News Release

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NIH approves strategic vision to transform National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., today approved a federal report that lays out the long-term scientific vision for the NIH’s National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world’s largest biomedical library. This vision, presented today at the 110th meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), calls for NIH to position the NLM as a unifying force in biomedicine that promotes and accelerates knowledge generation, dissemination and understanding in the United States and internationally. The report also cites the need to make NLM the epicenter for biomedical data science, not just at NIH, but across the biomedical research enterprise. In addition, the report recommends dramatically expanding NLM’s activities to include research conducted beyond NIH’s walls to funded institutions, enabling it to have a greater and wider impact on data science than ever before. NIH plans to work with Congress to implement the necessary infrastructure changes to move this vision forward.

“The pace of change in biomedical data science is moving at lightning speed with the increasing use of big data and the melding of many diverse data types,” said Dr. Collins. “It is critical that NIH pave the path forward for data science, and this move will enable researchers, medical practitioners and many others to use the wealth of vast knowledge and data available to them through the NLM.”

To capitalize on the emerging opportunities in data science, Dr. Collins tasked a working group of his ACD to lay out a strategic vision for the NLM to maintain its global leadership in biomedical and health information. Comprised of experts in the fields of biomedical research, bioinformatics, library sciences, publishing, and patient care, the working group assessed the current mission, organization and programmatic priorities of the NLM. The group presented its recommendations for a strategic vision today to the ACD, and it was subsequently unanimously endorsed. In summary, the ACD envisioned NLM to be a modernized conceptualization of a library and formulated a series of recommendations to guide its future:

  • Continually evolve to remain a leader in assimilating and disseminating accessible and authoritative biomedical research findings and trusted health information to the public, healthcare professionals, and researchers worldwide.
  • Lead efforts to support and catalyze open science, data sharing, and research reproducibility, striving to promote the concept that biomedical information and its transparent analysis are public goods.
  • Be the intellectual and programmatic epicenter for data science at NIH, including becoming the center of intellectual and programmatic activities in biomedical data science, and stimulate its advancement throughout biomedical research and application.
  • Strengthen its role in fostering the future generation of professionals in biomedical informatics, data science, library sciences, and related disciplines through sustained and focused training efforts.
  • Maintain, preserve, and make accessible the nation’s historical efforts in advancing biomedical research and medicine, thereby ensuring that this legacy is both safe and accessible for long-term use.
  • Have new NLM leadership evaluate what talent, resources, and organizational structures are required to ensure NLM can fully achieve its mission and best allocate its resources.

Dr. Collins accepted the ACD recommendations in full, but acknowledged that NIH will need to consider the requirements and infrastructure implications for centering NIH’s biomedical data science activities within the NLM. In addition, NIH has launched a nationwide search for the director of the NLM to replace Donald Lindberg, M.D., who served as the NLM director for more than 30 years and retired in March 2015.

The ACD advises the NIH Director on policy matters important to the NIH mission of conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research, research training, and translating research results for the public. Additional information is available at

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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