Neuroimaging experiments result in complicated data that can be arranged in many different ways. So far there is no consensus how to organize and share data obtained in neuroimaging experiments. Even two researchers working in the same lab can opt to arrange their data in a different way. Lack of consensus (or a standard) leads to misunderstandings and time wasted on rearranging data or rewriting scripts expecting certain structure. Here we describe a simple and easy-to-adopt way of organising neuroimaging and behavioral data. By using this standard you will benefit in the following ways:

  • It will be easy for another researcher to work on your data. To understand the organisation of the files and their format you will only need to refer them to this document. This is especially important if you are running your own lab and anticipate more than one person working on the same data over time. By using BIDS you will save time trying to understand and reuse data acquired by a graduate student or postdoc that has already left the lab.

  • There are a growing number of data analysis software packages that can understand data organised according to BIDS (see for the most up to date list).

  • Databases such as accept datasets organised according to BIDS. If you ever plan to share your data publicly (nowadays some journals require this) you can minimize the additional time and energy spent on publication, and speed up the curation process by using BIDS to structure and describe your data right after acquisition.

  • There are validation tools that can check your dataset integrity and let you easily spot missing values.

BIDS is heavily inspired by the format used internally by and has been supported by the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility and the Neuroimaging Data Sharing Task Force. While working on BIDS we consulted many neuroscientists to make sure it covers most common experiments, but at the same time is intuitive and easy to adopt. The specification is intentionally based on simple file formats and folder structures to reflect current lab practices and make it accessible to a wide range of scientists coming from different backgrounds.


The BIDS specification can be extended in a backwards compatible way and will evolve over time. This is accomplished through community-driven BIDS Extension Proposals (BEPs). For more information about the BEP process, see Extending the BIDS specification.

Citing BIDS

When referring to BIDS in context of academic literature please cite:

Gorgolewski, K.J., Auer, T., Calhoun, V.D., Craddock, R.C., Das, S., Duff, E.P., Flandin, G., Ghosh, S.S., Glatard, T., Halchenko, Y.O., Handwerker, D.A., Hanke, M., Keator, D., Li, X., Michael, Z., Maumet, C., Nichols, B.N., Nichols, T.E., Pellman, J., Poline, J.-B., Rokem, A., Schaefer, G., Sochat, V., Triplett, W., Turner, J.A., Varoquaux, G., Poldrack, R.A., 2016. The brain imaging data structure, a format for organizing and describing outputs of neuroimaging experiments. Sci Data 3, 160044.

as well as other papers describing specific BIDS extensions (see below).

BIDS has also a Research Resource Identifier (RRID)RRID:SCR_016124 - which you can also include in your manuscript in addition to citing the paper.