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PRESS RELEASE: Human Brain Project: Neuroscientists across Europe are raising a red flag.

  1. 7.7.2014

    EMBARGO July 7th 2014

    Human Brain Project: Neuroscientists across Europe are raising a red flag.
    In an Open Letter to the European Commission (EC), neuroscientists express their concern about the current course of the Human Brain Project (HBP) and call for the EC to examine closely both the scientific policy and management of the HBP prior to its renewal. The HBP was launched two years ago by the EC as a European “Future
    Emerging Technology Flagship.” The HBP leadership presented a bold vision of a large-scale collaborative project that will span over one hundred neuroscience and technology groups across the world, all working together towards understanding the human brain. However, due to the projects’ narrow focus, the HBP has been highly controversial and divisive within the European neuroscience community and even within the consortium, resulting in on-going losses of members.

    A formal review of the HBP is now scheduled to evaluate the success of the project’s ramp-up phase and the plan for the next phase. At stake is funding on the order of 50M€ per year European Commission for the “core project” and 50M€ in “partnering projects” provided largely by the European member states’ funding bodies.
    Many international neuroscientists, including both HBP members and non-members are now calling for this review to be performed in a very critical manner.
    “We want the public and the government to know that we believe collaborative research in neuroscience can yield great benefits to human well-being but that the Human Brain Project does not provide what is needed to achieve that.”, explains Zachary Mainen, HBP member and Director of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, in Lisbon, Portugal. Neuroscientists composed an open letter that describes both their support of this project and their concern about the course it is taking under the current management. In this letter, they recommend certain criteria to be taken in order to insure the future success of the project. “If we don’t wake up and address this situation by insisting on transparent, accountable and representative structures to support large-scale research efforts then we will fail to reach our goals and compromise the legacy that we might have achieved.”, concludes Mainen. In the event that the EC is unable to adopt the recommendations proposed in the Open Letter, the undersigned pledge not to apply for HBP partnering projects and will urge other scientists to join them in this commitment.

    For more information, visit the website: http://neurofuture.eu/

    Summary of the Open Letter:

    Neuroscience advances our understanding of normal and pathological brain function, offering potentially enormous benefits to society. It is, therefore, critical to Europe. The Human Brain Project (HBP), sponsored by the European Commission (EC), was meant to forward this mission. However, due in great part to its narrow focus, it has been highly controversial and divisive within the European neuroscience community and even within the consortium, resulting in on-going losses of members. The HBP is now scheduled for review and we wish to draw the attention of the EC to these problems. We believe the HBP is not a well conceived or implemented project and that it is ill suited to be the centerpiece of European neuroscience. We are particularly concerned about the plan to tie a substantial portion European member states’ neuroscience funding to the HBP through so-called ‘partnering projects’. We call for the EC to go beyond the strict requirements of the upcoming review, to demand transparency and accountability and, if necessary, change the structure of the HBP’s governance and supervision to correct their shortcomings. Failing that we call for the EC to redirect the HBP funding to smaller investigator-driven neuroscience grants. We stand fully behind a strong and united European neuroscience strategy and we pledge not to seek funding through HBP partnering projects that would compromise that mission.

    Press Contacts:
    Zachary Mainen
    Email: zmainen@neuro.fchampalimaud.org | phone: +351 210 480 100
    Alexandre Pouget
    Email: alex.pouget@gmail.com | phone: +41 22 379 4699

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