BY NIKOLA STIKOV
In May 2016, OHBM announced the Open Science Special Interest Group (SIG). One of the SIG founders, Cameron Craddock, wrote an informative blog post about the mission of SIG and its potential. In the post Cameron illustrated the benefits and distinctions of open science by drawing upon the free beer vs. free speech analogy. The OHBM blog team felt that ‘beer vs. speech’ is jargon that needs explaining. Twitter thought otherwise. This made us aware that the open science voices are sometimes difficult to hear outside of their own echo chamber, especially in the noisy world of brain mapping. Cameron removed the reference to speech/beer from his feature, and we agreed to pick up the conversation with Samir Das and Pierre Bellec, two free speech and beer enthusiasts from Montreal.
Nikola Stikov: Can you please explain the difference between ‘free as in speech’ and ‘free as in beer’?
Pierre Bellec: The analogy “free beer” and “free speech” comes from the open-source software community. Free as in beer, or “gratis”, means you don’t need to pay to use the software. Free as in speech, or “libre”, means you can re-use freely the software in new projects without direct approval from the authors. Free software is generally both gratis and libre.
Samir Das: The “Free” concept is not limited to software. More recently, we have focused on ideas such as Open Science. We are embarking on a new mission at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) to build open science, but defining what 'open science' is can be tricky. The MNI is the first institute to go “Open”. What this means is that the institute won’t worry about patenting ideas and techniques, and will make acquired data freely available to the scientific community at large.
NS: So is ‘free as in speech’ always better than ‘free as in beer’?
PB: For software, people don’t care that much that it is free as in beer. At the end of the day, if you really want to use a product, you will find a way. The fact that a software is free as in speech, though, has turned out to be incredibly powerful for innovation. Android is based on Linux, a prominent open-source project. Tesla autodrive is also based on Linux. You watch a video on the plane? Linux. Robots going to Mars? Linux. Linux is so robust and so flexible, it blows away anything that a private company could produce.
SD: Free doesn’t mean you can’t profit from it. Some people make a lot of money, even though many people still consider it a volunteer service.
PB: Exactly, in free software, people work together on projects that are difficult to do alone. But you can still add a layer that is unique, and you can sell the product as a whole. Apple built its OS from unix, they did not reinvent the wheel.
NS: Does sharing apply not only to software but also to data?
PB: Yes. A paper is not a very reusable unit, it is hard to build on it. There are details missing in your typical manuscript, plus we are an experimental field, and if you don’t have access to the data, there’s not much you can do with [the paper]. So ‘free as in speech’ in the context of science means that instead of sharing just papers, we should also share reusable units. Those units could be code, data, tools, workflows… I believe that hiring and promotion committees should consider all of these units when evaluating somebody’s work.
SD: By doing this we will reduce redundancy, waste, cost, because we will have more data available, and governments will spend less money. Even from a self-serving point of view, there is evidence to suggest that if you go open, you might get more collaborators, more citations, more funding, and ways to make money without violating open-science concepts. Finally, this makes it possible for other communities to use the same data in ways that [our] community could never even imagine, so that is very important.
NS: Tal Yarkoni just published a paper about the next generation platform for science publishing, in which, on top of open-access and data sharing, he recommended preprint archiving and Reddit-like peer review. Do you agree with these recommendations?
PB: Open review is exciting, but I have only limited hands-on experience with it. I recently published my name as a reviewer of an opinion piece in Frontiers, then I uploaded my review on Publons.com. Publons is a free website where you can see my entire review history. I definitely enjoyed that process, it is useful to document what generally happens “under the hood”. What I haven’t done yet is take an hour to write a summary of a paper where I wasn’t a reviewer. I want to try that out in the future.
SD: This is the future for sure, but I am not entirely sure about every nuance and the exact details of the outcome. I don’t have a strong opinion about post-publication peer-review, but if that is possible, I suppose it is a good thing. More transparency can help with the current reproducibility crisis in research. However, when it comes to preprint archiving, I feel like there is something to be said about due process. When we collect data for a study, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to release it immediately; we are not done yet. Little embargos so you can finish your planned work might be in order. I am for a reasonable amount of process.
NS: So when should the sharing happen?
PB: I fully agree with Samir, I don’t think it is realistic today to tell people that everybody should share their data as soon as it is collected. Because you are going to scare people. At the end of the day, I believe in most cases embargos are not useful, and that ten years down the road few people will still use them.
SD: If [the data] is organized while you are collecting it, with proper standards, then it won’t be so much work to share it in a few years. One problem is that a lot of this work is currently done by contract researchers that are not faculty, and there is no long-term career path for them in academia. You get a grant for a couple of years, and then everybody scatters, or they go to industry. Universities need to shape up and do more. The current model is extremely wasteful and contrary to the mission of science - it takes a fair bit of time to train people, and losing the great amount of knowledge acquired is particularly harmful to the research ecosystem.
Pierre Bellec is a professor of computer science at the University of Montreal and CRIUGM, where he develops fMRI connectivity biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease. He currently chairs the OHBM Open Science Special Interest Group, and is also involved in organizing the OHBM Hackathon.
Nikola: A word or two about the Open Science SIG activities. Pierre, you are one of the organizers of the NeuroBureau hackathons, what do you do there?
PB: At the beginning [of a hackathon], people pitch projects, little teams are formed, and then people sit down and work. The idea is to take those 5 minutes during conferences, when you meet somebody, you have a coffee, you have an exciting idea but you need to go back to the talks. So the idea is to take that little chunk of time and stretch it to the length of the conference.
NS: Do you need to know how to code to be at a hackathon?
PB: That is a common misconception. The hackathons come from the tech community initially, so people associate them with coding, but we try to gather a different kind of community, and we see all kinds of people coming to the hackathon and having a great time.
Samir Das is the Software Manager for the McGill Centre of Integrative Neuroscience, and system architect for the LORIS database. His goal is to facilitate technological solutions towards difficult data management and processing problems in neuroscience and beyond.
NS: Samir, what is your role at OHBM?
SD: So, I wear a lot of different hats in my life, but at OHBM, I consider myself Pierre Bellec’s sidekick. The point of it is that we are all trying to further a common goal, to do things like open science and data sharing.
NS: And as part of that you organize parties.
SD: I know it sounds weird to say that parties are part of the open science mission, but communication and collaboration [are facilitated by] social events, whether at a hackathon level, or at a big party. It is amazing how much stuff can be solved over a beer.
NS: The next meeting is in Vancouver, have you already planned the venue?
SD: I haven’t thought that far ahead, but I already have an idea of how it could be. I am picturing a beach... I feel like that will facilitate even more science. :)
Thanks to Sarabeth Fox for video recording.
Nikola Stikov: So I'm here with Kirstie Whitaker, a post-doc at University of Cambridge and she agreed to talk to us about her experiences with OHBM. How long have you been coming to this conference?
Kirstie Whitaker: This is only my third conference, but my first one was in 2009. So I haven't been able to travel to all the amazing places that OHBM has been over the years, but it's lovely to be here in Geneva.
NS: Wonderful. You're very active with the Hackathon, so can you tell us a little bit about your personal experience?
KW: I came up with a project that I thought would be meaningful and I pitched it at the beginning and I got teammates that came and joined me and they just kicked it out of the park. It became so much better than I ever thought that it could be when I came up with the idea. So it was wonderfully inspiring, it was great to meet the people that I slightly hero-worshipped and brand new people, and it sort of flowed out into the conference.
NS: I know you're very passionate about diversity issues within the society. So have you seen any progress and do you have any suggestions about what should be done to bring more diversity at our meetings?
KW: I think that the keynotes were really beautifully gender-balanced. We had three women and four men, which is great. It's lovely to see [them] and all seven of them were excellent. I think I was a little bit disappointed that the prizes all went to white men. I felt like that was maybe not the greatest message that could be given. But what was really lovely was the number of people that stood up at the Town Hall which we had the last night of the conference and mentioned this. So the fact that people are aware of it and people are thinking about it brings it to the fore. I think it holds it in the mind of not just the committee, but also the people who are voting for everyone. I think what was called for in the Town Hall and which I would love to see going forward is more people nominating women, people of color, and people who've had non-traditional career paths, bringing forward these bright stars, to nominate them so they can be celebrated next year.
While women may be underrepresented in Council this year, women scientists Drs. Lara Boyd and Doris Doudet are the Chair and Co-Chair, respectively, of the 2017 Local Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2017 meeting, and AmanPreet Badhwar is the Co-Chair of the OHBM Student and Post-doc Special Interest Group (SIG).
Randy Gollub: We're here today to talk a little bit about the thoughts you have and the visions for what would like to see the SIG do in the next coming year.
AmanPreet Badhwar: Our mandate as the Student and Post-doc SIG is to provide opportunities for networking for trainees, both within the trainee group as well as with other young or senior scientists. To date, our flagship event has been the OHBM Monday Night Social, which we co-organized with the NeuroBureau.
RG: And have you a vision for how things might grow and develop in the future, about how OHBM can help you and your organization?
AB: Definitely. We're thinking of expanding to more than just the Monday night social because it is only one day of the year. We'd like the SIG to be more involved throughout the year. One of the things I do want to organize for next year's OHBM is a symposium to help trainees transition into the next phase of their career, and I'm especially referring to post-doc at this stage because that's really the hardest transition. A symposium on that topic would be very helpful. The other idea that I've been discussing with OHBM is to have, during the meeting, a room dedicated for mentoring, where for certain a period of the day, perhaps an hour or so, we have a rotating group of scientists, either young researchers or more established researchers, who the students can have conversations with and get some tips on how to move forward with their careers.
Check out the two videos to hear more about how these young women scientists are getting involved in the OHBM and how they are encouraging their colleagues and peers to become more engaged.
The OHBM has taken very seriously the call from members to make enhancing diversity an important goal for the society. In response, the OHBM leadership has recently created the Diversity/Gender Task force, lead by Co-Chairs Tonya White and Angela Laird to address issues of gender and minority representation. The goal of this task force is to increase awareness of these issues and identify ways that women and underrepresented scientists can be promoted at the OHBM to ensure balanced representation. If you are interested in volunteering for this task force, please complete the application form before October 21. Interested individuals must be current members of the OHBM. You can renew your membership at www.humanbrainmapping.org. All submissions will be reviewed with Task Force selections made by the Chairs of the Diversity and Gender Task Force.
In the meantime, the call for proposals for Educational Courses and Symposia for the 2017 Vancouver meeting was recently announced. I urge all of our OHBM community to make a special effort to include a balanced number of women scientists of all ages in their proposals!
BY THE KOREAN SOCIETY FOR HUMAN BRAIN MAPPING
The function and anatomy of the human brain are the basis of debates related to the inner workings of the human mind and body. Before the arrival of brain imaging technology, ethical dilemmas hindered neuroscientists who wished to conduct scientific studies on humans. Fortunately, neuroimaging techniques such as MRI, PET and SPECT have opened a new chapter in brain mapping. With the opening of “A New Window into the Human Brain” as Victor H. Fischer argued in 1962, researchers have been able to investigate not only human brain physiology and connectivity, but also its functionality, such as emotion and cognition, as well as numerous mental health disorders.
To keep pace with this emerging field of research, South Korea started its first society of brain imaging researchers, the Korean Society for Human Brain Mapping, or KHBM, in 2002. Given that modern human brain mapping utilizes cutting edge information technology (IT), the rapid development of the IT industry in Korea facilitated the early development of the KHBM. The Korean government promoted research and development in the IT industry early on in order to increase Korea’s share of the international information and communication technology market. This timely advance allowed for a positive feedback loop, in which the investment strategy in a variety of IT fields enhanced prompt industrial growth. In 2013, the Korean IT industry alone represented 30.9% of manufactured industrial products, as measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in comparison to 13.6% in 1997. At the same time, the biotechnology industry increased its share of the GDP by a factor of 12.7, from ₩0.59 trillion in 1997 to ₩7.51 trillion in 2013. Such statistics clearly illustrate the rise in the importance of medical technology in Korea.
The KHBM encompasses virtually all active Korean human brain researchers, including medical doctors, medical engineers, psychologists, and more, in order to encourage the study of brain dysfunctions, including those specific to Koreans. In addition, the KHBM aims to broaden the scope of brain studies by fostering information sharing among experts, while promoting improvements in brain mapping technology. For instance, one of the earliest topics of discussion at the KHBM conference in 2004 was the production of a standard Korean human brain map.
Recent topics covered at the KHBM conferences span a wide range of issues. For example, some researchers reported on medical issues, such as the localization of lesions involved in neuropsychiatric disorders using brain imaging technology and the effective use of statistical probabilistic anatomical maps. Other researchers focused on technology-related issues, including the effective use and differences among PET, MEG, and fMRI when investigating a variety of neurological disorders, and on the creation of an artificial cognitive system, based on the identified sensory regions of the brain. These studies are made possible by employing brain imaging technology to visualize the functional connectivity of the brain in vivo.
The members of the KHBM emphasize the necessity of new development and expansion of technology-based medical engineering expertise to improve the precision of medical apparatuses. This common goal of young neuroscientists and clinical researchers in South Korea motivates the theme of OHBM 2018, “Mapping the Interactions.” The theme not only embodies systematic efforts to create connections and develop mutual goals among researchers who study electrophysiology, metabolism, brain function and anatomy, but also epitomizes the determination of KHBM to promote interactions between theoretical research and clinical applications, between academia and the public, and between developed and developing nations.
The 2018 OHBM meeting will take place at the COEX Convention Center, located at the heart of Seoul. Seoul is well-known for its mixture of traditional and contemporary Korean culture. One of the most renowned examples of this fusion is Insa-dong, where artists display their creative works in an environment surrounded by traditional architecture. This vibrant city will provide a backdrop for the creative energy of the OHBM as it brings together researchers from all over the world.
The Korean Human Brain Mapping community cordially invites you to take part in the OHBM 2018 meeting at Seoul, to engage with other neuroscientists, to form connections, and to share and discuss our knowledge and passion for human brain research.