Progress in modern science is enabled by data sharing. There are major obstacles, however, that limit the open exchange of data particularly in neuroscience, a field where many small laboratories are pursuing diverse questions about the brain using a great variety of tools and techniques. In mid 2014, The Kavli Foundation initiated Neurodata Without Borders, a consortium of researchers and foundations with a shared interest in breaking down the obstacles to data sharing.
The aim of Neurodata Without Borders is to standardize neuroscience data on an international scale. Our goal is to break down the geographic, institutional, technological and policy barriers that impede the flow of neuroscience data within the greater scientific community. Our intent is to accelerate the pace of discovery and success of brain research worldwide.
The need to standardize neuroscience data has never been more urgent. Large-scale brain research projects such as the U.S. BRAIN Initiative and resources such as the Allen Cell Types Database are producing massive quantities of data. But the full benefits of these data will not be realized if they cannot easily be shared, pooled and analyzed.
To meet our goal, Neurodata Without Borders, aims to develop a unified, extensible, open-source data format for cellular-based neurophysiology data, one of the most common and important data types in neuroscience. A series of high-value neurophysiology data sets are being translated into the unified data format and shared with the broader scientific community.
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The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was launched by President Obama in 2013 to advance the science and technologies needed to unlock the mysteries of the human brain. It is a broad, collaborative effort to accelerate the development and application of a new generation of tools to study how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. These new technologies will help scientists explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores and retrieves information and will shed light on the complex links between brain structure, function and behavior.
The projects funded by the BRAIN Initiative are producing massive quantities of data. However, the full benefits of these data will not be realized if they cannot be easily shared, pooled and analyzed. That’s where Neurodata Without Borders (NWB) comes in. By standardizing neuroscience data, NWB can help ensure that the goals of the BRAIN Initiative and other large-scale neuroscience projects will be met.