Big Job at NIH – Big data, Big Job description

I was reminded again yesterday that the NIH is looking for someone to fill a very big job –  Associate Director for Data Science – reporting to Francis Collins. Hmm pretty interesting. It is not everyday you see a very prominant opportunity to work with a top scientist in a major organization. Just how big would blow your mind. The more you look at the details, the more you wonder what are they looking for and what will you see in return for your tax payers money? In January Eric Green was appointed as the Acting Associate Director for data science. It will be fascinating to see who they get to replace him or maybe he will get the job full time because they will find no one?

“The incumbent will serve as the principal advisor to the NIH Director (and indeed all NIH leadership) across all facets of data science, including bioinformatics, computational biology, biomedical informatics, biostatistics, information science, and quantitative biology.”
Wow, now that is very broad in terms of remit..covers all data requires lots of knowledge of all these areas and a focus on BIG DATA. But perhaps from my perspective as a scientist they could look at the data and initiatives they have currently. So take a look at PubChem, and NCATS, evaluate the databases you put out and make sure they are reflective of the NIH mission. Or even better, start by making all the data funded by tax-payers freely available immediately in open access papers, whether published by intramural or extramural researchers.
Yet the Nature advert for the position has the following “Are you a top-level Scientific Researcher or Scientific Administrator seeking a career at the one of the preeminent biomedical research institutions in the Nation and the world?”

Well that could apply to potentially thousands of scientists but its pretty clear the number of people suited for this position could be counted on hands and perhaps the committee that came up with the idea for the position already had someone in mind.

Then there is the crazy quote “Are you at that point in your career where you’re ready to “give back?” “ So they are basically looking for a retiree or someone close to retirement? Or are they hoping to manage expectations that the pay will be low in this time of sequestration.  So how do you reconcile that with “It is preferable that the candidate is an active scientist who leads a highly productive group conducting cutting-edge research.”?  Surely what is needed is someone relatively mid career or youthful who could deal with large amounts of data but who can also make sure that the ‘small’ data is also quality..Then you get the idea its science by committee

“The ADDS also serves as Chair of the newly created trans-NIH Scientific Data Council (SDC), responsible for overseeing the NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative; coordination with data science activities beyond NIH; and long-term strategic planning in data science.”
So that suggests they will be in a lots of meetings..not a lot of time for science.

But wait they also want more “The individual should also have demonstrated expertise in policy development as well as the ethical, legal, and social implications of the major issues relevant to data science as it pertains to biomedical research.”

And it just gets scarier  “Candidates should have demonstrated management acumen, including identification and management of financial and human resource needs; proven ability to make complex and strategic decisions to optimize resource usage, mitigate risks, and achieve desired results; and, the ability to build, mentor, motivate, and maintain a culturally diverse staff.” So they are looking for an ex-CEO?

Just in  case you want to apply – providing a CV is just a start “Applicants must  submit a current CV and bibliography electronically to Ms. Regina Reiter at SeniorRe@od.nih.gov (301- 402-1130).  In addition, applicants must  also submit a supplemental narrative statement that addresses the  qualifications requirements (not to exceed a total of two pages), a vision  statement (not to exceed a total of two pages), and provide the names, titles,  email addresses, and telephone numbers of 4-5 references.” So the NIH needs the applicants “vision” and your own assessment of why you qualify for the job, amazing! That seems like a lot of work – come up with a vision for the NIH – don’t they have that already, am I mistaken in thinking that a committee that asked for this position probably already laid that vision out in their recommendations.

Already I am pretty sure that so far its looking like a waste of tax-payers money. Do I want to pay for someone chairing meetings or do I want someone who can dive into the biomedical data accumulating and come up with a strategy? This person also needs to be a genius if they can cover all the bases required in the NIH job description. Perhaps what the NIH should have done is run it as a reality show, and have Donald Trump judge it.




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