It’s the time of the year for celebrating many holidays, from the winter solstice to Kwanzaa. I’m in Seattle spending Christmas week with my son, Conor. We’re reveling in tradition, cooking some of our family’s favorite foods and re-telling the stories that never get old. We’ve got a small Christmas tree and a crèche in a place of honor and my 25-year-old son’s stocking hanging nearby, now emptied of the goodies he looked forward to for weeks. (The thrill of Christmas doesn’t discriminate based on age, after all.)
Before I left on vacation, I took part in a few of NLM’s holiday celebrations. I love the many smells and tastes and textures these gatherings bring thanks to our multi-national workforce, so many of whom share their food traditions with us. These get-togethers also give me an opportunity to talk with staff and to learn more about them, about their work, their families, their lives, and about how they celebrate this time of year. These moments give us the chance to build and nurture the relationships and social structure that help this complex organization run smoothly.
December also brings an opportunity to reflect on what has been an exciting and busy year. The Board of Regents completed its strategic planning process, and NIH leadership reviewed and accepted the plan. We’ve launched a Strategic Plan Implementation Council, with representatives from every key division and office, to support conversations and communications across NLM. The Blue Ribbon Panel completed its assessment of our intramural research program, deeming it strong and essential and providing recommendations for expansion. And we’ve engaged staff and the NIH Office of Research Facilities in planning how best to use the space on the first floor of our beautiful building (Building 38).
Our outstanding staff have also stepped up to support new initiatives at NIH, including improving advanced data management and storage and assuring the security and integrity of computer services. This work reflects our commitment to maintaining the public trust we hold so dear, ensuring the resources we maintain are of the highest quality and delivered effectively.
I am particularly excited about some of the new research and training NLM is funding through our extramural program. In addition to investigator-initiated projects, we funded several proposals under our Personal Health Libraries program. This program is designed to develop new tools to help patients and lay people share in the advances afforded by data-driven discoveries and data powered health. We also launched a new program on computational approaches to curation, which will accelerate NLM’s use of automated approaches to indexing and labeling research products such as articles and data sets.
We’ve made significant progress in building the capacity of scientists and clinicians to use data for research and care. Our pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training programs collaborated to build educational resources, curricula, and courses on data science within biomedical informatics programs. A new initiative challenged these same training programs to partner with schools of library and information science to better engage librarians in data science initiatives, and to ensure those initiatives benefit from the knowledge and skills of librarians.
It has been quite a year.
Recounting these accomplishments reminds me that, like the holidays themselves, people are the most important part of what we do. So, as you continue to celebrate, keep in mind the people, the connections, that lift and sustain us throughout the year, and remember, too, those we serve. We can’t do any of this alone, so thank you for being a part of our reason for being.
Best wishes of the season to all of you!