June 2013

Reviewing the BRAIN Project

2. Investigator(s)
Strengths 

  • • The neuroscience research community is very strong, with many good connections between biological, engineering and computational fields.
  • • An advisory board of outstanding neuroscience investigators has been assembled.

Weaknesses 

  • • Some of the spokespeople for the BRAIN initiative appear to have relatively little previous experience with neuroscience research.
  • • Some of the applicants have histories of promoting large-scale data collection projects without adequately recognizing the power of less directed and frequently more creative approaches.
  • • The engagement with leading investigators in the neuroscience community appears to have been relatively limited even when accounting for the early stage of this proposal.

3. Innovation
Strengths 

  • • Support for technology development and interdisciplinary research has the potential to develop innovative tools and approaches.

Weaknesses 

  • • The proposal does not recognize adequately the range of ongoing activities related to mapping brain connections and developing tools for neuroscience research and does not articulate how it is different from them.

4. Approach
Strengths 

  • • Coordination of activities between research programs at different agencies has the potential to enhance brain research.

Weaknesses 

  • • The approach is unclear, particularly with regard to the relationships between brain-activity mapping and other goals.
  • • The need for a large-scale, federally coordinated program rather than appropriately supported, investigator-initiated alternatives is not adequately justified.
  • • If the goal is to “crack the brain’s code,” the applicants would be wise to recall that “genetic code” was cracked not through large-scale data collection but rather through carefully conceived and incisive experiments designed and executed by individual investigators and small collaborative groups.
  • • The comparison with the program to put a man on the moon and the HGP is not apt, as those programs’ ultimate goals were relatively unambiguous. In contrast, it is unclear how one would judge if an understanding of the brain or a brain-activity map had been achieved.
  • • The types of coordination of activities from different agencies in both new and ongoing activities are not described adequately.

 

 

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2 Comments

  • FACTUAL ERRORS OF UNQUALIFIED BIASED REVIEWERS KILLED MY GRANT!!11!! I APPEAL!!!!11!!

  • Thumbs up! As Arthur Kornberg loved to remind people, there is no more efficient way of spending NIH $$ than through the untargeted R01 pool. Thanks, Jeremy, for carrying the banner so elegantly!

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