Rewarding excellence in Open Science

Donor-funded prize recognizes talented researchers who share resources

After examining dozens of impressive submissions from across the globe, a committee of judges has finalized the winning entries for The Neuro Open Science in Action Prizes. The finalists are all talented scientists dedicated to advancing their fields by developing open-access resources.

The winner of the international prize is Daniel Aharoni, an assistant professor from The University of California, Los Angeles. Aharoni developed a miniaturized microscope to record the activity of hundreds of neurons simultaneously in freely moving animals. While a commercialized version of this microscope was already available for about $100,000 USD, Aharoni’s version is available to anyone and costs $500. It can be assembled within a day by anyone with a 3D printer and some tools. Aharoni has continuously improved his “Miniscope” and today it has surpassed the performance of the commercial version.

The Miniscope has drastically changed the landscape in neuroscience. While monitoring of brain activity at the neuronal level is usually expensive and has long been the privilege of wealthy labs, it is now more affordable and accessible to researchers around the world. Aharoni and his colleagues have organized workshops and put together comprehensive online documentation to provide essential training, ensuring that everyone can quickly adopt this technology.

As the winner of the international prize, Aharoni will receive $20,000 as unrestricted research funds.

A special mention in this category goes to Gael Varoquaux, and a second to the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) development team.

Varoquaux has developed open software libraries that are widely used in neuroscience and beyond, including a package that has become the most widely used machine learning software package, from academia to industry, across all disciplines.

The creation of the BIDS file format allows all brain imaging researchers to use the same data architecture, enabling easy and fast sharing of data across labs and the creation of a database for large-scale data analysis, with broad applications in health and disease.

Trainee prize

The trainee prize goes to a graduate or post-graduate who has demonstrated engagement in open-science practices or the development of open science tools that have had an impact on neuroscience research. The 2020 award is a $5,000 contribution towards a graduate/postgraduate stipend and five $500 cash awards for the runners-up.

This year’s trainee award goes to Lynne Kohn, an active member of the International Parkinson’s Disease Genomics Consortium (IPDGC) and the co-founder of the IPDGC Trainee Network. This network fosters discussion and collaboration between trainees from all over the world. She has demonstrated a high level of leadership for a trainee at this stage of studies, which has unanimously impressed the selection committee.

The five runners-up for the trainee prize were:

  • Guillaume Etter (Douglas Mental Health University Institute/McGill University) for MiniscopeAnalysis
  • Jude Frie (University of Guelph) for his promising contribution to the OpenBehaviour initiative
  • Carl Laflamme (The Neuro/McGill University) for his work on antibody validation through an OS approach
  • Sara Memar (Robarts Research Institute/Western University) for her work on the MouseBytes data repository
  • Rhalena Thomas (The Neuro/McGill University) for her work on automatic cell classification

“The diversity and quality of applications we received from all over the world really speak to the strength of the Open Science wave we have all been waiting for,” says Dr. Guy Rouleau, director of The Neuro. “These are exciting times, congratulations to the winners.”

About the prizes

The Neuro Open Science in Action Prizes, sponsored by The Cyril and Dorothy, Joel and Jill Reitman Foundation, Heather Munroe-Blum and Len Blum, are part of an initiative in its second year from The Neuro’s Tanenbaum Open Science Institute. The prizes recognize projects, services, tools, and platforms that unlock the power of open science in neuroscience to advance research, innovation, and its application for the benefit of health and society.

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The Neuro is a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.

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