Data sharing

Data sharingScientists and policymakers alike agree that breakthroughs in neuroscience will depend on the free and open dissemination of data. (Credit: KamiPhuc, Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Data sharing allows scientists to maximize discovery because large experimental data sets can be mined for new insights. Data sharing also enhances reproducibility — the ability of researchers to replicate research results — an essential part of the scientific process. Large data sets are becoming increasingly common in neuroscience, where new technologies (See "Neurotechnology") are allowing researchers to record the simultaneous activity of hundreds of neurons in live animals and to take measurements of the brain in unprecedented detail. But making that data available to others isn’t common, partly due to technical barriers that make sharing difficult and partly due to cultural barriers. Regardless of the reason, scientists and policymakers alike agree that breakthroughs in neuroscience will depend on the free and open dissemination of data.  

There are currently many public and private initiatives underway to overcome these barriers by standardizing the way information about the brain, including neuroimaging and neurophysiology data (a goal of the Neurodata Without Borders Neurophysiology initiative), as well as data about specific neurological and psychiatric disorders, are collected and stored. Similarly, atlases of gene expression in the brain have been developed that are free and publicly available online. They have become an essential reference for neuroscientists worldwide who are trying to understand the connection between brain function and gene expression and an example of the impact of data sharing.

Unlocking the Brain With Open Data

Fruit fly brain
Nov 10, 2016

Data sharing on a massive scale transformed the field of astronomy. Is neuroscience next? Astronomer Alex Szalay and neuroscientists Christof Koch and Joshua Vogelstein discuss.

Identifying the Brain’s Essential Elements

3D neurons
Nov 19, 2015

A database of brain cells, and the new software platform that supports it, may finally reveal the cells’ identities—and supply scientists with a parts list for the brain. Christof Koch and Chinh Dang from the Allen Institute for Brain Science and Kenneth Harris from University College London explain.

A Roundtable with the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute

Oct 01, 2015

By integrating neuroscience, engineering and data science, the new Kavli Institute at Johns Hopkins University aims to fuel new discoveries about how the brain functions. A discussion with Director Richard Huganir and Co-director Michael Miller.

The Future of Neurotechnology: A Roundtable Discussion

May 20, 2015

Four Kavli neuroscientists — Rafael Yuste, Ken Shepard, Liam Paninski and Darcy Peterka, from Columbia University — reflect on the major obstacles in brain research today and the remarkable new technologies that may soon overcome them.

It Takes the World to Map the Brain

Nov 15, 2014

Leaders from the U.S. BRAIN Initiative, Europe’s Human Brain Project and Japan’s Brain/MINDS discuss their ambitious projects, which are aimed at nothing less than transforming our understanding of the human brain.

Breaking Down the Data Barriers in Neuroscience

Sep 07, 2014

From the cultural to the technical, neuroscience is handicapped by barriers that prevent researchers from sharing data. Three researchers – Christof Koch, Karel Svoboda and Jeff Teeters – discuss a new initiative to dismantle those barriers, Neurodata Without Borders.

The BRAIN Initiative: Surviving the Data Deluge

Brain chip
Sep 12, 2013

Mapping brain activity will produce nearly as much data as the Large Hadron Collider, yet managing the sheer volume of information will be the simplest challenge for brain data managers

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