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This is a work of the U.S. Government and is in the public domain.


This document was developed through the contributions of the NITRD Big Data SSG members and staff. A special thanks and appreciation to the core team of editors, writers, and reviewers: Lida Beninson (NSF), Quincy Brown (NSF), Elizabeth Burrows (NSF), Dana Hunter (NSF), Craig Jolley (USAID), Meredith Lee (DHS), Nishal Mohan (NSF), Chloe Poston (NSF), Renata Rawlings-Goss (NSF), Carly Robinson (DOE Science), Alejandro Suarez (NSF), Martin Wiener (NSF), and Fen Zhao (NSF).

A national Big Data1 innovation ecosystem is essential to enabling knowledge discovery from and confident action informed by the vast resource of new and diverse datasets that are rapidly becoming available in nearly every aspect of life. Big Data has the potential to radically improve the lives of all Americans. It is now possible to combine disparate, dynamic, and distributed datasets and enable everything from predicting the future behavior of complex systems to precise medical treatments, smart energy usage, and focused educational curricula. Government agency research and public-private partnerships, together with the education and training of future data scientists, will enable applications that directly benefit society and the economy of the Nation.

To derive the greatest benefits from the many, rich sources of Big Data, the Administration announced a “Big Data Research and Development Initiative” on March 29, 2012.2 Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, stated that the initiative “promises to transform our ability to use Big Data for scientific discovery, environmental and biomedical research, education, and national security.”

The Federal Big Data Research and Development Strategic Plan (Plan) builds upon the promise and excitement of the myriad applications enabled by Big Data with the objective of guiding Federal agencies as they develop and expand their individual mission-driven programs and investments related to Big Data. The Plan is based on inputs from a series of Federal agency and public activities, and a shared vision: We envision a Big Data innovation ecosystem in which the ability to analyze, extract information from, and make decisions and discoveries based upon large, diverse, and real-time datasets enables new capabilities for Federal agencies and the Nation at large; accelerates the process of scientific discovery and innovation; leads to new fields of research and new areas of inquiry that would otherwise be impossible; educates the next generation of 21st century scientists and engineers; and promotes new economic growth.

The Plan is built around seven strategies that represent key areas of importance for Big Data research and development (R&D). Priorities listed within each strategy highlight the intended outcomes that can be addressed by the missions and research funding of NITRD agencies. These include advancing human understanding in all branches of science, medicine, and security; ensuring the Nation’s continued leadership in research and development; and enhancing the Nation’s ability to address pressing societal and environmental issues facing the Nation and the world through research and development.