This year marks the third full year of the OHBM blog. In 2018 we’ve published over 40 blogposts, covering topics as broad as diversity in brain mapping, neuroimaging in Iran, art and science and of course our interviews with the Annual meeting keynote speakers. We’ve seen changes in our editorial team, with new faces Claude Bajada and Ilona Lipp bringing fresh energy to our blogposts, but also saying farewell to two of our original blogteam members, Panthea Heydari and Thomas Yeo. We are proud to see Thomas becoming one of the keynote speakers at OHBM2019 in Rome, and Nikola Stikov, the original blogteam lead editor, taking over for Jeanette Mumford as Chair of the OHBM Communication Committee. Here, we share our favourite posts of the year.
The holidays are fast approaching, and I would like to celebrate it by shining a light on the many nuggets of wisdom I have gained via my participation, both as a writer and an editor, on the blog team. I have had the opportunity to interact with many brilliant brain mappers, and have had many memorable conversations and exchanges. So here it goes:
Daniel Margulies taught me to gesture to my head to illustrate that I study the brain. Trust me, it is so much more effective and easier to understand than my usual repertoire of explanations about what I do. But what he really hooked me with was the following: “Although there is a substantial focus in brain mapping of the differences and discrete boundaries between areas and large-scale systems, one challenge is to also consider how these distinctions are integrated into a functional whole”. Bruce Miller provided some key advice on things to concentrate on when the “functional whole” that Daniel mentioned is falling apart in the face of neurodegeneration. Bruce pointed out how important it is to concentrate on “not only what are the weaknesses, but what are the strengths, and has anything new emerged that is actually a new strength… What is preserved is telling us something about where in the brain the bad molecules are not accumulating. But it also allows us to think about the patients, about things that are important to them”. From the career development blog by the Student and Postdoc SIG, I was relieved to learn that every career path is different, and that there is still hope for me to start my own institute (and it just might be modeled after a treehouse, taking inspiration from Daniel Margulies here). Finally the Open Science SIG blog post reinforced for me that we are all part of the the scientific community, …..the sappy, corny and mushy reason we all stick around! Happy holidays everyone!!!
Being new to the blog team, I feel as though this little fish is now swimming in the big pond, gill to gill with some of the biggest fish in human neuroimaging research. My first interview was with Ed Bullmore, learning about his diverse experience in the clinical, academic, and industry worlds. Entering neuroscience from a medical background myself, I was particularly interested in his advice to medical students who may be interested in the technical side of research but feel they “come from the wrong background”. During the 2018 OHBM meeting I met and interviewed the instructor of a MOOC I had followed during my PhD! Martin Lindquist was the 2018 OHBM educational award winner and we had a great discussion about the challenges students and researchers face in neuroimaging. In his words, the best advice may be to “be curious, look outside the box, be willing to do crazy things and fail, and have fun!”. Finally, I worked with this year’s local organising committee in preparing a short blog post about the 2019 25th anniversary OHBM meeting. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in Rome!
This has been my 3rd year on the OHBM blog team, and I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunities for shaping communications within our research community. This year, besides my OHBM Keynote interview with Gustave Deco, I mainly focused my efforts towards transcending geopolitical barriers of brain-mapping research, with the 2-part series on scientists and trainees from Iran. This initiative, though challenging, was very rewarding. Going forward, I hope to contribute more material to help guide the careers and lives of junior researchers.
Having worked in the media team before, I joined the blog team this year to broaden my science communication horizon. 2018 kicked off for me with an article about Open Science (OS) challenges; an idea that emerged after OHBM 2017 in Vancouver where so many of you had shown interest in OS. “Sharing is caring, but is privacy theft?”. It was also our first interview series on the PLOS Neuro blog and introduced a new format: several experts get to answer the same question. Together with media team captain Kevin Weiner we set out to find from Russell Poldrack, Jeanette Mumford, and 4 other OS pioneers! where they see the main challenges and solutions that will make our field more open and reproducible. The format worked well, the final post was rewarding, and I felt boosted for more Q&A. As a physician-scientist I am interested in the added value of neuroimaging for patients, and the difference it could make for neurology and psychiatry. And so my other favourite blogging experience in 2018 dealt with progress and challenges for imaging in depression. I hope that you will find the views of our translational brain mapping experts in “Closing the loop for brain imaging in depression: What have we learned and where are we heading?” as intriguing. Blogging in 2018 was great fun, and I am already so curious what 2019 will bring!!
I only joined the blog team a few months ago and kicked off with quite an elaborate post, the “OHBM OnDemand How-to: resting state fMRI analysis” guide. It’s been really fun being able to write for a scientific audience in a less structured way than I do with papers, and I’m also very excited about my next posts (spoiler alert: there may be one coming out just after new year).
Hard to believe that 2018 is behind us. This year I had diverse writing opportunities that I greatly enjoyed. Through my post for PLOS Neuro blog, I interacted with and interviewed many leading minds in the field of traumatic brain injury research and neuroimaging. While acknowledging the complexities of scanning a clinical population, in particular the multi-disciplinary skills needed, all of the interviewees were optimistic about the potential insight into disease offered by developing neuroimaging methods. These posts were great for networking and connecting to other scientists in the field. It was also gratifying to receive emails from researchers who are new to the field or topic, or even lay persons who want to know more about brain injury due to personal experience. Such communications are always very inspirational. I also had a change of pace, writing a blogpost on the art exhibit by Shubigi Rao. Interviewing this artist revealed the similarities between art and science in aspects such as inspiration, patterns of work on a project, and exchange of ideas. Now, I am looking forward to more exciting interactions as we enter 2019.
2018 was our busiest year so far as Blogteam editor. There were a number of standout points for me (alongside the sweet egg buns in Singapore). We heard Leah Somerville discussing the potential effects of social media on teenage brains, and Aina Puce highlighting the challenges of quality control in multi-modal imaging projects. I really enjoyed hearing Mark Humphries’ views on how findings from cellular neuroscience currently constrain systems neuroscience theories - or whether that’s even happening at all! Finally, our first double interview between Heidi Johansen-Berg and Charlie Stagg extended these discussions on ways in which preclinical and clinical scanning can be fruitfully combined but also considered major advances in measuring neurotransmitters like GABA using MR spectroscopy - a method that has so far received scant coverage in our blogposts.
Jeanette Mumford (ending note as Chair of Comcom)
I’m so glad I decided to join the Communications Committee three years ago and am honored that I was able to serve as chair over the last year. I’m amazed by how far we’ve come and how hard the members of the committee work as well as Stephanie McGuire, our fearless Communications Manager. For the first time since 2004, I wasn’t able to attend the conference in Singapore, but thanks to the blog posts, tweets and OnDemand materials, I don’t feel like I completely missed out. I’m a big fan of the posts related to the OHBM Open Science SIG and the OHBM Student and Postdoc SIG, because they’re such a great addition to OHBM and I wish they existed when I was a graduate student and postdoc. I also really like the Keynote series, since the interviews offer a new dimension about the speaker beyond what we’d get from their talk, reading their papers or their CV. I’ve even gotten to help out with a few of the posts this year, including the “OnDemand How-To: Resting State fMRI” piece, which featured some great videos in the OHBM OnDemand portal. Overall, it was a great year and I can’t wait to see what we do in 2019.
From all of us at OHBM Communications Committee, we wish you a happy and productive 2019!
OHBM 2019 in Rome next June will mark twenty-five years since the first meeting in Paris. During that time the organization has evolved from an annual meeting of like-minded brain mappers to a society with multi-national chapter meetings hosted throughout the year, early-career researcher led special interest groups and open science resources. To celebrate what has been achieved during that time, we asked some of the founding members how they became interested in neuroimaging, how brain mapping has changed, about developments in funding and opportunities within their country and about their memories from OHBM meetings.
This first OHBM Oral History video interview features Professor Alan Evans, a James McGill Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering at McGill University and researcher in the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) of the Montreal Neurological Institute. We learned about Canada’s hugely impressive investment in neuroimaging, the incorporation of genetics and other sciences into the work presented at OHBM and the collegiate, youthful feel of the OHBM meetings themselves.
By Ayaka Ando & Natalia Z. Bielczyk, OHBM Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group,
Edited by AmanPreet Badhwar
Christmas is just around the corner and the deadline for the OHBM annual meeting abstract submission is fast approaching! The OHBM Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group (SP-SIG) also had a busy 2018 organizing the Secrets behind Success symposium in Singapore, launching the third round of the International Online Mentoring Programme (attracting an additional ~150 participants), and launching the new SP-SIG blog.
Considering a new year is upon us soon, we wanted to share with you some insights we have gained by interviewing researchers in academia and industry. In this blog, we present a collection of interesting insights from our 2018 interview series. For the full interviews, please visit our SP-SIG blog.
Leaving academia is not a failure
Leaving academia as a conscious career choice is often seen as a failure (Kruger, 2018). However, this is what Dr Anita Bowles, the Head of Academic Research & Learner Studies at Rosetta Stone in San Jose, California, had to say about her experience:
“People often feel like a failure if they are thinking about leaving academia. I talk to a lot of graduate students in this situation and I understand their concerns, because I felt the same way. I would like to tell these students that this is not the case at all once you are on the other side of the decision. You can do valuable and satisfying things outside academia, including research that can be applied to help people. And if you feel like trying, just go for it.”
How to find jobs in industry
If one decides to leave academia, the first impulse is to browse through job listings. We, however, found that our interviewees had varied approaches.
Dr Anita Bowles says:
“I found out about Rosetta Stone through networking: I knew someone else who was employed by the company and who also had moved from academia to industry. I am glad that it turned out this way for me, as what I am doing now has a lot of overlap with my past research, and I am passionate about this topic.”
Dr Ricarda Braukmann, a recent PhD graduate, and currently a Program Leader for Social Sciences at Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) told us:
“As I was already passionate about open science and knew of the work DANS was doing, I was proactive and contacted them explaining my wish to gain experience outside academia. I was very lucky, as I indeed got the chance to work for DANS during a four months part-time internship in my final, fourth year of the PhD. The internship was the starting point of the job I have now, which DANS offered me after I finished my PhD.”
Natalia Nowakowska, a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and a freelance copy- and content-writer, also started her job as a freelancer by networking:
“How did I start freelancing? In a way, it was also a lucky strike - I met a person in a bar who was leading a course on how to become a freelancer. I joined the course and got some practical instructions on how to start and find my own place in this space.”
Every career path is different
No matter how much we try not to, we sometimes still compare our career trajectories with our peers. However, from Dr Aaron Clauset, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder and in the BioFrontiers Institute, we learned that career trajectories in science are highly nonlinear. In his research Aaron and colleagues analyzed career paths of thousands of computer science professors at US and Canadian universities (Way et al., 2017, Clauset et al., 2017). What they found was that the conventional research trajectory of a rapid rise in productivity to an early peak, followed by a slow decline, only emerges after averaging the individual trajectories of large groups of scientists. Even though the average number of papers per person per year is higher in highly prestigious institutions than in other institutions, the shape of this average trajectory is independent from the prestige of the affiliated institution. However, the average pattern conceals high inter-individual variability in the career trajectories to the extent that only one in every three faculty members follow the average trajectory (Fig. 1).
Fig 1. The average trajectory versus inter-individual variability in the trajectories; a reprint from Way et al. (2017). (A) Average publication count follows conventional narrative across prestige, with the division into 5 groups of affiliations on the basis of the prestige. (B) In fact, there are four different types of trajectories, and most of the subjects do not follow this averaged, conventional trajectory. Research conducted in a group of 2,300 computer scientists from the U.S. and Canada.
Furthermore, related work on citation to papers by physicists, carried out by Dr. Sinatra, one of Clauset’s collaborators and colleagues, revealed that groundbreaking discoveries seem to be equally likely at each career stage (Fig. 2, Sinatra et al., 2016).
The results from these studies are very optimistic - in a sense that there is not just one canonical way of pursuing a career in academia, and that success can come at every ‘academic age’.
Start your own institute!
Lastly, what do you do when you know deep inside that you should pursue a career in research, but the whole universe tries to prove you otherwise? We interviewed Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Redwood Neuroscience Institute & Numenta Inc., who finished his official research training with a BSc from Cornell University in 1979. Since then, Jeff never successfully accomplished a PhD because of constant rejections of his ideas that were ahead of his time.
So, Jeff developed an impressive career in mobile computing in the Silicon Valley instead, where he established Palm and Handspring, two mobile computing companies. However, his thoughts have always circled around science. Today, Jeff leads his own research institute, Redwood. Recently, he gave a keynote lecture at the Open Day of the prestigious Human Brain Project summit in Maastricht, where he introduced his theory of grid cells in neocortex (a.k.a. a Thousand Brains Theory of Intelligence) as the framework for cortical computation. He is very modest about his achievements, and, when asked about how he managed to create his own institute, Jeff answered:
“It was easier than you imagine. The idea came from several neuroscientist friends of my mine who said the field of neuroscience needs cortical theory. They encouraged me to start an institute. I agreed only on the condition that they help me, and they did. There were a number of scientists who, like me, wanted to work on cortical theory, so they signed up.”
Easy, right? :)
If you would like to get involved in the SP-SIG activities, give us an interview or perform an interview that can be featured on our website, please contact us!
Also, stay tuned for the roll-out of our next big project early next year! We are going to launch an open initiative, where any OHBM member is welcome to help us shape a set of guidelines (in a manuscript format) on effective self-management for early career researchers. We hope to meet you in this project!