Promoting Standards and Best Practices in Neuroinformatics
By: David Kennedy, PhD
One of the core factors that is critical to implementing the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles for all scientific ‘products’ (such as publications, data, software, etc.) is that information about these products is annotated using applicable standards and best practices. NITRC, as a distributor of information about a broad spectrum resources, relies on standards and best practices in order to be able to support discovery and distribution of these resources to the community.
Understanding Image Standards
The neuroimaging community is fortunate to have a number well defined image standards (DICOM, NIfTI, BIDS, etc.) as well as the OHBM Committee on Best Practices in Data Analysis and Sharing (COBIDAS) report. With these standards and practices, along with the standards of citation (publication, data, software), the community is well situated to support FAIR practices in support of promoting a more reproducible approach to scientific publication.
Standards and best practices, however, are only as good as the adoption of them make them. In general, standards must emerge from their communities of need, and must solve, practically, a specific problem for that community. NIfTI, for example, was born out of the need for disparate neuroimaging software tools to interoperate. Often, however, the problem with standards is that there are so many ‘potential’ standards; or so few. Potential standards are often created quickly, in response to some time-critical need; whereas community standards must emerge over time, overwhich the utility, adoption, and relative impact of a particular standard can emerge. Efficient identification of important community standards is important in order to more quickly enable the sharing and integration of information within that community.
The Endorsement of Standards
As part of its role to promote the field of neuroinformatics and aims to advance data reuse and reproducibility in global brain research, the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) has taken on a new role in the area of vetting and endorsement of standards and best practices for the neuroscience community, broadly defined. As part of the endorsement process, INCF supports an independent assessment of a potential standard in terms of: Openness, FAIRness, Testing and Implementation, Governance, Adoption and Use, Sustainability, and Uniqueness. Their review process includes internal review and assessment as well as the opportunity for public comment. Currently endorsed INCF standards include the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) specification. INCF actively solicits potential standards from the community once the developers feel that the assessment criteria can be met.