Henry Markram got his wish. He was just awarded 500,000,000 Euros to build a computer model of the brain. In NIH terms, that’s over 100 R01s for 10 years (including indirects). Will Markram’s program generate as much scientific insight as 10 years worth of 100 R01s would?
To paraphrase Movshon, I’m not going to argue against getting more data. However, one real concern is: what projects are going to go unfunded in order to provide unprecedented funding to this particular project?
Leaders in computational neuroscience, including Larry Abbott and Alex Pouget, have given their input, and it’s far from universal support (pdf link).
If you’re not a fan of the R01 unit of measure, I can put this in other terms for you:
500,000,000 Euros is about 670 million US dollars.
That’s about a third of Caltech’s entire endowment. It’s almost as much as HHMI spends on all their biomedical research per year. It dwarfs the MRC’s entire annual budget. Celera sequenced the human genome for less than half that amount.
Here’s a pile of over 200 million US dollars. This funding is 3x that amount.
On the up side, Dario Ringach has helpfully given Markram a great starting point.