BY PANTHEA HEYDARI
Last week, we were hit with the news. It was friday night. December 2, 2016. We were at an Escape Room in West Hollywood celebrating my friend’s successful doctoral defense. “Cheers to the Doctor!” It was glorious. He had made it the other side of graduate school. Not that there was any doubt, but, damn, did it feel good. And it wasn’t even me!! It was a night for celebration! And we had just solved the Escape Room mystery. Cherry on top of the day! But then, we got the email. “With tremendous sadness, I write to share the news that Professor Bosco Tjan was tragically killed this afternoon.”, wrote President C. L. Max Nikias. There was something about his prolific work in vision, a student--wait a stabbing (what?!)--, his family, and reflection. The only thing I saw was Bosco’s name. I looked towards my friends. The newly minted doctor in philosophy of neuroscience just sat in silence. We were stunned. “Bosco?!”
Dr. Bosco Tjan passed away on Friday, Dec 2, 2016 and the hole he left behind is felt not only by his friends and family, but also by his many students and colleagues. Professionally, Bosco was a visionary. He served as the co-director of the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center, taught as a professor of psychology and neuroscience, and ran his own lab investigating vision, specifically shapes and scenes. Personally, he was a coffee lover and cook, incredibly kind and helpful, and a family man.
My first foray with Bosco was in 2012, when I started my program in Neuroscience at the University of Southern California. My initial class as a graduate student was Bosco’s famous Psychology 555 course: “Introduction to functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging”. It came highly recommended, so I was excited to sit in our little conference room and listen to cautionary tales about bringing metal into the MRI room, alongside the physics behind the BOLD signal, and instructions on how to use FSL to analyze data. His course was challenging and served as my first taste into the world of functional neuroimaging. I loved everything about it! Bosco was an incredible teacher: he was patient, knowledgeable, didn’t mind explaining things multiple ways, and had an incredible (to me!) sense of humor. He was an amazing source of information, and on the rare occasion that he didn’t know the answer, Bosco would look up resources and direct you on the right path. Bosco went above and beyond to help students understand and apply concepts. He always had an open door (or email) policy and was the “go-to” person for many students and professors for questions regarding the scanner, visual tracking, or how fMRI works in general. As a member of my committee, Bosco was invaluable in answering questions about my experimental design: which sequence to use and how to deal with inconsistencies in my data. He took the time to develop my study with me, not just dictating what to do and how to do it--he wanted to make sure I understood each step. Many of our conversations casually started over a morning cup of espresso in the kitchen and continued on whiteboards in his office. Or in between sequences in the basement while I ran subjects. He was always testing, enhancing, learning. I am truly lucky to have had Bosco as a professor and committee member. His attitude towards science, education, and mentorship was something to try to emulate, though I doubt many of us can.
It was an honor, Bosco. Thank you for all that you did for our graduate program, our institute, and our university. May you rest in peace. Or, maybe, if you prefer, with the clicks and hums of the scanner in the background.
OHBM Communications Committee welcomes your comments, stories, and memories of Dr. Tjan. Please post these in the comments (upper right corner of post). You can read more about Dr. Tjan's life and work here.
BY KEVIN WEINER
Excerpt from OHBM Communications/Media Team article on Huff Post Science:
New puzzles for brain scientists
No matter how exciting the topic, your mind is bound to wander at some point when you’re sitting in a room for several hours listening to scientific presentations. This is exactly what happened to me during the meeting between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) in Geneva. As a history of science nerd, when my mind wandered, it wasn’t about what I’d be having for lunch or a new beer I might try after the meeting was over. Instead, my mind wandered to a 1927 headline from the New York Times I recently stumbled upon that read, ‘Human brain still puzzles scientists.’ I began to wonder what headlines would look like 100 years from now and how the conversations in that room were actively shaping the headlines of the future. Read more.
BY CYRIL PERNET
The second meeting of the OHBM Alpine Chapter, with participants from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, took place on November 25-26, 2016. Over 100 scientists spent the weekend in Salzburg discussing translational imaging and the applications of fMRI in the clinic. At the meeting, leading Alpine researchers discussed the clinical applications of MRI, such as fMRI in single patients, advancing presurgical applications in epilepsy, and diagnosing developmental abnormalities.
Cyril Pernet (CP): Could you tell us about the history of the Alpine OHBM Chapter?
Roland Beisteiner (RB): We started with functional MRI in 1992 at the Medical University of Vienna at the Department of Neurology. Interest spread throughout Austria and in 2004 we founded the Austrian Society for Functional MRI.
CP: Why did you decide to become an OHBM Chapter?
RB: Since the foundation of the Austrian Society, interest around functional MRI and clinical applications of new medical technologies grew continuously and collaborations with colleagues from Switzerland and Germany increased. The proposal from OHBM Council to form regional chapters was a perfect opportunity for us to reflect this regional growth.
CP: What are the benefits of becoming a Chapter?
RB: OHBM is a very well-known organization and it gave us immediate ‘brand’ recognition, increasing our visibility. Interestingly, this also attracted new members to OHBM.
CP: What is the mission of the Alpine Chapter?
RB: At its heart this is about scientific exchange and increase in collaborations oriented toward clinical research. We are however dedicated to have that exchange open not just to the clinicians but also to psychologists and methods-oriented people. Finally, we are also committed to education, and this annual symposium and our educational courses (e.g. regular courses on clinical functional imaging) are accredited for continuous medical education.
CP: To conclude this interview, could you tell us what do you see in the future of the Chapter?
RB: What I see immediately, is our next Alpine Chapter Symposium, Nov. 3-4, 2017 in Bern. Generally, it is our hope that we can push for greater visibility of translational imaging. We want to extend clinical applicability of brain mapping including new techniques, like brain stimulation. Beyond research on patient groups, this shall put these amazing technologies to use for the immediate benefits of patients in the clinic.
Further info on the OHBM Alpine Chapter meeting can be seen in these storified meeting details.
Follow us on Twitter: OHBMSciNews – the OHBM Alpine tweets were ‘storified’ by C Pernet: https://storify.com/CyrilRPernet/getting-started
The Organization of Human Brain Mapping is pleased to announce a new OHBM People’s Choice Abstract Award to be given to one team presenting their research during the 2017 OHBM Annual Meeting poster sessions in Vancouver. The goal of this award is to allow meeting attendees to highlight their favorite presentation and to bring the most popular abstract into the OHBM spotlight. Annual Meeting attendees will vote on their favorite (using in-app voting), and the team who receives the most votes from registered attendees will be awarded the People’s Choice Abstract Award. The first author of the winning team will receive the cash prize of $500 at OHBM 2017 Closing Ceremonies.
HOW IT WORKS
OHBM Annual Meeting attendees vote for their favorite abstract using the OHBM mobile app. Each attendee can vote for up to two abstracts, one during each of the two-day blocks (one vote during Monday/Tuesday session and one vote during Wednesday/Thursday session). Any duplicate votes from users or votes from unregistered users will be removed. The abstract with the highest number of votes from unique voters will be announced at the Closing Ceremony.
All abstracts presented at the OHBM Annual Meeting, as posters or oral presentations, are eligible for this award. No shows are disqualified from consideration.
For questions regarding the new People’s Choice Award, please contact OHBM at email@example.com.
BY NIKOLA STIKOV
One of the newest initiatives of the OHBM is the establishment of a replication award to highlight the Organization’s commitment to reproducibility and transparency in neuroimaging research. The OHBM Replication Award will recognize the best replication study of the past year. The 2017 award is generously supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Continuing with the open science coverage on this blog, I interviewed Chris Gorgolewski at the Center for Reproducible Neuroscience at Stanford University, to discuss the rules and implications of this new initiative.
Nikola Stikov (NS): First of all, what is a replication study?
Chris Gorgolewski (CG): A replication study is a repetition of a published study procedure with minor changes to variables assumed not to be important for the measured phenomena (this depends on the experiment, but could include demographics, scanner model, visual stimuli delivery system, analysis strategy, etc.). Replication studies usually (but not always) have a larger sample size than the original study for appropriate statistical power, and are performed by a different team than the original study (but planning of a replication study can benefit from involvement of the original researchers). Even though minor changes between the original study and its replication are inevitable they should be minimized as much as possible.
NS: What about methodological replications? Could a study applying different data processing streams to the same data (in contrast to acquiring new data) be eligible for the award?
CG: Yes, such studies should be considered as a form of a replication and will be eligible for the award. Since there is a lot of variability in how important methodological replications vs traditional ones are, the impact of such submissions will have to be evaluated by the judges on a case by case manner.
NS: What are the criteria used to choose the best paper?
CG: Each paper will be evaluated according along two dimensions: quality of the replication attempt and importance of evaluated finding. There are several factors that can improve the quality of a replication study: preregistration (especially if the registration was first evaluated by the researchers who designed the original study), sample size (and thus statistical power), transparency (publication of code and data), and lack of conflicts of interest. The importance of the evaluated finding rests on the degree to which it answers an interesting and important question. For example, findings that are a basis for a whole new branch of neuroimaging, challenge existing models of cognition, or are basis for policy changes in context of mental health care should be considered more important and worthwhile replicating. Admittedly, the second criterion is very subjective, but we are confident that the jury will do a good job evaluating all of the submissions.
NS: So does every replication need to be preregistered and fully open?
CG: Not necessarily. We wouldn’t discredit studies that choose not be fully transparent (and not share code or data), or did not preregister their methods. After all, even a non-preregistered replication attempt with closed code and data is a valuable contribution to scientific knowledge. Having said that, if I was presented with two identically powered replication studies of which one was preregistered and shared data and the other did not, I would personally have greater trust in the more transparent of the two.
NS: You mentioned “replication attempt”. Are failed replications also eligible for the award?
CG: Absolutely yes! Replication studies are meant as an accumulation of knowledge, and both null as well as statistically significant results contribute to our understanding of a given phenomenon. For example a well powered failed replication challenging an important study can be very valuable in preventing the field from researching a “dead end”.
NS: Are researchers allowed to nominate their own paper or does someone else have to do it?
CG: Self-nominations are perfectly fine.
NS: How about old replication studies, are they eligible?
CG: Yes. For this year’s first edition (2016), there are no time restrictions in terms of recency. This might change in the following years (limiting the award just to papers published in the previous year).
NS: Is there enough time to submit for people that just found out about the award? Getting reviews and resubmitting revisions of a replication paper will take at least half a year.
CG: Preprints that did not yet undergo a formal peer review process are perfectly acceptable submissions for the replication award, so you don’t need to wait until your paper gets accepted. Furthermore the submission deadline has been pushed to 22nd of February 2017.
NS: Can scientists reuse old data collected in their lab to perform a replication study?
CG: Of course! In fact I expect most labs are sitting on a wealth of replication data that was never published. All it takes to be eligible for the OHBM replication award is to write it up as a preprint and apply.
NS: You said that for the award preprints are sufficient, but which journals are likely to accept such a study for publication?
CG: PloS, Frontiers and Nature Scientific Reports seem like good bets, as they do not use “impact” as a criterion of acceptance. NeuroImage: Clinical should also be happy to accept replication studies, given it made an explicit editorial call for them. Cortex supports a Registered Reports article type which guarantees publication of your results independent of the outcome of the experiment given they first accept your preregistration report. This mechanism might be very useful for replications (since writing a preregistration plan for a replication is easier than for a standard study). There are probably more journals happy to publish replications - you just need to try!
NS: How was the idea for the OHBM Replication Award conceived?
CG: It was proposed by Russell Poldrack, Jean-Baptiste Poline, David Kennedy, Thomas Nichols and myself.
NS: What is the process to nominate a paper for the award?
CG: Just send a link to the paper/preprint you are nominating together with a short paragraph justifying your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NS: Chris, thank you so much for answering so many questions about this new award. We look forward to seeing the impact of recognizing reproducible results in neuroimaging research!
You can find more information about the OHBM Replication Award here.
The Communications Committee of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping is beginning its second year and is looking for additional members. This is a great opportunity to become part of a vibrant and thriving committee that produces posts for the OHBM blog, articles for HuffPost Science, conducts video and email interviews with top brain researchers and uses social media to communicate that work to the brain mapping community.
The formation of this Committee was approved by the OHBM Council in 2015 with the primary goal of increasing the visibility and impact of members’ work within the OHBM community and to extend it to a broader audience. The Communications Committee is now seeking a few additional volunteers for a three year term. If you have experience writing, editing copy, social media, video, graphic design or website maintenance we hope you’ll consider becoming part of the Communications Committee. OHBM seeks to include a diversity members from a wide range of geographic locations, different experience levels, and encourages women and minorities to apply.
We welcome you to participate in this very important OHBM initiative. If interested, please complete the Call for Volunteers online form no later than Monday, November 28. To apply you must be a current member of OHBM (visit www.humanbrainmapping.org to renew your membership or become a member). Submitted applications will be presented to the Communications Committee leadership for consideration and selection.
If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie McGuire, Communications Manager at email@example.com.
Lancet Neurology calls DMCBH “the future of neuroscience,” and celebrated this new era of patient care and scientific discovery in its October 2014 issue. Leveraging the expertise of over 150 faculty members in brain research at UBC, SFU and UVic (including 28 Canada Research Chairs, 6 BC Leadership Chairs, 1 Canada Excellence Research Chair, and 7 donor-funded professorships in neuroscience) and the personalized, high-quality care provided by VCH, DMCBH is a provincial resource for clinical care for over 20,000 patients and their families per year.
We hope you’ll plan to attend the 2017 OHBM Annual Meeting for the valuable educational programs, keynotes and networking opportunities, but there will also be many opportunities to visit fantastic dining establishments, get out into nature for outdoor activities, learn about the history and culture of Canada and enjoy vibrant nightlife and entertainment options.
Stay tuned for more information about the student-run BrainMeOut initiative, which will make a return appearance in Vancouver, following its successful debut in Geneva.
BY EKATERINA DOBRYAKOVA
Excerpt from OHBM Communications/Media Team article on Huff Post Science:
At the end of June, I found myself through running the streets of Geneva with two other brain mappers--all three of us sweaty from trying to catch the bus. Even though I live in New Jersey and am used to muggy weather in the summer, I couldn’t help but recognize how humid it was. We nearly missed the bus that would take us to the World Health Organization (WHO) to talk about how the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) and WHO can work together to improve international public health through brain research. Thankfully, we made it on board and were able to get on with the important work of the day.
On July 1st, 2016, I joined a diverse group of behavioral neurologists, radiologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists and public health professionals from around the world gathered in that building for a joint meeting between the WHO and OHBM. The WHO building opened its doors in 1966 and carries the stamp of time. Interestingly, we were all there to discuss something that could not have even been imagined in 1966 - applications of brain research to matters of public health. Read more.
BY NILS MUHLERT
What makes a successful international conference? Getting field-leading researchers to describe their work is of course key, but setting the stage (including hiring the venue, organising transport and arranging evening events) is equally important. As part of our OHBM 2016 insight series, we’ve provided views and highlights from those at the front of the stage - its keynote speakers (including Tim Behrens, Daniel Wolpert, Anissa Abi-Dargham and Nora Volkow) and special interest groups. Here, we look behind the curtain at the local organising team, those whose hard work fools you into thinking that organising an event on this scale is simple. No mean feat when you’re hosting 3,168 participants in one of the world’s most expensive countries!
The local organising committee (LOC) in Geneva was chaired by Christoph Michel, Professor of Neuroscience in the University of Geneva and a longtime attendee of OHBM. The LOC was greatly enhanced by the endeavours of a small group of local post-docs who, concerned that Geneva’s high costs might discourage those with tighter travel budgets, formed their own local organizing team, named BrainMeOut, to mitigate that problem. Their efforts provided students, postdocs and early career researchers with easy access to tasty, well-priced food and a chance to enjoy events hosted by this local BrainMeOut team: a varied mix of city tours, swing concerts, networking evenings and open air ping-pong contests (where – to my misfortune - my quiet German colleague revealed her former life as a Tischtennis-Bundesliga player). We speak to Christoph Michel and to Raphaël Thézé, co-director of the BrainMeOut events:
OHBM: I’m here with Dr. Christoph Michel, professor at the University of Geneva, and also chair of the OHBM local organising committee. Christoph, tell us about your experiences with OHBM.
Christoph Michel: I’ve been coming to OHBM since the beginning, its first meeting in Paris. I haven’t made it to all of them, but to most of them. And I’ve always wanted to host it here in Geneva, because I think it is a great opportunity to mark Geneva on the map of the neuroimaging community.
OHBM: What are your impressions from the meeting?
CM: It was fantastic – a real success. Most things ran smoothly. The executive office of OHBM has a lot of experience, which made hosting it easy to do. There were of course some challenges, mainly relating to hosting the conference slightly outside the city but, overall, I’d say it went OK. And we’ve had a lot of highlights, both scientifically and socially. I think the local neuroimaging community, particularly the younger generation, benefitted greatly from the meeting - be it through presenting their work, making contacts, showing the available research opportunities in Geneva, presenting the Masters and PhD programs, and so on.
OHBM: Anything you’re particularly proud of?
CM: We helped set up a symposium and meeting between the OHBM and the World Health Organisation. Making this contact possible was one of my main goals, since they’re based in Geneva. We organized a workshop at WHO after the meeting - it was extremely interesting and led to many ideas for future collaborations between the two organizations. It was great to see that the leaders of all international human brain projects participated and shared their ideas of how human brain research and the OHBM can contribute to public global health.
OHBM: And one last question – where would you like the next OHBM meeting to be held? We have a couple lined up but what would be your dream location?
CM: I think that it should dare to go once to South America, to increase the involvement of the South American neuroimagers.
OHBM: I second that! Thank you Christoph for joining us.
OHBM: How did BrainMeOut come about – who were the organisers, and how did they get in contact with the OHBM committee?
Brain Me Out: The name BrainMeOut – BMO for the insider – is actually inspired from the song “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand, and the intention behind it is conspicuous. The concept itself is the work of three neuroimaging-focussed graduate students from the University Of Geneva. At first Christoph Michel reached out for us to join the local organizing committee. He knew we had some experience with event organization in Geneva and that we had participated in multiple national and international meetings. He gave us the mission to make this OHBM meeting great. We knew from experience that the key to a successful meeting was the human contact and the networking opportunities, and we knew that Geneva was not an easy city to get around for the occasional visitor. So we devised a plan, BrainMeOut, where we would do most of the work upstream, and create several opportunities for participants to get together. We asked ourselves what kind of social experience we would want and expect from an international conference; mostly it was about getting to know the city without getting lost, connecting easily with fellow researchers from around the world, having a good time at night with labmates and making new acquaintances without having to think about it.
OHBM: Part of BrainMeOut’s success was the variety of events hosted throughout the OHBM meeting – which were your favourite events from this, and why?
BMO: The HeadQuarter (HQ) was definitely a hit. It acted as a node connecting the various activities and offering a regular, welcoming yet very lively meeting point through the week. It did most of the work to connect people. I was particularly fond of the photobooth on Tuesday night, which really broke the ice and allowed participants to go home with a memory of the evening.
OHBM: How did you find the experience of organising and hosting BrainMeOut? Did you get to meet any useful contacts through this?
BMO: Organizing BMO was thrilling. We had a lot of planning to do, we sought funding on our own, we managed big budgets, gathered a team and designed a communication strategy. We certainly learned a lot from that experience. Contact-wise, we met with the OHBM central committee, worked alongside the OHBM communication team and certainly developed a strong network in Geneva. One downside is that during the meeting itself we were generally too busy to actually make contact with other participants. Fortunately, we had a great team of volunteers to help us! It was like throwing a party with our friends, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
OHBM: What advice would you give someone who wanted to organise a similar event at future meetings?
BMO: Not long after the conference, one of the participants emailed us to say “it was like having a personal travel agency…” and that’s what future committees should keep in mind while organizing BMO. From the start, it has to be managed by local brain imagers, familiar with the host city and able to deal with the planning and booking. An extended funding campaign is also critical to offer a greater diversity of activities, and to keep the expenses (i.e. drinks and food) as low as possible for OHBM attendees. In terms of activities, we are convinced that the key to success is, on the one hand, having a clear and informative website and an information booth at the conference venue, and, on the other hand, to hold a central HQ connecting the activities through the week. With more time, or more resources, we would probably have focused on offering more and even crazier group activities to encourage total strangers to bond and maybe later share their science around a drink at the HQ.
OHBM: Thanks Raphaël for your insight, the BMO team’s hard work, and a great set of events!
Please remember that the abstract deadline for OHBM 2017 is slightly earlier this year, on Thursday the 15th of December. See you in Vancouver for more science, socialising and BrainMeOut activities!
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 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.