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Big data has recently become a buzz word in biomedical research. Like most buzz words, it is not that well defined and expectations are almost certainly too high, but there is something important happening.
This movement is enabled by the massive changes in information technology, allowing storage, handling and analysis of huge amounts of data. It is fuelled by genomic and population studies suggesting that individual genetic and environmental factors influencing health and disease may have very small effect sizes, requiring very large sample sizes to untangle the complexity of their interactions. There is talk of analysing samples from a million individuals, with a full genome sequence and associated phenotypic data from each.
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