About the HEAL Data Ecosystem

What Is the HEAL Data Ecosystem?

The HEAL Data Ecosystem is part of the NIH HEAL Initiative®, an NIH-wide effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the evolving national opioid public health crisis. The goal of the HEAL Data Ecosystem is to accelerate sharing HEAL-generated data and results among the broad community of researchers, health care providers, community leaders, policy makers, and other HEAL stakeholders who can benefit from learning the results of initiative research. The HEAL Data Ecosystem connects the HEAL community, enabling HEAL data to be searched, analyzed, and used to make new discoveries. By empowering researchers to make their HEAL-generated data FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable), the HEAL Data Ecosystem promotes data sharing.

Image shows the players involved in the HEAL data ecosystem. HEAL investigators are generating data, the HEAL Platform is being built by the University of Chicago team and will provide a web interface to search for and analyze HEAL results and data. The Platform will connect to HEAL-generated data stored in various secured repositories. The HEAL-funded RENCI/RTI team will provide data management, stewardship, and support to help investigators make their data FAIR and to connect to the Platform.

What Is the HEAL Platform?

The HEAL Platform aims to transform research data, findings, and publications into a virtual, annotated, searchable catalog where datasets and findings from different studies can be analyzed, compared, and combined. HEAL data will be stored in various NIH-funded or other data repositories that meet appropriate standards for data security and privacy.

NIH HEAL Initiative data will be accessible via the HEAL Platform. The cloud-based environment for sharing and analyzing data supports the initiative’s mission by maximizing access to and use of NIH HEAL Initiative findings, data, analysis tools, and resources. Two teams are building and enabling this data ecosystem:

  • HEAL-funded scientists at the University of Chicago
  • HEAL-funded scientists at the Renaissance Computing Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/RTI International (RENCI/RTI) (HEAL Data Stewards)

These teams collaborate with HEAL investigators to support efforts where needed – especially for programs not currently working with their own HEAL-funded data-coordinating efforts. A Collective Board, with rotating members from various HEAL studies, guides the overall strategy and direction of the HEAL Data Ecosystem.  

All HEAL data must be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR, see HEAL Data Sharing Policy). This is in line with broader efforts across NIH outlined in the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science.

Learn how to make your data FAIR


What is HEAL Semantic Search?

The NIH HEAL Initiative also provides HEAL Semantic Search, an easy to use, complementary tool to the HEAL Data Platform. HEAL Semantic Search allows users to deep dive into HEAL research and related biomedical topics in order to identify studies, datasets, and variables that might be related to each other in unexpected ways. These novel relations help investigators ask unique research questions and identify potential collaborations.

Using HEAL Semantic Search, users will be able to:

  • Identify HEAL studies, variables, and Common Data Elements related to search terms and search results. 
  • Find connections between biomedical concepts.
  • Expand a search by looking at synonyms and related terms.
  • Dive deeper into studies and variables of interest on the HEAL Platform.
Search for concepts, related studies, and variables

How Will HEAL Data Help Solve the Opioid Crisis?

The HEAL Platform is a secure, user-friendly, cloud-based search interface that will allow HEAL investigators, other researchers, and a broad range of stakeholders including advocates, clinicians, and community organizers to easily find HEAL research results and data. Secure workspaces in the Platform provide tools and space for analyses. Users can leverage the Platform to inform their own research, practice policies, and inquiries. There are many different types of HEAL data and possible uses for it (see examples below).

A graphic showing use case examples for the data ecosystem, segmented by Community Leader: prevent opioid overdoses, look for proven interventions that could work in your community. Clinician: learn about new treatment options, review clinical trial results that may help you guide treatment options for patients. Policymaker: monitor research progress, browse results that could inform policy changes or resource redistributions. Researcher: discover candidate pain therapeutic targets, compare data.

As the HEAL Data Ecosystem grows, it will be possible to complete more complex searches and data analyses.

View HEAL research analysis examples



Upcoming outreach efforts will ask for input across and beyond the NIH HEAL Initiative, so we encourage you to start thinking now! How will you use the HEAL Platform? What scientific questions do you want to ask with diverse HEAL data types? How can the HEAL Platform enhance your collaborations? What analyses and computational abilities would you like to see featured?

We encourage you to keep in contact, address your questions to [email protected].


You May Also Be Interested In:

Complying With the HEAL Data Sharing Policy

Learn about the groups funded to work with research teams throughout the HEAL Initiative to provide guidance in implementing FAIR data management and sharing practices.

View the webpage

HEAL Data Ecosystem Events and Outreach

Read about HEAL Data Ecosystem events and reports from outreach efforts. 

View the webpage

Access the HEAL Platform

Visit the HEAL Platform to search for HEAL-funded studies, access and analyze data, and more.

View the platform