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Scientists call for network of “brain observatories” to accelerate neurotechnology research and innovation

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A nation­al net­work of neu­rotech­nol­o­gy cen­ters for the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive (press release):

The authors of the orig­i­nal pro­pos­al for the Brain Activ­i­ty Map (BAM) Project, which inspired the White House’s BRAIN Ini­tia­tive, issued today a posi­tion state­ment in Neu­ron propos­ing the cre­ation of a nation­al net­work of neu­rotech­nol­o­gy cen­ters. These “brain obser­va­to­ries” would enhance and accel­er­ate the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive by lever­ag­ing the suc­cess and cre­ativ­i­ty of indi­vid­ual lab­o­ra­to­ries to devel­op nov­el neu­rotech­nolo­gies.

The authors present evi­dence of past suc­cess of exist­ing nation­al cen­ter-scale sci­ence efforts such as those spon­sored by the Depart­ment of Ener­gy (DOE) with the Human Genome Project where the rate of return on invest­ment was both eco­nom­i­cal­ly impres­sive and sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly invaluable.…They raise the ques­tion: why are neu­ro­sci­en­tists are still expect­ed to work in iso­la­tion in the 21st Cen­tu­ry?

The BAM authors pro­pose a net­work of nation­al Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy Cen­ters as cen­tral­ized “hubs” to coa­lesce cross-dis­ci­pli­nary efforts from a spec­trum of par­tic­i­pants in aca­d­e­m­ic labs, cor­po­rate part­ners and pub­lic and pri­vate research insti­tutes.”

State­ment: A Nation­al Net­work of Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy Cen­ters for the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive (Neu­ron)

  • Sum­ma­ry: We pro­pose the cre­ation of a nation­al net­work of neu­rotech­nol­o­gy cen­ters to enhance and accel­er­ate the BRAIN Ini­tia­tive and opti­mal­ly lever­age the effort and cre­ativ­i­ty of indi­vid­ual lab­o­ra­to­ries involved in it. As “brain obser­va­to­ries,” these cen­ters could pro­vide the crit­i­cal inter­dis­ci­pli­nary envi­ron­ment both for real­iz­ing ambi­tious and com­plex tech­nolo­gies and for pro­vid­ing indi­vid­ual inves­ti­ga­tors with access to them.
  • From the full text: … From the Sev­er­al cen­ter-scale efforts in neu­ro­science have recent­ly been embarked upon by pri­vate research foun­da­tions, such as the Allen Insti­tute for Brain Sci­ence and the Howard Hugh­es Insti­tute Janelia Farm cam­pus; in cer­tain respects, these ini­tia­tives might serve as poten­tial mod­els. How­ev­er, while pri­vate-sec­tor efforts will no doubt remain impor­tant par­tic­i­pants in nation­al efforts, they are nec­es­sar­i­ly lim­it­ed in scope and focus. They are unlike­ly to assem­ble, man­age, and sus­tain the deep and wide efforts need­ed for nucle­at­ing the tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion that we believe is pos­si­ble. In fact, because the neu­rotech­nol­o­gy cen­ters we advo­cate will ulti­mate­ly ben­e­fit soci­ety at large, we believe they should exist with­in the pub­lic domain and be man­aged as a nation­al resource. Jump-start­ing such nation­al cen­ters will require con­sen­sus among researchers, fed­er­al offi­cials, and pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions; to achieve this, inspired pub­lic lead­er­ship will be essen­tial.

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