Monday, 18 June 2007

Mousebrain Project

The ARROW Project is Australia's pre-eminent open access research repository project, and I am a member of its Management Committee. I think I may have missed something at the last meeting, however - the term Mousebrain Project was mentioned, so I sprang to attention and wrote it down - who doesn't enjoy a new word? I checked it out online and there definitely is a Mousebrain Project - more than one, in fact.

I searched for a runtogether first. Apart from the use of the word as a term of abuse, there were references to an experiment on an IBM supercomputer which simulated half of a mousebrain and attracted a lot of media coverage this year. Mouse Brains is also a new and acclaimed "brainstorming tool for the advertising creatives." And at the website there is a link to dance and drum training in Guinea, West Africa. The word is also used in a cat-related fantasy context, in runtogether form, but you can't investigate everything and I do have to draw lines somewhere.

None of these references had apparent relevance to the ARROW project or other repositories. But then there is the Mouse Brain Library This looked great - I mean, this is a library blog, right? The MBL is in fact an open access repository of "high-resolution images and databases of brains from many genetically characterized strains of mice." Relevance to repositories is clear.

The Mouse Atlas Project is another great project of even wider scope. It aims to develop a dynamic, probabilistic atlas of the adult and developing C57BL/6J mouse. In this, it is related to the Allen Brain Atlas, funded by Paul Allen, a software billionaire; the project has had great publicity. Caltech and the University of Edinburgh, through the Edinburgh Mouse Atlas Project, are also involved in the mouse brain mapping enterprise.

Harvard has a High Resolution Mouse Brain Atlas, with some explanations about why brain atlases are important, and the equally important words "code may be re-used for non-commercial use." "Brain atlases are as essential for the research neuroscientist as are maps for the geographer. . . " according to Harvard. There is also a short piece on the Allen project, written for children by the Neuroscience for Kids editor, which will be accessible to the average reader of this blog, although I had to struggle a little - the older child, I think.

The projects above all demonstrate that online repositories serving well-defined and active research communities have been around for some time, possibly without the use of librarians; we were not the first into the open access repository business. We have come a little late into this area, which finds itself, like us, suddenly confronted by huge new possibilities brought about by the explosion in bandwidth available and falling data storage and processing costs.

OK, there's not much for actual mice in this quick survey. But repositories come out as the right place to be, even if it looks as if librarians have yet to achieve the kind of central role that the Mouse Brain Library has.

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