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To be FAIR, the only way to develop a functioning system is to get going

24 January 2024

A recent editorial in Nature magazine about harmonizing between the large international brain initiatives stated that “Several of the projects are using similar or identical technologies. It makes sense for the teams to liaise more closely, at the very least to begin a discussion on how to establish shared data standards, which they have not yet done.” 

The fact of the matter is that representatives from these projects have discussed shared data standards for several years, as noted in our response to the editors. Representatives from the large brain projects are actively working to harmonize (meta)data standards and create infrastructure interoperability through venues provided by INCF: many of the PIs representing standards and infrastructure projects in the US BRAIN Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network, Brain/MINDS, the Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform, and the Human Brain Project are active members of the INCF network and participate in INCF activities which provide venues to identify the overlaps, gaps, and opportunities for alignment between the large brain projects. 

 An example of such efforts can be found in KnowledgeSpace (KS), an open data discoverability portal and encyclopedia for neuroscience that links brain research concepts with the data, models, and literature that support them, developed collaboratively by INCF, the Human Brain Project, and the Neuroscience Information Framework. KS maps the metadata between 17 of the world’s leading neuroscience repositories (including the many developed by the large-scale brain projects) with PubMed and Wikipedia to provide a single entry point where researchers can find data, models, and literature related to their query. This endeavor naturally required direct communication and collaboration between the large-scale brain initiatives. The international large-scale brain projects are not only communicating with each other through venues provided by INCF, but also through initiatives such as the International Brain Initiative and its working group on data sharing.

 INCF provides a community environment which has developed over the past decade with the engagement of  neuroscience, neuroinformatics, and data science researchers, tool developers, and infrastructure developers from academic groups across the globe. This environment has proven conducive to initiating standardization efforts between not just the large brain projects but within the global neuroscience community as a whole. 

The Nature editorial reinforces the very real need for coordination of global neuroscience data, which is satisfied by the activities of the INCF network. Standardizing global neuroscience can be done in a cost-effective manner but it cannot be done without support from funding agencies. Support for infrastructures such as INCF is crucial, and granting agencies must allow and encourage grantees to participate in activities such as the INCF network in order to develop and implement data management and data sharing workflows. 

 The responsibility lies not only on funders: we, the neuroscience community, have as much responsibility for collecting and curating data as we do to ensure data can be effectively shared. Participating in the INCF network is an opportunity to build the capacity that will enable neuroscience teams to take on this data sharing responsibility - as the former chair of the INCF Governing Board and long-term INCF community member Maryann Martone put it: “the only way to develop a functioning system is to get going”.  


Further reading:
Martone ME. The past, present and future of neuroscience data sharing: a perspective on the state of practices and infrastructure for FAIR. Front Neuroinform. 2024 Jan 5;17:1276407. doi: 10.3389/fninf.2023.1276407. PMID: 38250019; PMCID: PMC10796549.

Martone ME. A decade of GigaScience: the importance of community organizations for open and FAIR efforts in neuroinformatics. Gigascience. 2022 Jun 14;11:giac060. doi: 10.1093/gigascience/giac060. PMID: 35701370; PMCID: PMC9197677.

 Poline JB, Kennedy DN, Sommer FT, Ascoli GA, Van Essen DC, Ferguson AR, Grethe JS, Hawrylycz MJ, Thompson PM, Poldrack RA, Ghosh SS, Keator DB, Athey TL, Vogelstein JT, Mayberg HS, Martone ME. Is Neuroscience FAIR? A Call for Collaborative Standardisation of Neuroscience Data. Neuroinformatics. 2022 Apr;20(2):507-512. doi: 10.1007/s12021-021-09557-0. Epub 2022 Jan 21. PMID: 35061216; PMCID: PMC9300762.

 Eke DO, Bernard A, Bjaalie JG, Chavarriaga R, Hanakawa T, Hannan AJ, Hill SL, Martone ME, McMahon A, Ruebel O, Crook S, Thiels E, Pestilli F. International data governance for neuroscience. Neuron. 2022 Feb 16;110(4):600-612. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.11.017. Epub 2021 Dec 15. PMID: 34914921; PMCID: PMC8857067.

 Abrams MB, Bjaalie JG, Das S, Egan GF, Ghosh SS, Goscinski WJ, Grethe JS, Kotaleski JH, Ho ETW, Kennedy DN, Lanyon LJ, Leergaard TB, Mayberg HS, Milanesi L, Mouček R, Poline JB, Roy PK, Strother SC, Tang TB, Tiesinga P, Wachtler T, Wójcik DK, Martone ME. A Standards Organization for Open and FAIR Neuroscience: the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility. Neuroinformatics. 2022 Jan;20(1):25-36. doi: 10.1007/s12021-020-09509-0. Epub 2021 Jan 27. Erratum in: Neuroinformatics. 2021 Apr 13;: PMID: 33506383; PMCID: PMC9036053.

 Sandström M, Abrams M, Bjaalie JG, Hicks M, Kennedy DN, Kumar A, Poline JB, Roy PK, Tiesinga P, Wachtler T, Goscinski WJ. Recommendations for repositories and scientific gateways from a neuroscience perspective. Sci Data. 2022 May 16;9(1):212. doi: 10.1038/s41597-022-01334-1. PMID: 35577825; PMCID: PMC9110735.

 Eglen SJ, Marwick B, Halchenko YO, Hanke M, Sufi S, Gleeson P, Silver RA, Davison AP, Lanyon L, Abrams M, Wachtler T, Willshaw DJ, Pouzat C, Poline JB. Toward standard practices for sharing computer code and programs in neuroscience. Nat Neurosci. 2017 May 25;20(6):770-773. doi: 10.1038/nn.4550. PMID: 28542156; PMCID: PMC6386137.