Human brain mapping is inherently an interdisciplinary pursuit that benefits from the collaboration of diverse groups with a breadth of perspectives and expertise. This is why my colleagues and I are pleased to announce the formation of the OHBM Open Science Special Interest Group (SIG) to foster collaboration by encouraging the open dissemination of insights, tools, and data.
Open science is a movement built upon an ethos that fosters transparency through the free sharing of scientific code, data, derivatives, and publications. Open source software has been a part of the OHBM community from the beginning and nearly all of the tools we rely on are available without cost and many of them place very few restrictions on their use. The openness of these tools democratizes their access to researchers and facilitates the verification and extension of the methods implemented. Openly sharing raw data has also long been central to our community. Although the initial efforts made by the fMRIDC and OASIS were perhaps ahead of their time, tens of thousands of brains are now available through the 1000 Functional Connectomes Project, International Neuroimaging Datasharing Initiative, OpenfMRI, PING, Human Connectome Project, NITRC-IR, and the list continues to grow. We are additionally seeing the growth of initiatives aimed at sharing data derivatives, either the output of group-level analysis through NeuroVault, diverse preprocessed data through the Preprocessed Connectomes Project, or results reported in the literature through Neurosynth and BrainSpell. By pooling resources across labs, these openly shared data and derivatives are enabling an unprecedented scale of analyses and are providing valuable fodder for developing new tools and educating new scientists.
Open access publication, which includes both free access to the scientific literature and transparency into the review process, is still being developed in the community. Several journals offer open access publication either exclusively or for an additional charge. The US National Institutes of Health and other funding institutions around the world have mandated that publications arising from the research be openly available. Transparency in review is now being supported by systems such as Publons and the Gigascience Journal. This transparency fosters a more honest review process and allows a critical and diverse interpretation of a paper based on the machinations it went through during the publication process. Some journals are now enabling and encouraging post-publication comments on papers, which provide very important long-term review. Pre-publication through repositories such as arXiv and bioRXiv is another way for supporting transparent publication that is growing popular in the community. Some authors (including me) are also preparing their publications in the open using Github and other tools, making the entirety of the creation process transparent.
The Open Science SIG will support the spread of these practices in the OHBM community in a variety of ways. We will organize annual OHBM hackathons to encourage open collaboration between researchers from a variety of backgrounds and seniority levels. For the uninitiated, these hackathon events borrow ideas from, but are more than, stereotypical hackathons from the computer-programming world. The projects performed at these events do include development of new tools, but also involve working on a variety of neuroscience resources and projects, such as developing new data analyses, curating literature databases, assisting with data processing activities, and discussing open issues and important new ideas.
Another way we hope to encourage open science is through educational efforts. To this end, we will be organizing the “Brainhacking 101” courses during the 2016 Annual Meeting. These courses are conceptually similar to the popular Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry movements, and provide tutorials on collaborative tools and open source software that facilitate brain mapping. We will also host an open science room throughout the annual meeting where researchers can come to collaborate and see software demos.
We believe that the tenets of open science will accelerate scientific discovery and our hope is that by promoting a culture of openness and collaboration, the Open Science SIG will help enrich the scientific journeys of all OHBM members.