Genesis of the project: The recommendation to coordinate international efforts in the new field of Neuroinformatics was first made in the report on Bioinformatics elaborated under the aegis of the then OECD Megascience Forum in 1998. Following extensive discussions in the Neuroinformatics Working Group of the Global Science Forum chaired by Dr Stephen Koslow, the proposal to create an International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, as well as a funding Programme in International Neuroinformatics (PIN), was then presented in 2002. This project was endorsed by OECD science ministers at their meeting in January 2004. Sixteen countries (Australia, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States), as well as the European Commission, then elaborated the working documents that form the legal basis for the INCF and the PIN (see below).
Why Neuroinformatics? A key element to successfully understanding the nervous system is the integration of neuroscience with information sciences. The field that studies the nervous system, neuroscience, has responded to the fantastic challenge of understanding how our brain works with the use of the most sophisticated technologies, from studies on the genome to those on brain imaging of behaviour in humans and other species, under different functional states, and at all intervening analytical levels. This effort has resulted in large quantities of data, which are ever increasing at higher levels of complexity. The data produced are heterogeneous, coming from different levels of study and modalities of analysis. To rise to this challenge of integration, and to ensure efficient and maximum use of these data, it is now necessary to develop and create these shared resources: (i) neuroscience data and knowledge databases; (ii) analytical and modelling tools; and (iii) computational models. This challenge is being met through the merging of neurosciences with information science -- the field of Neuroinformatics.
The establishment process: The conditions laid out for the creation of the INCF were met in July 2005, seven countries (the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States) having signed the Understanding document and pledged their financial contribution. A bid to host the INCF Secretariat was launched (see related document below). Two proposals were received and, as instructed by the Governing Board, on November 3, the OECD convened a panel of experts to review and rank the proposals. The panel assigned the higher ranking to the Swedish proposal, and this recommendation was endorsed by the INCF Governing Board when it met at OECD headquarters on November 28. Following extensive international discussions, the INCF was officially inaugurated in February 2007, with headquarters at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (www.incf.org).
Understanding: This is the legal document signed by all participants in the INCF that sets the framework for joining the INCF.
Business plan: This is the document that describes the mission and operating procedure of the INCF.
Request for Proposal: This is the guidelines for submitting a bid to host the INCF Secretariat.
PIN: This is the framework document for the future Programme in International Neuroinformatics.