Why develop standards?
With major brain initiatives across Asia, North America, and Europe committing significant resources to large-scale, multi-faceted efforts to understand the nervous system, we are likely entering a golden age for neuroscience. At the same time, neuroscience, like many domains in biomedicine, is undergoing a reproducibility crisis, where small, underpowered studies, problems in experimental design and analysis, and lack of routine data sharing lead to difficulty in relying on published results.
Common to both the large brain projects and individual investigator led research is the recognition that neuroscience as a whole needs to converge towards a more open and collaborative enterprise, with neuroscientists around the globe committed to open sharing of data and tools. The Declaration of Intent of the International Brain Initiative, an alliance of large national brain projects, states: “Researchers working on brain initiatives from around the world recognise that they are engaged in an effort so large and complex that even with the unprecedented efforts and resources from public and private enterprise, no single initiative will be able to tackle the challenge to fully understand the brain”.
Effective resource sharing means not just that data, processing methods, workflows and tools are made available, but that they are made available in a way that ensures that published findings can be reproduced.
Of equal importance, in the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, data should be published with integration and reuse in mind, so they can be interpreted in new ways, and leveraged so that new knowledge can be extracted. For that to happen, neuroscience as a discipline needs to adopt the FAIR principles [LINK], ensuring that the results of science are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, to both humans and machines.
How we work with community to develop standards
INCF encourages community members to find others with a compatible area of interest, and to join up in Special Interest Groups [LINK to What is a SIG page] to coordinate community around a research area, tool or resource.
In SIGs, users and developers can connect with community members in the same and nearby fields, and collaboratively work to develop, refine and implement community standards and best practices.
The SIGs also serve as the focus for getting agreement and community buy-in on the use of these standards and best practices. In doing this, they will represent and further the INCF mission; to advance data reuse and reproducibility in brain research through the development of FAIR community standards and best practices as applied to tools and infrastructure.
All community members are welcome to be SIG members, regardless of their location in the world. The INCF Secretariat gives support with group communications, coordination between groups, and assistance with logistics and outreach.
INCF also offers funding for working groups (WGs), focused groups of researchers focused on developing or extending an existing standard. Working groups can be formed from within INCF SIGs or independently to accomplish a specific mission or task with designated deliverables, milestones, and timeframes based on the INCF standards and best practices development processes. Proposals to form a Working Group must be made to the CTSI by an INCF Node member; the Secretariat can help make the connection.
The yearly INCF Assembly is a forum for the community to meet and exchange views with developers and users of standards and best practices, to ensure that community feedback is collected and that projects respond to community needs. SIGs and other community efforts have much influence over the programming, speakers, themes and overall meeting focus.
INCF thematic workshop
INCF arranges thematic workshops in areas where there is a need to gather community, to develop or integrate standards. Workshops are often arranged and held in collaboration with community representatives and partner organisations.