BRAIN Initiative prioritizes better data storage and analysis

When President Obama unveiled the BRAIN Initiative in April, his speech was heavy on lofty rhetoric but light on detail. This week the team tasked with turning the grand vision into practical projects filed its first report, and placed strong emphasis on improving data storage, analysis and interpretation.

The interim report lists 9 priorities, several of which touch on the handling of data. New methods of analysis and interpretation are called for, as are well-curated, public data platforms with common standards. The data-focused objectives are designed to ensure maximum value is extracted from the anticipated deluge of BRAIN Initiative information. In doing so, the data objectives--and other goals--contribute toward the ultimate aim--to understand how circuits in the brain generate complex thoughts and behavior.

"You can't do all of that in year one, you can't do all of that with $40 million, and you can't do all of that at NIH either," Cori Bargmann of Rockefeller University told the New York Times. Bargmann and Stanford University's Bill Newsome co-chaired the group tasked with delivering the report. The need for support from outside the NIH is clearly stated in the report, which highlights the role industry could play in organizing and mining big data to 'radically accelerate' the BRAIN Initiative.

The question of funding isn't directly covered by the report, but observers have nonetheless seen a clear statement in its 58 pages. Talking to the NYT, Janelia Farm Research Campus executive director Gerald Rubin called the report "a manifesto for getting $500 million a year." The White House budget proposal for 2014 includes $110 million in funding for the BRAIN Initiative, $40 million of which will come from the NIH. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and National Science Foundation are also contributing to the project.

- here's the NYT article
- check out Nature's take
- read the report (PDF)