Scientists 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.
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