Our work so far suggests some future directions which neuroinformatics technology might take. The management and distribution of neurobiological data in general, and for the Human Brain Project in particular, requires that the wide variety of information be made available in a consistent and reliable format to a wide range of groups, such as neuroscientists, medical doctors, and students, for multiple purposes. The potential of the Internet to provide a reliable means of sharing the Human Brain Project generated data is enormous. The Human Brain Project and its constituent programs can be viewed as the beginning of the development of a digital library for human brain research. We recommend that in the next phase of the Human Brain Project considerations should be made for the interoperability and the integration of all the projects under the umbrella of a Human Brain Project Digital Library.
Efforts to develop digital libraries have already begun (Fox et al., 1995). The development of scientific Human Brain Project related digital libraries (data repositories) can be expected to trigger the development of information retrieval and other tools that provide not just access to published neurobiology related works, but to the information resources (the data and metadata) upon which published works are built. Information systems must provide multiple forms of access to research data, but they must also tie data to additional information resources that typically reside outside scientific databases in the form of overviews describing the origins and contexts of the research, and metadata (i.e., data about the data) indicating the appropriate uses of the data and its availability or distribution.
The addition of metadata, and other information resources on the Human Brain Project data adds value to the data and makes interoperability easier. Metadata standards provide specialist users with information about such things as the content, format, availability, and appropriate uses of data. Data transfer standards facilitate the exchange of data over wide area networks. Communication protocols for networked information retrieval, such as ANSI/NISO Z39.50 (NISO 1992), enable users to query a remote data base over a network. Therefore, we recommend that interdisciplinary and inter-agency efforts should be attempted to develop a Human Brain Project Digital Library, the benefits of which will be shared by those involved in neuroscience research and education.