Show me the data

From molecular genetics to brain imaging, neuroscientists churn out so much data that only a small fraction ever appears in their published work. And therein lies a conflict.

Efforts now under way would require neuroscientists to make all of their data available for analysis by other researchers. That has inspired praise from some quarters and criticism from others.

In the September Nature Neuroscience, Stephen H. Koslow of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., argues that neuroscientists need to establish a system to pool and analyze experimental data. Koslow heads a government-funded initiative attempting to organize a network of databases that would serve as a library of neuroscience information. Data sharing through such a system will yield better experiments and faster scientific advances, he predicts.

Still, many investigators worry that by immediately giving away all of their data, other scientists will use it to beat them to the punch with new revelations. Stay tuned, says Koslow.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.