BRAIN 2.0: NIH seeking broad input as it plans the second half of the NIH BRAIN Initiative

BRAIN 2.0: NIH seeking broad input as it plans the second half of the NIH BRAIN Initiative

Researchers funded by the NIH BRAIN Initiative continue to break new ground in scientific discovery and technology development. BRAIN 2025, the strategic plan for the BRAIN Initiative at NIH, outlines the overarching vision and goals for the effort. Now at the halfway mark, the roadmap for this ambitious 10-year program to monitor, modulate and understand brain circuit activity is being revisited to assess BRAIN’s progress and potential updates to the plan moving forward.  We recently released a Request for Information asking for your suggestions on how NIH can most effectively accomplish the ambitious goals for the BRAIN Initiative set forth in BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision. Responses must be received by November 15, 2018, and any inquiries should be directed to BRAINFeedback@nih.gov. We strongly encourage you to respond and look forward to hearing your ideas.

BRAIN 2.0 kicked off at the 4th BRAIN Initiative investigator meeting in April where nearly 1,000 investigators, trainees, and program staff attended the largest gathering yet for this annual event. Dr. Collins opened day two of the meeting by officially announcing that NIH has invited an external group of experts to advise the NIH on how to best design the second half of the Initiative’s lifespan, dubbed “BRAIN 2.0.” This new Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD WG) will work intensively over the next year to: (1) update the scientific vision laid out in BRAIN 2025 to guide the second half of the Initiative, (2) identify valuable areas of new and continued technology development, and (3) consider the unique contributions that BRAIN can make to neuroscience.

In the first opportunity to brainstorm what BRAIN 2.0 might look like, we began the final day of the meeting with a session titled, “Re-Visioning the NIH BRAIN Initiative Town Hall.” I joined a panel featuring NIMH Director Dr. Joshua Gordon, Dr. Newsome, co-chair of the original group that produced BRAIN 2025, and Drs. Catherine Dulac and John Maunsell, the co-chairs of the new working group. Together, we opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience. We had a fantastic discussion, covering diverse topics like data infrastructure and sharing and ensuring the integration of neuroethics into neuroscience research. The session yielded helpful input from the BRAIN community pertaining to NIH’s plans for the Initiative and areas for improvement as we look toward BRAIN 2.0.

Looking ahead

Since the announcement of BRAIN 2.0 planning, the new ACD WG accepted its charge and has hit the ground running. First, we used feedback gathered at the Investigators Meeting to add a member to the WG roster with expertise in human brain imaging research. NIH staff provided Drs. Maunsell, Dulac, and the other WG members with data and analyses to help them review the progress of the Initiative to date, given the strategic plan outlined in BRAIN 2025. On June 14, Dr. Gordon and I updated the NIH ACD on the status of the WG and an estimated timeline for their work. ACD members were enthusiastic about this work, and they were encouraged to hear of plans to establish a BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup. Drs. James Eberwine and Jeffrey Kahn will co-lead this subgroup, charged with developing a Neuroethics Roadmap for the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Alongside the ACD WG, they will lead a team of neuroethics experts in reviewing BRAIN 2025 and characterizing neuroethical implications that may arise from BRAIN research.

Together, the BRAIN ACD WG and Neuroethics Subgroup will help NIH chart BRAIN 2.0 as we pursue the vision of the BRAIN Initiative in an ever-evolving neuroscience landscape. In addition to the expert advice NIH receives from these working groups, our success depends on input from the broader research community and interested public. We will be holding a series of public, cross-country workshops and events to solicit input and expert consultations from leaders in the field, as well as hear from stakeholders in the scientific community and the public. These workshops will be videocast and open to the public and will include presentations and panel discussions by scientific speakers, broader discussion with the working group, and the opportunity for public comment. You can learn more details about the upcoming workshops in Boston, Chicago, Houston, and San Diego here. The BRAIN ACD WG will then integrate the information gathered from these workshops with the responses to the Request for Information to help inform the strategic guidance they develop for the second half of the BRAIN Initiative. Your engagement in this process is a crucial part of the WG efforts to build upon the BRAIN 2025 framework – we look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, August 10, 2018