Samples of Requests for Opinions
The following request for opinions was published in the Society for Neuroscience Newsletter, Trends in Neuroscience, Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Journal of NIH Research.
Request for Opinions Concerning a National Neural Circuitry Database
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has formed a study committee to examine the desirability, feasibility, and possible ways of establishing a National Neural Circuitry Database (NNCD). It is planned that the report of this committee, including specific recommendations, will be issued in January 1991. Under consideration is an NNCD that would contain textual and graphic information on the anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and pharmacology of rat, monkey, and human brains. The database would, through two- and three-dimensional graphic display, permit the users to rotate or slice images in order to access various types of information regarding brain structure and function. Further, such a database could allow for the electronic storage and transmission of neuroscience data; thus, the database could function as a vehicle for basic and clinical neuroscience research collaboration and data sharing.
The study committee recognizes the critical need for any eventual NNCD to be planned carefully with the highest priority assigned to the needs of the potential users in the neuroscience community. Therefore,
the committee invites any interested persons to offer their opinions, suggestions and/or concerns on this matter in writing to:
National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Room 324 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418
Please confine your comments to no more than two, single-spaced, typewritten pages. It would be most useful if comments were received by April 30, 1990, but all comments received by May 31, 1990, will be considered.
The study is being conducted by the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences with funds provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and National Science Foundation.
The following letter was sent to the current and past presidents and councilors of the Society for Neuroscience.
December 21, 1989
There have been discussions among members of the Society for Neuroscience for a number of years regarding the ever-burgeoning amount of data generated by neuroscience research and how the management of this vast knowledge base is becoming impossible for individual investigators. Such discussions often include the possibility of establishing some kind of database for neuroscience, and a few neuroscientists have begun to develop small, prototype databases for their own areas of interest. In response to these interests, the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Science Foundation have requested the Institute of Medicine/ National Academy of Sciences to form a study committee to examine the desirability, feasibility, and possible ways of establishing a National Neural Circuitry Database (NNCD). I agreed to chair this committee, composed of neuroscientists and computer scientists, because I believe that such a project requires the kind of careful consideration and objective assessment that an IOM study can provide. In addition, although the usefulness of an NNCD might be imagined, the actual establishment of such a resource would present a daunting challenge in terms of organization, planning, and funding. Therefore,
I would like the committee to draw from as broad a range of experience and expertise as possible. With that commitment in mind, I am inviting you, the current and past presidents and councilors of the Society for Neuroscience, to offer your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns regarding our study.
The kind of NNCD that we have been charged to assess would be intended as a resource for basic and clinical neuroscience. It would not be a simple bibliographic reference source; rather, it would contain textual and graphic information on the anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and pharmacology of rat, monkey, and human brains. It is envisioned that the database would, through two- and three-dimensional graphic displays, permit the users to rotate or slice images in order to access various types of information about brain structure and function. Further, such a database could allow for the electronic storage and transmission of neuroscience data; thus, it could function as a vehicle for research collaboration and data sharing.
Although we also intend to request opinions from neuroscientists through published solicitations and open forum meetings, I feel that your experience in the leadership of the Society can lend a special perspective to this issue. Please send your reply to the IOM study director, Dr. Constance Pechura (listed below); she will compile the responses and send copies to me. Connie will also be available by phone if you have any questions or need any additional information.
I greatly appreciate your time and thought in responding to this request.
With best regards in the New Year,
Joseph B. Martin,
Committee on a National Neural Circuitry Database