Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy

BRAINshare: Sharing Data in BRAIN Initiative Studies


The NIH BRAIN Initiative has been ongoing since 2013. The Initiative “is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain” through the “development and application of innovative technologies” to deepen our understandings of how the brain and neural circuits interact in health and disease (The BRAIN Initiative, NIH, 2021).

Data sharing is essential to promote equity and maximize the impact of the significant public investment in the BRAIN Initiative. Data sharing plans are now required for BRAIN funding, but there is an urgent need to develop specific policies and practices that are empirically informed and address ethical challenges and concerns related to sharing human data from BRAIN research. Our own experience and research with investigators conducting BRAIN Initiative studies of closed loop or adaptive deep brain stimulation, for instance, suggests that the practice of sharing data is inconsistent and incomplete, despite broad agreement that it is important. Some ethical challenges relate to privacy, consent, the interoperability of data types and sharing platforms, and competing commercial and processional interests.

The specific objectives of BRAINshare: Sharing Data in BRAIN Initiative Studies are to engage key stakeholders in a deliberative process to identify challenges and concerns specific to sharing human data from the BRAIN Initiative and to generate empirically informed policy and practice options to facilitate responsible sharing of this data.

  • In Aim 1, we will use informational interviews and document analysis to identify BRAIN Initiative-specific data-sharing challenges, as well as relevant policy and practice considerations.
  • In Aim 2, we will use semi-structured interviews and surveys to evaluate BRAIN Initiative research participants’ attitudes, preferences, and concerns about data sharing and brain privacy.
  • In Aim 3, we will employ a modified policy Delphi process with diverse stakeholders to prioritize challenges and generate and evaluate policy and practice options that address high-priority challenges.

The long-term goals of this research program are to develop, test, and disseminate strategies to improve data sharing in biomedical research associated with human neuroscience. The overall objective of this project is to apply our combined expertise in neuroscience, neuroethics, social science, law, and science policy to identify challenges and concerns and generate empirically informed policy and practice options that facilitate responsible data sharing within the NIH BRAIN Initiative.

Supported by: R01MH126937, Grant funding from BRAIN Initiative - National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health


Project Personnel