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Hacking the brain at Open Data Day

A hackathon with focus on the human brain - that’s Sweden’s contribution for Open Data Day 2017. The hackathon was held at the Karolinska Institutet.

Foto av INCF 

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International Open Data Day is a grass-root initiative with different events on open data all around the world. This day is coordinated via e-mailing lists and has been arranged since 2010. This year, about 300 different events are being held and over 100 of them are on the map, created by Open Knowledge International.

One of the events is Brainhack Global, an international hackathon within the field of Neuroscience. At the Karolinska Institutet, brain experts with a data-interest and data experts with a brain-interest gather for two days full of presentations, cooperation and exchange of knowledge at a distance.

Daniel Fürth presenting OpenBrainMap.org, a git-based neuroanatomical framework.

Daniel Fürth presenting OpenBrainMap.org, a git-based neuroanatomical framework.

”We think that Brainhack is a good opportunity for the local Neuro-community in Stockholm to meet, see more of what other people are working on and initiate new collaborations. Those who develop software tools for research are often the heroes who work alone with limited resources, but they are vital to the advancement of research”, Malin Sandström says, who is the Community Engagement Officer at the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, INCF.

INCF is a global organization who works to advance collaboration within Neuroscience and to get more researchers to share their data and their tools. The organization has 18 member countries and the secretariat is located in Sweden on the Karolinska Institutet campus in Solna.

This is the first time that Brainhack is being held in Sweden and Malin Sandström says that she hopes for two fun days full of collaboration and new ideas.
”Many of the researchers involved are also software developers and developing their own tools, or further developing others. For most people coming to this particular Brainhack, the coding is a side activity alongside experimental activity”, she says.

About 20 people are participating and one of them, who is also helping arrange the hackathon, is Neuroscientist Gustav Nilsonne, who is passionate about open science and open data in research.
”At Brainhack, I talk about why open data is so valuable and especially how you can publish open Neuroimaging data. We cover methods as well as questions about ethics and the like”, Gustav Nilsonne says.

The third person from the organizing squad is Anders Eklund from Linköping University. His talk focuses on BIDS – a structured format for Neuroimaging which makes it easy to compare different analyzes and connect them with apps, then going under the name BIDS Apps. BIDS is furthermore well on its way to becoming a standard and that development has gone quickly.

Some of the concrete results which have so far been resolved during Brainhack in Stockholm are:

  • One group resolved the issue for running BIDS on Windows
  • Another group came up with a solution for creating meta-analyzes distributed over years on neurosynth.org (until now you could only do meta-analyzes on data from all years simultaneously)
  • And there was a script written for automatically reminding people that it’s their turn to arrange journal club.

Footnote: Last year the US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith sent a much appreciated greeting to all involved in Open Data Day. Watch the greeting here: