Takeaways from the 5th Open Science in Action Symposium

Major players in research came together to discuss the merits of Open Science for the neuroscience community

The Tanenbaum Open Science Institute impressed yet again with 5th Open Science in Action Symposium on November 30. Major players in research came together to discuss the merits of Open Science for the neuroscience community.

Here is a summary of the key takeaways from this 5th Open Science in Action Symposium.

Open Science: More than just a trend

While Open Science is still a fairly new phenomenon in neurological research, many feel that this trend is gaining in momentum. In fact, Open Science has landed on the radar of governments, university administrations and funding agencies in both Quebec and Canada.

Recently, scientists from the pharmaceutical industry such as Molecular Forecaster have been collaborating on Open Science initiatives with colleagues from competing firms to solve common problems without disclosing trade secrets, which is a testament to the inclusive success of this movement.

Open Science: From clean data to good care

A common question raised by anyone looking to engage in Open Science is how they can access open data. Once they access the data, there are other hurdles – how to harmonize different data sets. Harmonization was a hot topic at the symposium, as data must absolutely be clean to be used effectively, a challenge that the team at the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) decided to tackle with its emerging standard to arrange data. At the symposium, BIDS accepted The Neuro- Irv and Helga Cooper Foundation Open Science Prize – International Category.

It was exciting to see the community coming together around big data, and not losing sight of the original goal of how to provide the best care for people.

Open Science: Expanding capacity with AI

The human brain is the most complex organ, with one hundred billion nerve cells and 100 trillion connections. This complexity combined with a limited access to brain tissue, has meant that progress in understanding and treating neurological disorders has been slow.

Traditional methods have reached their limits when it comes to advancing research, particularly for rare diseases. This is why organizations like the biotech non-profit Conscience combine Open Science with the power of AI to discover and develop medications.

Thanks to computer modelling and machine learning, AI can analyze open data to suggest approaches and tools that advance research. Refining algorithms using open data improves AI predictions and can thereby speed up the discovery of new drugs.

Open Science: Mobilizing a whole community

Open Science is generating enthusiasm amongst different community of scientists causing a ripple effect. The Open Science in Action Symposium serves as a strategic showcase of the benefits of Open Science, demonstrating to industry and other communities that Open Science can be a powerful new tool to add to their toolbox.

At the symposium, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) based in Toronto, a leader in mental health research, and The Neuro - Tanenbaum Open Science Institute announced their new alliance. The goal of this agreement is to accelerate discoveries in mental health through open collaboration. More than just a tool for the CAMH, Open Science is now a key part of its strategies and goals.

A strength of Open Science is that it connects all stakeholders in the community, i.e., not just specialists and researchers but also people, like Linda Lafontaine, living with neurological disorders. Ms. Lafontaine, who has hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), chaired one of the afternoon sessions and spoke powerfully of how Open Science gives patients a voice and gives back what their disease takes away.

Open Science: The challenges ahead

Some observers have pointed out that Canada is lagging its international peers in Open Science. Although it is developing Open Science expertise and infrastructure, the country is not exactly where it should be in terms of developing policies and incentives to promote and reward Open Science practise. Since members of the scientific community react to social structures, they might be more inclined to adopt Open Science if all universities and funding agencies recognized open access as a valid way to disseminate research results.

Another major challenge includes making the required investments to support infrastructure to store large quantities of data and provides the necessary computing power to analyze this data.

Open Science is also a solution for democratizing knowledge and fighting misinformation. The transparency of data, analyses and final reports on open-access platforms helps build trust in this ecosystem.

Open Science: The way forward

Open Science is becoming a credible avenue for addressing current unresolved issues. Stakeholders in this field, like The Neuro - Tanenbaum Open Science Institute, are convinced that Open Science is a key mechanism for accelerating research. With Open Science, people share and then learn from their failures and benefit from their successes, and these lessons become an accessible resource for everyone.

We hope that one day this type of science will not be called Open Science but rather “science.” Whatever happens, we know that the future of neuroscience will indeed be “open!”

If you want to re-experience the event’s highlights, you can watch the recording of the 8-hour livestream.



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The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) is a bilingual academic healthcare institution. We are 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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