Last year, the European commission launched a 10-year, $1.6 billion project to create a supercomputer simulation of the human brain, dubbed the Human Brain Project. Now, nearly 200 prominent scientists are threatening to boycott the project, saying it has gone badly off track and may be doing real damage to the study of neuroscience.

"Substantial failures"

The scientists lay out their concerns in an open letter, taking issue with the project's "overly narrow approach, leading to a significant risk that it would fail to meet its goals." The project is currently undergoing a scheduled review, and the group believes the review will unearth "substantial failures... concerning the quality of the governance demonstrated." While the project has added immense new funding to the field, the researchers worry that the singleminded focus on supercomputer simulation is premature, and detracts from more foundational neuroscience research that would be more useful at this stage.

Still, it's not clear where the project might go from here. The open letter hopes the review will spur a reassessment of priorities, but if it doesn't, the signees are willing to boycott the process entirely. It's also unclear whether the same narrow approach has caused any problems within the US BRAIN Initiative, a $100 million "cousin project" launched by President Obama earlier this year.