On August 3, 2007, NIH announced a new funding opportunity.
Title: Data Ontologies for Biomedical Research (R01)
Release/Posted Date: August 3, 2007
Opening Date: December 18, 2007 (Earliest date an application may be submitted to Grants.gov)
Letters of Intent Receipt Date(s): December 18, 2007, August 18, 2008, December 22, 2009, and August 21, 2009 for the four separate receipt dates..
Application Submission/Receipt Date(s): January 18, 2008, September 18, 2008, January 21, 2009, and September 21, 2009
Expiration/Closing Date: September 22, 2009
Excerpt: "This FOA encourages the use, improvement, or development of techniques, tools, and better practices for integrating data sets by supporting projects that integrate existing data sets. Specifically, in this FOA, applicants should identify two (or more if they are very closely related) data sets (presumably contained in databases) that are not currently integrated. They should describe the vocabulary used in each database and should develop an ontology that will be suitable to join both data sets. The applicant must justify the importance in unifying these two data sets. NIH anticipates that once important data sets in a topical area have been unified that others in that area will adopt the emerging standard."
It seems that NIH is looking for relatively small grants, but this is probably the best approach. One of the advantages of ontologies is that they permit you do integrate data easily and cheaply. It wouldn't make any sense to develop this technology if every project was a mega-million dollar effort.
This announcement is another indication that major biomedical funding agencies understand the importance of specifying and integrating data. I hope that the research community responds with high-quality applications.