Man with laptop showing Databrary with background of video images

Video data-sharing library opens up big data for behavioral research

A cadre of researchers, digital library and computer scientists are creating a web-based video library to encourage widespread data sharing in the behavioral sciences where video is commonly used but rarely shared.

Databrary, the largest open-source video-data sharing project of its kind, will let researchers store and openly share videos and related information about their studies, according to the organization. Researchers and clinicians can use Databrary to browse, download and re-analyze video data. 

The goal of the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health-sponsored project is to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and make more efficient use of public investments in scientific research.  To better understand the complexities of behavioral development, scientists analyze an average of 12 hours of video per week. But researchers and clinicians seldom share this recorded data, experts said. 

"By creating tools for open video data sharing, we expect to increase scientific transparency, deepen insights and better exploit prior investments in developmental and behavioral research," said Karen Adolph, a member of the Databrary team and professor of psychology and neural science at New York University.

Video data sharing will open up a whole new world of big data research to developmental scientists, noted Adolph, whose research examines the process of learning and development in infant motor-skill acquisition.

"Because raw video data are so rich and complex, research teams will be able to access a wealth of data from studies around the world and pursue countless lines of inquiry into behavior and its development," Adolph said. "Researchers can build on each other's efforts to learn from prior examples, test competing hypotheses, and repurpose data in ways unimagined by the original researcher."

Other leading members of the team include Rick Gilmore, associate professor of psychology at Penn State, and David Millman, director of Digital Library Technology Services at NYU.

"Video can be combined with other data sources like brain imaging, eye movements and heart rate to give a more complete and integrated picture of the brain, body and behavior,” said Gilmore, who studies visual perception and brain development at Penn State. 

In addition to the web-based data library, the project also involves enhancing an existing, free, open-source software tool called Datavyu, that researchers can use to score, explore and analyze video recordings, team members said. Using the Datavyu tool, researchers can mine video recordings for new information and discover previously unrecognized patterns in behavior, the researchers said.

Videos contain faces and voices, so only authorized researchers who have signed a written agreement with Databrary will have full access to the library. People depicted in recordings also must give written permission for their information to be shared.

The Databrary project is part of a series of big data and data science initiatives underway at NYU. The university's Division of Libraries and Information Technology Services are providing infrastructure and curation support in a close partnership with the project.  Databrary will be housed at NYU. Other project partners include NYU's Center for Data Science and Penn State's Social, Life, and Engineering Sciences Imaging Center.

Databrary also provides a response to the growing federal mandate for the management and sharing of data from federally funded research, officials said. The NIH's support comes from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

"I am very excited that NICHD is supporting this endeavor," said Lisa Freund, branch chief for the child development and behavior branch. "Databrary has tremendous potential for enhancing developmental behavioral science and facilitating discoveries that wouldn't be possible without such a sharing infrastructure."

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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