EC 'confident' in human brain project
The European Commission has responded to criticism of its billion-euro Human Brain Project, declaring confidence that objections will be satisfied. The statement defends the ability of the project to set its own scope, which critics have said is too narrow. It says new recommendations for management of the HBP and the balance between its core and partner projects are expected in September.
Critics cautiously welcomed the reply. Under the heading "no single roadmap for understanding the human brain", Robert Madelin (the relevant director-general within the EC) responded directly to last week's open letter. "As a public funding agency, we take all such signals seriously," he wrote. "We welcome debate."
Responding to the concern that the HBP concentrates too exclusively on simulations of the brain, Mr Madelin stated, "The exact scope of the project is a matter for the project itself." He also addressed the sidelining of cognitive neuroscientists, who study the brain from a more "top-down", function-based perspective than the "bottom-up" cell and network modelling that is at the heart of the HBP.
This type of work was recently "repositioned" outside the core of the project. As part of a review of the project's Framework Partnership Agreement, a necessary hurdle to unlock funding from within Horizon 2020, the EC statement suggested there will be recommendations on "the balance between the core project and a number of partnering projects" - presumably including cognitive work.
Human Brain Project