The Canadian Brain Research Strategy (CBRS) has been developed through a series of workshops that brought together brain researchers from across Canada (see History page). It is an evolving process, however, the current consensus is to focus on three transformative initiatives:
1. National Transdisciplinary Training Program
A national training platform will be designed to break down the barriers between scientific disciplines that impede progress and equip a new generation of scientists to do neuroscience and mental health research differently. Young Canadians are tomorrow’s leaders in academia, health care and industry, and they can ensure that advances in neuroscience broadly inform a knowledge-based society. CBRS-led training will encompass disciplines beyond biology and behavior, creating a shared language among biologists, physical and computational scientists and social scientists. It will also build capacity in neuroscience-related areas of ethics, law, and policy to empower the design of studies and translation of new discoveries for the benefit of individuals and society at large. Finally, it will ensure that Canada’s neuroscience future reflects the nation’s diversity because the success of science as way of knowing depends on it.
2. Distributed Technology Development & Dissemination Platforms
CBRS will hardwire Canadian brain research, creating a national infrastructure that eliminates the geographic and institutional barriers to new brain research tools, technologies and methods, allowing scientists to conduct research beyond the scope of their own laboratories. In much of the same way that astronomers can access telescopes to probe the universe or nanoscientists can use molecular foundries to create new materials with nanoscale precision, Canadian neuroscientists will be able to access the most powerful brain research tools through a series of distributed technology platforms. Beyond providing access to shared tools, these platforms will be dynamic, collaborative hubs that connect technology developers, testers and users together, to accelerate the development and open dissemination of new tools.
3. International Neuroscience Open Data Platform
New technologies are enabling neuroscientists to collect unprecedented amounts of data about the brain, in animals and humans, in health and disease, and throughout the lifespan. The challenge in the coming decades will be to integrate these data into a holistic model of brain structure and function. Achieving such a model will require greater collaboration between experimentalists and theorists, powerful computational resources, new approaches to data analysis, and a workforce with the quantitative skills, including statistics and machine learning, to extract meaning from large datasets.
CBRS will connect and enhance Canada’s existing computational and human resources to create an integrated understanding of the brain. For example, it will bring together theoretical and experimental brain researchers to advance our understanding of how the brain learns. Those researchers will collaborate to formulate new theories of learning and memory, and make predictions that can be tested experimentally to discover the brain’s neural code and how it adapts. Finally, CBRS will also foster and facilitate data sharing among the countries involved in the International Brain Initiative.