Everyone Benefits When the Global Scientific Community Works Together

February 25th 2020

We have recently called for an end to xenophobia and international bias against scientists.  For example, International Bias: Enough is Enough and Speaking of Research Calls for Support of Global Science.

An open access article, recently published in the journal Neuron, is an excellent example of how everyone can benefit when the global scientific community works together, collaborates, and shares. See this EurekAlert! based on a joint press release from the Child Mind Institute in the US and Newcastle University in the UK, co-leads on this article by the primate neuroimaging scientific community at broad.

Image courtesy of the Newcastle University Press office.

The article entitled “Accelerating the Evolution of Nonhuman Primate Neuroimaging” is a statement by over 150 scientists who gathered in London last year to collaborate on a global resource, sharing primate neuroimaging data across the world. The community outlines their vision for how scientists working without borders can help to advance scientific discovery and contribute towards medical advances.

Primate neuroimaging is indispensable for translation of knowledge that cannot be obtained in humans. This is because the primate brain is much more like that of humans, compared to other commonly used animals for research, and provides fundamental information on how the brain works and how it fails.

This initiative began as a grass-roots endeavour and is gaining momentum. What the scientific community can now achieve goes beyond a single laboratory, institution and country.

Michael Milham, MD, PhD and Vice President of Research at the Child Mind Institute and Director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging and Neuromodulation at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, commented on the advance:

Primate neuroimaging has remained largely piecemeal and single-lab driven, causing most scientists to struggle to amass datasets consisting of even 10 to 20 individuals, whereas the human-imaging community now aim for thousands.”

The article co-lead Christopher Petkov, Professor of Comparative Neuropsychology at Newcastle University Medical School remarks,

 “If this global collaboration blueprint serves as a litmus test of what the future will bring, exciting advances and discoveries not possible to achieve in a single laboratory or country will soon become evident by global collaboration and support.”

The group, in its Meeting Report, also outlines animal welfare and regulation information that is vital for this sensitive area of research. Here, scientists outline the caring approach taken with the animals and why primate neuroscience remains important. The article is also a prime example of scientists opening the discussion of animal research with the public.

Furthermore, the scientific community highlights the challenges inherent in working together across the regulatory frameworks of different countries. One challenge, as Speaking of Research has previously reported, is the negative impact that international bias has on the scientific community aiming to work together across borders (here and here). The scientists note that a positive way forward is an evidence-based approach and reduction in international bias. To achieve this requires scientists working and being supported by the public and various stakeholders, including funding agencies, professional societies and the larger scientific community, to ensure maximum benefit across the world and greater transparency on global scientific initiatives, such as this one.

At a time when many countries are looking internally and needing to combat xenophobia and international bias, this paper is a good reminder of the advantages of the scientific community working across borders—the benefits that can be achieved for science and medicine are much greater when scientists work together.

~Chris Petkov & Renee Hartig, on behalf of Speaking of Research