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Name of Collaboratory :


Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN)


URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

Operational   Start Date : 2001 End Date : Info Last Updated : Fri, Dec 3 2010 3:01am PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Community Data Systems  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :

  Expert Consultation  

Domain(s) :

  BIOLOGICAL/AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES >Biological Sciences >Biomedical Sciences  

Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


BIRN is a national initiative to advance biomedical research through data sharing and online collaboration. They provide data-sharing infrastructure, software tools, strategies and advisory services. Their work focuses directly on the biomedical research community’s unique, data-intensive sharing and analysis needs.

BIRN provides a user-driven, software-based framework for research teams to share significant quantities of data – rapidly, securely and privately – across geographic distance and/or incompatible computing systems. Groups may choose whether to share data internally or with external audiences. In either scenario, hardware and data remain under the control of individual user groups. They offer a library of data-sharing software tools specific to biomedical research, best practices references, expert advice and other resources.

They enable users to participate directly in BIRN through their Working Groups, which actively develop and support operations, data-sharing requirements, security and other vital considerations. BIRN also offers a website, wiki and mailing lists to help users stay current on news, best practices and topics related directly to their data-sharing considerations. And their experts can help biomedical teams select software, data and metadata community standards; security mechanisms and sharing protocols; and multi-institutional policies from among sometimes-bewildering options.

BIRN consists of computer scientists, engineers, physicians, biomedical researchers and others who are cooperating to facilitate biomedical research advances through ready sharing of information.

BIRN is governed by an Executive Committee and also has a Steering Committee. The Steering Committee creates and implements tactical and operational initiatives for BIRN and its major constituencies. Members include Working Group chairs, key user group representatives, Community Service Award recipients, and an Executive Committee member – a cross-section designed to ensure BIRN serves all its audiences.


Access to Instruments :

  BIRN provides a diverse, growing collection of data-related resources. One class of these is software tools that facilitate data sharing and analysis.  

Access to Information Resources :

  BIRN provides a diverse, growing collection of data-related resources, which includes best practices to help users build on lessons learned with large image-sharing trials, and data collected in those trials.  

Access to People as Resources :


Funding Agency or Sponsor :

United States Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)

Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:

Organizations with Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
University of Southern California (USC)
   Information Sciences Institute (ISI)
Massachusetts General Hospital
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
University of Chicago (UChicago)

Notes on Participants/Organizations:
BIRN’s current users range from relatively small research groups to large organizations, such as the Nonhuman Primate Research Consortium (NHPRC) and the Cardiovascular Research Grid (CVRG). The common theme: their need to share extremely large data quantities across disparate locations and computing systems, yet maintain tight privacy and security controls.

Users currently fall into two categories:

* Research organizations, such as the NHPRC, CVRG and former BIRN “testbeds” that performed proof-of-concept research in brain morphometry (MBIRN), brain functional imaging (FBIRN) and mouse brain atlasing (Mouse BIRN).
* BIRN Program Announcement recipients (PAR-07-426 Sharing Data and Tools: Federation using the BIRN and caBIG Infrastructures and PAR-07-425 Data Ontologies for Biomedical Research.) Grants are funded by various NIH Institutes, through NCRR, to help research groups share data and software tools with the public and expand existing biomedical ontologies. As of late 2009, groups represent:
o Northwestern University for sharing of schizophrenia-related brain MRI data and a landmarking tool.
o University of California at San Diego for sharing electrophysiology data and an accompanying processing tool.
o University of California at Irvine for expansion of the “NeuroLex” ontology to include terminology from specific clinical assessments. An ontology is a shared taxonomy of items that enables large data collections to be searched efficiently.


Communications Technology Used :

  BIRN hosts collaboration, authorization, and user identification services for both individual users and user teams, which are: Email List Hosting, Wiki Hosting, User Registration Service/Certificate Authority, Credential Management, and Group Policy Management.  

Technical Capabilities :

  Key Articles :    

Project-reported performance data :

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