At a time when medical research increasingly requires collaboration by large numbers of busy people, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute HUB offers a model for using advanced information technology to link scientists, health providers, community partners and others for the purpose of accelerating clinical and translational research.
The Indiana CTSI HUB is a virtual, institution-scale medical research organization for Indiana, including Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame. Launched in 2008 with support from the National Institutes of Health, it supports virtual clinical research teams, community engaged research, research program development, and industry and public outreach.
"The culture of research has shifted to team science, distributed research programs, and distributed analytical resources such as gene sequencers and colliders," said William K. Barnett, director of information architecture for the Indiana CTSI. "Teams of investigators must be able to collaboratively find each other, submit joint grants, administer research programs, share files and data, access instrumentation and workflows, and publish results."
Barnett, of Indiana University's Pervasive Technologies Institute, described the project today, Feb. 19, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, B.C. His talk was part of a panel on HUBzero, an open-source software platform created by Purdue University scientists to allow scientists to use and share research tools, presentations and findings. The panel also included:
- Michael McLennan, senior research scientist at Purdue University, who discussed nanoHUB.org, which provides cyber-infrastructure for the nanotechnology community, connecting researchers with each other and with simulation and modeling tools to do their work.
- Ellen M. Rathje, professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas, who explained the HUBzero-based cyber-infrastructure used by the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation to enable earthquake researchers to share resources.
Barnett explored the uses of HUBzero to support health care research and practice. For example, the Cancer Care Engineering HUB is a virtual organization that supports the investigation of colorectal cancer and other clinical projects at the IU School of Medicine and Purdue. Housing data centrally and making it easily accessible through HUB Web interfaces resulted in a marked acceleration of research across five distributed teams, Barnett said.
In addition to the usual HUB modular architecture, publishing tools for sharing content and open-source Joomla extensions for functionality, the Indiana CTSI HUB provides federated identity support for trusted access to sensitive data. It incorporates tools such as Alfresco Share, which allows researchers to quickly create Web spaces for sharing files and having discussions; REDCap, a tool for creating, using and sharing research databases; and i2iConnect, which links researchers to potential industry partners who are looking for innovative ideas and projects.