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Technical and organizational considerations for the long-term maintenance and development of the digital brain atlases and web-based databases

DOI: 10.3389/fnsys.2010.00026

Keywords: brain, atlas, image database, molecular marker, neuron, curator

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Digital brain atlas is a kind of image database that specifically provide information about neurons and glial cells in the brain. It has various advantages that are unmatched by conventional paper-based atlases. Such advantages, however, may become disadvantages if appropriate cares are not taken. Because digital atlases can provide unlimited amount of data, they should be designed to minimize redundancy and keep consistency of the records that may be added incrementally by different staffs. The fact that digital atlases can easily be revised necessitates a system to assure that users can access previous versions that might have been cited in papers at a particular period. To inherit our knowledge to our descendants, such databases should be maintained for a very long period, well over 100 years, like printed books and papers. Technical and organizational measures to enable long-term archive should be considered seriously. Compared to the initial development of the database, subsequent efforts to increase the quality and quantity of its contents are not regarded highly, because such tasks do not materialize in the form of publications. This fact strongly discourages continuous expansion of, and external contributions to, the digital atlases after its initial launch. To solve these problems, the role of the biocurators is vital. Appreciation of the scientific achievements of the people who do not write papers, and establishment of the secure academic career path for them, are indispensable for recruiting talents for this very important job.


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