A New Way of Doing Science

The field of scientific research is notoriously competitive and sometimes cloistered in the most private academic towers, which is understandable considering that grants, funding, even salaries are sometimes dictated by the discoveries that one makes after years of meticulous research in order to outshine their colleagues.

However, with the advent of network intelligence and information-sharing, it seems that for some scientists, this isolationist policy is changing. Scientists from places as far-flung as Melbourne, Australia to Boston, Massachusetts have shared their information with over 100 data centers worldwide, which has led to the discovery of the genes that play a role in both intelligence and in memory.

The team?

  • Dr. Thompson, Nick Martin, and Margaret Wright from Australia
  • Barbara Franke of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands

The problem?

Brain image studies (which are the primary source for information about genes related to intelligence and memory) are expensive and, as a result, the sampled brain image pool to source from is very small. To compensate for this shared shortcoming in brain research, the team persuaded research centers around the world to pool their resources and create a substantial database of material: nearly 21,000 images of brains.

The team then analyzed the collective data to identify which genes were related to brain structure and function and found genes that relate to overall brain size and hippocampus size among other insights.

The results of the study are published in this month’s Nature Genetics magazine.

How will this change the field of scientific research? Does collaboration mean the end of competition?

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