Unlike in other fields (i.e. genetics and cell biology), neuroscience does not have a standardized way to collect and share the wealth of existing data among researchers. The lack of a common format has made comparison across laboratories difficult and replication of specific experiments almost impossible, significantly slowing overall progress in the field.
Launched in mid 2014, Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology is a pilot project to produce a unified data format for cellular-based neurophysiology data. The common data format is based on representative use case studies from four laboratories, and the project includes a vetting phase for assessing whether other data models can also be used in the new common format.
The project will share not only the NWB format, but also high-value data sets that have been translated into the new format, as well as a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) for reading and writing the data.
Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology is intended to serve the broad neuroscience community and encourage the sharing of data by scientists worldwide.
The NWB Format
The resulting “NWB” format is designed to be flexible enough to incorporate several kinds of data, including electrophysiological and optical physiology data, and to include complex metadata related to stimuli and behavior.