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Berkeley Lab Hosts Neurodata Without Borders Hackathon

April 27, 2018

Contact: Linda Vu, lvu@lbl.gov, 510.495.2402

20180426 NWBN Hackthon Group 1

Fifth Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology (NWB:N) project hackathon at Berkeley Lab (Photo by Margie Wylie, Berkeley Lab)

Thirty-one neuroscience experts from across the country came to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) on April 26 and 27 to participate in the fifth Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology (NWB:N) project hackathon.

The event was locally organized by Berkeley Lab scientists Oliver Ruebel, Andrew Tritt and Kristofer Bouchard, who led the software development of NWB:N 2.0 in close collaboration with UC San Francisco’s Loren Frank and Eddie Chang and the broader Neurodata Without Borders (NWB:N) community.

NWB:N is a consortium of researchers and foundations with a shared interest in breaking down obstacles to data use and sharing in neuroscience. The group ultimately aims to standardize neurophysiology data on an international scale to ensure the success of brain research worldwide and accelerate the pace of discovery. It was initiated by the Kavli Institute in mid-2014 in the wake of the Brain Initiative announcement.     

“Some of the goals of this event were to promote the adoption of NWB:N software, train new users, work with users to integrate examples of their lab’s data into NWB:N, as well as facilitate communication between users, developers and project teams,” says Ruebel,  a research scientist in CRD’s Data Analytics and Visualization Group. “The Berkeley Lab hosted hackathon is a reflection of our leadership in both the development and dissemination of the NWB:N.” 

According to Bouchard, Berkeley Lab’s leadership in the NWB:N development would not be possible without the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project  BRAINformat: A Data Standardization Framework for Neuroscience Data. By proving their concept at a hackathon in 2014, the Berkeley Lab team caught the attention of the neuroscience community and was then invited to join discussions about NWB:N and novel concepts for standardization. The team then began working on a 2.0 version of the software, called NWB:N 2.0. They presented a poster of their work 2017 Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington D.C. and released a beta version of their software last year so that users could offer input before the version’s officially release this year. At a recent NIH BRAIN Investigators meeting in Bethesda, NWB:N 2.0 

“Berkeley LabOliver Ruebel and Andrew Tritt in particular—have a long history of developing sustainable, well-engineered scientific software for biologists. They have the expertise and collaborative spirit to work with a diversity of researchers,” says Bouchard. “Berkeley Lab’s extensive tradition of creating computational tools and techniques for science is one big reason why NWB:N 2.0 is poised to become a community standard.”

“A central challenge in the sharing of biological data is creating a format and software architecture that are simultaneously standardized yet extensible to new use cases to accommodate novel experimental paradigms,” says Tritt. “We believe the concepts that were developed and instantiated in the NWB:N 2.0 are general design principles for standardization of other biological data.”

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) Computing Sciences organization provides the computing and networking resources and expertise critical to advancing the Department of Energy's research missions: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials and increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe.

ESnet, the Energy Sciences Network, provides the high-bandwidth, reliable connections that link scientists at 40 DOE research sites to each other and to experimental facilities and supercomputing centers around the country. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) powers the discoveries of 7,000-plus scientists at national laboratories and universities, including those at Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD). CRD conducts research and development in mathematical modeling and simulation, algorithm design, data storage, management and analysis, computer system architecture and high-performance software implementation. NERSC and ESnet are Department of Energy Office of Science User Facilities.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the DOE’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.