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West Big Data Innovation Hub Spoke Project Spotlight: Stanford Research Team’s Large Data Effo

For more than two decades, Russell Poldrack has dedicated his career to studying the human brain – including the analysis of detailed brain imaging coupled with clinical, psychological, and genetic datasets. Poldrack has recently started working with the West Big Data Innovation Hub on a project that enables collecting, sharing, and analyzing very large datasets.

Building upon the OpenNeuro project, which provides researchers with the ability to easily upload and share neuroimaging data, Poldrack and his team used the Stampede2 and Lonestar5 supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to process larger datasets using more sophisticated analysis tools than allowable on local desktop computers.

These renderings of slices through an adult human brain show the boundaries of the computationally reconstructed surface of the cerebral cortex (in red/blue) overlaid on the original magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) image. These images are generated by the fMRIPrep workflow using data from the OpenNeuro project, which encompasses more than 400 public datasets related to brain imaging, allowing researchers to collect, share, and analyze their data using a community standard for data organization. The project is currently being expanded to include even larger datasets – thanks to a recent award from the National Science Foundation. Credit: Russell Poldrack, Stanford University

“Our recent award from the National Science Foundation allows our team to develop a broad community that will further extend the reach and capabilities of our reproducible data analysis workflows,” said Poldrack, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Center for Reproducible Neuroscience. “Further, we plan to engage our user communities with several workshops and code sprints to extend our community’s standard for data organization, the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS).”

Later this year, the group will organize a coding sprint aimed at improving data findability and provenance by integrating linked data support into the BIDS standard. Future sprints will focus on the development of a standard for the description of statistical models, to allow automated execution of “multiverse” style analyses, in which a single data is analyzed in many different ways in order to determine how robust the results are to minor variations in the analysis.

About the West Big Data Innovation Hub: The West Big Data Innovation Hub is one of four regional hubs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build and strengthen strategic partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits, and government. The West Hub community aims to catalyze and scale data science for societal needs – connecting research, education, and practice in thematic areas such as natural resources and hazards, metro data science, health, and data-enabled discovery and learning. Coordinated by UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the University of Washington, the West Hub region includes contributors and data enthusiasts from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and a global network of partners.

About the Poldrack Laboratory at Stanford: The Poldrack Laboratory is based in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University. The Poldrack Lab uses the tools of cognitive neuroscience to understand how decision making, executive control, and learning and memory are implemented in the human brain.

Media Contact: Kimberly Mann Bruch, West Big Data Innovation Hub,

Related Links:

West Big Data Innovation Hub:

Poldrack Laboratory at Stanford:

National Science Foundation:

The Big Data Innovation Hubs:


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