Fargo Named First NIEHS Scientific Information Officer
Dr. David Fargo, NIEHS’s first scientific information officer (SIO), will direct development of the infrastructure needed for scientific big data. “David’s office has a broad mission to advance NIEHS scientific information technology and research computing,” said NIEHS scientific director Dr. Darryl Zeldin. “He will work across divisional lines in a number of critical areas to ensure that our science IT needs are met.”
According to Fargo, his office will make it easier to use available scientific data, while improving research efficiency and enabling new and expanded investigations. “The amount of available data to query is growing much faster than the computational infrastructure,” he said.
Fargo, former director of the NIEHS integrative bioinformatics core, has long been interested in designing ways to empower high-performance scientific computing. He said there is a great need for infrastructure that gives researchers access to and understanding of the scientific data deposited in large public databanks. “I’m interested in creating systems and algorithms that empower broader use of large consortia data,” he said, describing a scenario in which researchers can query large datasets without having to individually download or reformat raw data.
Fargo would also like the new office to improve management of data generated by NIEHS researchers. Data needs to be trackable, he said, providing a more transparent process and more options for use by scientists. For laboratories that use computers associated with specialized equipment, Fargo envisions customized support and continuity of care—a clear advantage for researchers at the institute.
“Increasingly, the expectation among trainees is to have the opportunity to ask big questions,” said Fargo. Through the SIO office, NIEHS will be able to provide the infrastructure and parallel training to support those needs.—Shannon Whirledge