Robert Mustarde
Sep 12 2016

Sharing Data for a Better World


At the start of 2016, President Obama announced a Cancer Moonshot effort with the aim of making a 10 year advance in cancer research in just 5 years. To this end the government then made available $1B – outside of existing funding – to help facilitate this noble effort. But as described in a recent Fast Company article, one of the biggest challenges is to somehow provide broader access to the vast quantities of existing data that already exists. To that end there is a campaign under way to create a National Cancer Data EcoSystem.

Technology today allows us to gather huge volumes of information on any given subject, and cancer is no exception. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to file syncing and sharing can become very burdensome very quickly. Those tools and offerings were simply never intended to deal with such large volumes of data. Constantly synchronizing huge files across global networks is simply not commercially viable – even with today’s advanced communication infrastructures.Invert the Problem As the old proverb tells us, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. Let the data reside where it is created and let the user and their analysis applications come to the data. With advances in clustering and virtualization technology, there are mechanisms now available that very easily allow people or organizations to provide secure shared access to their data without their data ever having to leave their premise. Beyond cancer, imagine the power of globally sharing all historical earthquake data, weather data, or any data type where the harnessing of the distributed volumes of information that already exists has the potential for us to make great leaps forward in research. The Cancer Moonshot is a noble effort indeed. Technology will have a big part to play in making the dreams of lawmakers and researchers a reality.