, online publications, software code and other outputs). It is anticipated that such platforms will enable researchers, citizen scientists, and the wider public to mine and extract further value from these digital objects.

Through this prize, NIH hopes to tap into the competitive spirit of various communities to come forward with groundbreaking ideas and innovations to improve access to open biomedical data.

Important notes about the Open Science Prize.

● The Prize is open to international teams whose membership must include at least one US-based member and one member based in another country.

● The Prize consists of a two-phase competition:

○ For Phase I (applications due February 29, 2016), up to six teams will receive prizes of $80,000 per team for the best ideas of software products or services to be developed into prototypes, or to further develop an existing early stage prototype for international use.

○ In Phase II, the six teams will submit their final prototypes by Dec. 1, 2016. The team with the prototype judged to have the greatest potential to advance open science will receive a prize of $230,000. The Open Science Prize winner is expected to be named on Feb. 28, 2017.

● Check out the Prize rules and illustrative examples on the Open Science Prize website (, or the Federal Register Notice (

● NIH will hold a webinarExit Link Disclaimer for the Open Science Prize on December 10, 2015 from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Eastern Time (US).

Form your teams, come up with your best ideas to leverage open biomedical data, and submit your solutions by February 29, 2016 (yes, Leap Day). Let’s make a big leap forward in Open Science!

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