Professor Leslie Smith, Head of the Computer Sciences and Mathematics Department at Stirling University in Scotland, recently gave a talk on “An e-service virtual laboratory supporting collaboration in neuroinformatics”.
Leslie explained that analysts provide the tools to statistically and mathematically check the data while theoreticians and modellers produce analysis codes. The main difficulty is to find accurate experimental data. Because of that, it is important for all the parties to work together in order to obtain the best value with the data provided and to develop common processes enabling the development of analysis systems. The models can then be used to identify emerging properties.
There are cultural and technical issues impeding this cooperation. It is sometimes difficult to create a culture for data sharing and to make all parties understand how this could help to develop science in general. Technical issues also exist, such as unsuitable research platforms, the need to be able to handle data properly, how to work with different formats and the problem of dealing with large volumes of data to be analysed or transferred.
It is also important to develop appropriate platforms for databases which allow for their integration, manipulation and analysis.
The project headed by Professor Smith aims to create a “virtual laboratory” environment for the handling of neurophysiological data and to develop also a client-defined toolkit for data extraction, analysis and modelling. It will create as well a “repository” for analysing, sharing, integration and discovery of data.
It was decided that a Web portal was the best choice. This will ensure that the research output is widely available. Another advantage is that it will capitalise on the possibility of using cloud programming.
It is expected that new platforms will integrate signal processing with theoretical analysis and Bayesian algorithms to trace information flow in networks.
The project is soon to launch a portal based on user feedback.