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IU part of $1 million grant from NSF to create country’s first big data “spoke” focused on neuroscience

Oct. 5, 2016

"The field of neuroscience is transforming," wrote IU neuroscientist Franco Pestilli in a commentary published last year in the journal Nature Scientific Data. "Brain data from people and institutions around the world are being openly shared — moving from office desks and personal storage devices to institutionally supported cloud systems and public repositories."

This process of openly sharing brain data — a part of the larger movement toward "open science" — is ushering in the era of "big data neuroscience."

Franko Pestilli

IU neuroscientist Franco Pestilli  | Photo By INDIANA UNIVERSITY

And now, as part of the team named recipient on a $1 million grant, IU will play a role on the forefront of this era by contributing to the establishment of the Neuroscience Spoke in the Midwest Big Data Hub. The principal investigator on the award is Pestilli, an assistant professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

The award — a part of a major new initiative from the National Science Foundation and White House to "create a national ecosystem for Big Data and Data Science" — is a symbol of IU’s progression toward leadership in the field of both neuroscience and big data science. It is also part of $11 million in federal grants announced today to advance research and create infrastructure designed to ensure data acquired by publicly funded basic research is effectively shared and used.

"This award will help put IU on the map as a leader in the big data neuroscience," Pestilli said. "We will contribute to moving neuroscience research beyond a cottage industry model, where independent labs generate data that remains unshared, by establishing a regional and national network of professionals and scientists who are proficient in data science and who possess the assets necessary to share data, software and computing resources that contribute to the impact of the scientific enterprise and the reproducibility of results."

The term "spoke" refers to IU’s position as part of the Midwest Big Data Hub, one of four regional "hubs" across the country funded under the NSF’s Big Data Hub program. The award makes IU part of the only spoke in the United States focused on neuroscience.

Brain scan

The Neuroscience Spoke will facilitate the sharing of data such as this visualization of two brain connectomes. The image, which uses two different methods for mapping human white matter, is based upon a scan of Franco Pestilli’s brain. | IMAGE COURTESY OF FRANCO PESTILLI

The Neuroscience Spoke is made up of IU, the University of Michigan, Case Western University, The Ohio State University, Northwestern University and the University of Washington St. Louis.

Beyond its leading position in the new Neuroscience Spoke, IU is also playing other leading roles in the NSF’s Big Data Hub initiative. Beth Plale, professor in the IU School of Computing and Informatics and science director of the IU Pervasive Technology Institute, is a co-primary investigator on the Midwest Big Data Hub, and Bernice Pescosolido, IU Distinguished Professor of Sociology, is leader of the Midwest Big Data Hub’s Network Science Spoke.

"I look forward to reaching out to the extended IU campus for contributions to these efforts," added Pestilli. "IU expertise in high-performance computing, infrastructure engineering and big data projects will naturally extend to these new efforts in the neurosciences."

The fully story is available through the IU Newsroom on the Science At Work blog.

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