Distributed innovation

“The BRAIN Initiative has a good chance of succeeding because despite its packaging as a moon shot–style megaproject, it is not so much Big Science as a model of distributed innovation under a central funding umbrella, with rules that encourage collaboration. The initiative’s megaproject label is, perhaps, just clever PR to raise funds and galvanize support. “When I talk to members of Congress, they always want to know what the new idea is,” Insel says. “They don’t want to spend money on more of the same.” Media coverage also flocks to big new ideas. The result is that a Big Science project—or one packaged as such—is often an easier sell to politicians, their constituents and journalists. “There is a zeitgeist now of Big Science being more effective,” says Zachary Mainen, head of systems neuroscience at the Lisbon-based Champalimaud Foundation and co-organizer of the open letter against the HBP. “But that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate competition.””


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