Understanding the brain requires great effort and the scale of neuroscience research projects is increasing to scale. This means crossing borders in big international research initiatives, and as a result being subject to national and international laws, regulations and policies in both data collection and transfer. While neuroscience data transcends borders, data governance typically stays within its own geopolitical borders. In a recent paper published in Neuron, the International Brain Initiative calls for an international approach to data governance to support researchers, institutions, research infrastructures and funders in navigating this complex legal and regulatory landscape.

“We need a clearer international data governance framework to ensure that the increasingly big data generated for neuroscience research and innovation in different jurisdictions are collected, processed, shared and applied responsibly. We call for international data governance to become a priority. It should not be an afterthought. This means we need to develop practical tools and guidance to streamline these processes, as well as to increase awareness and education on data governance,” says Damian Eke, leader of the International Brain Initiative (IBI) Data Sharing and Standards Working Group Taskforce on International Data Governance alongside Franco Pestilli and data governance coordinator for the Human Brain Project.

It is the International Brain Initiative (IBI) Data Sharing and Standards Working Group Taskforce on International Data Governance that are now calling for an international approach to governance of neuroscience data. They call for an international approach and suggest practical actions to reach their goal. Among other things, they suggest funding to be directed towards supporting the development and implementation of international data governance tools and services for neuroscience, integration of the approach into research project planning and data management plans, as well as data governance offices in the organisations that deal with and manage big neuroscience data.

The authors of the recent Neuron publication also highlight the value of multi-stakeholder collaborations and partnerships to support the development of international data governance of neuroscience data. And suggest establishing a global alliance to guide the development of standards and best practices as well as a federated data catalogue from the brain initiatives and other resources around the world to ensure consistency. The need for technical, regulatory and ethical toolkits is also underlined.

“A solid foundation for individual researchers to operate from is also crucial. Which is why we also suggest increasing awareness of international data governance and education on the topic. This includes integrating international data governance in curricula and professional training activities, and including conference organisers, funders and other initiatives to consider and support such training activities,” Damian Eke concludes.

By Anna Holm

Eke DO, Bernard A, Bjaalie, et al. International data governance for neuroscience. Neuron. First online: 15 December 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.11.017

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