• Support additional education and training efforts at the intersection of health care, computer science, and health/biomedical informatics. The purpose of such efforts is to produce more individuals with expertise in both domains—physicians or nurses with undergraduate or graduate degrees in computer science or industrial and systems engineering, computer science researchers knowledgeable about medicine (e.g., with a master’s degree in medical innovation) who work on health care problems, and so on. The National Institutes of Health career development programs (often known as the K program) and institutional training programs for medical informatics are models for such support,4 as are the research training programs in health/biomedical informatics supported by the National Library of Medicine at many educational organizations in the United States.5


As early as 1992, the computer science community was exhorted to seek intellectual challenges in problem domains of societal significance.6 Nowhere are such challenges more apparent and important than in health care. Accordingly, the committee believes that the computer science community should:

  • Engage as co-equal intellectual partners and collaborators with health care practitioners and experts in health/biomedical informatics and other relevant disciplines, such as industrial and process engineering and design, in an ongoing relationship to understand and solve problems of importance to health care. Such engagement will require overcoming important differences of intellectual style that inevitably separate disciplines. For example, there may be intellectual tensions between simplification and abstraction in the service of understanding on the one hand and the capture of details in the service of clinical fidelity on the other—and such tensions will have both positive and negative consequences.

  • Develop institutional mechanisms within academia for rewarding work at the health care/computer science interface. As argued in other reports,7 institutional difficulties often arise in academia when interdisciplinary


See http://grants.nih.gov/training/careerdevelopmentawards.htm.


See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ep/GrantTrainInstitute.html.


National Research Council, Computing the Future, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992, available online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=1982.


See, for example, National Research Council, Catalyzing Inquiry at the Interface of Computing and Biology, 2005; or National Research Council, Fostering Research on the Economic and Social Impacts of Information Technology, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.

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