phases, beginning with phase 1 pilot projects, which will provide an experience base for the fulfillment of phase 2.
The maps and models noted above would constitute a Brain Mapping Initiative, but the committee's vision has a broader scope: not a single-entity database but a complex of interrelated, integrated databases accessible from individual laboratories. This resource would also incorporate additional tools and utilities that would allow users to interact with the data to form new associations, achieve nonstandard structural views, or otherwise change the data presentation parameters to test new hypotheses or obtain replication of specific experimental data in other systems, regions, states, or species. The committee recognizes the enormity of such an undertaking and that its successful implementation will require a transformation in the way information is acquired, communicated, and analyzed by neuroscientists.
The committee views this endeavor as a long-term project to be accomplished in two phases. Phase 1 would comprise the organized initiation of seed or pilot projects with the overall goal of gaining experience in the incorporation of the required technologies and applying that experience to the long-range planning of phase 2. In addition, pilot projects would bring focus and utility to information technology research in areas useful to neuroscience research. Phase 2 would be the construction of a complete family of maps and models—all the elements necessary to provide a complex of electronic resources to enhance neuroscience research.
Despite the broad scope and difficulty of such an effort, a number of reasons argue for initiating the project at this time. Aspects of the technological applications are, in fact, already being developed in a number of scattered prototype projects in individual neuroscience laboratories. These include prototype databases and three-dimensional reconstructions of brain structures and cells. Exchange of digital data files and data format standards is also evolving among certain neuroscientists from various subspecialties. To ensure the coordinated establishment of an integrated group of resources useful to the entire neuroscience community, however, the committee believes it is critical to plan the implementation fully and with great care. This planning should be based on experience with, for example, the use and development of standard data formats, methods of handling different kinds of data, methods of oversight and evaluation, and approaches to quality control and data security. In addition, this planning and the initial implementation steps should be managed and coordinated from the outset in a manner that facilitates cross-fertilization of ideas and openness to emerging technologies. Such coordination will further ensure the greatest general benefit and efficient use of fiscal