Category Archives: OpenScience

Why I would like to attend OpenCon 2014

I just submitted my application to OpenCon 2014 and, in the interest of openness, I thought I’d publish my answers to their questions here! Do let me know what you think, either here or on twitter @kirstie_j.

Please note that all the opinions stated here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employers. (I hope at least some of them do though!)

Why are you interested in attending OpenCon 2014? What is your interest in Open Access, Open Educational Resources, and/or Open Data?

In short, I’m interested in Open Access, Open Educational Resources and Open Data because the way in which we currently work as scientists is old fashioned and outdated. I would particularly benefit from the planned workshops and presentations concerning the position of postdoctoral fellows and early career researchers within the Open movement. During my PhD and postdoctoral years I have worked within large collaborative projects which means I do not have much power over the decisions that the team can make with respect to sharing the progress of the work. I have benefited greatly from “standing on the shoulders of giants” who put work they have conducted online, and I am passionate about ensuring I give back to future generations as quickly and efficiently as possible. I am concerned about how my work will be evaluated in the (hopefully waning) zeitgeist of “publish or perish [in top impact journals]” and would benefit from discussions of how to incentive openness for both junior and senior colleagues. As someone who has failed to replicate quite a substantial number of “widely held beliefs” in neuroimaging I would also appreciate a discussion of publishing null results and registration of planned analyses.

Are you currently involved in any projects, campaigns, or initiatives promoting Open Access, Open Educational Resources, or Open Data? If so, please describe the initiative and your involvement. If not, do you plan to promote Open Access, Open Educational Resources, or Open Data after OpenCon? How?

I am very proud to work within a large Wellcome Trust funded project – the Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network – which is studying how changes in brain development lead to the emergence of psychiatric disorders. We conduct genetic testing (blood samples), structural and functional brain imaging, and behavioural and cognitive analyses within a longitudinal framework. One of the stipulations of our £5 million strategic award is that we will make all our data available to the public at the end of the grant. These data will provide other researchers the opportunity to benchmark their findings against ours, to collapse datasets into larger analyses that cross cultural divides and re-analyse our data as new techniques are developed. We have maintained a strong focus on providing clear documentation, while ensuring the anonymity of the participants is strictly maintained.

I am particularly involved in the brain imaging analyses: my analysis code can be downloaded from my GitHub account ( and I use that platform for two primary goals. 1) To ensure that every step of my analysis can be recreated from scratch by another researcher. 2) To share the work that I have completed optimizing analyses with other researchers. The first goal is my way of ensuring that all the work I publish has a “paper trail” – there are so many decisions to make along the way for complex analyses of large data sets (which run to terrabytes in size) that the traditional methods sections in academic journal articles are too limited to accurately share every decision that is made. Where the first goal is about local efficiency and accountability, the second is a more general contribution to the global efficiency in science: ensuring that what is already known can easily be found, referenced and improved.

How do you plan to use your experience at OpenCon 2014 after the event?

I will use my experience to galvanise my peers and ensure that the work I am conducting within collaborations is shared to the best of our collective ability. I will continue to share my analysis code and I hope to learn how to contribute it to other projects. I hope that by attending OpenCon 2014 I will remain motivated to be part of this important movement to fundamentally change the way academia currently rewards researchers.

If you are planning to participate in Open Access Week 2014, please describe how.

I will use this week to finally publish a data set whose analyses have already been reported (Whitaker, NeuroImage, 2013). I will use Open Access Week 2014 as a motivator to inspire my collaborators to release as much of the neuroimaging data as possible without violating the anonymity conditions stated within participants’ informed consent. I will also publish the complete analysis code to accompany the paper. Both of these goals are ones that currently are not rewarded within my specific career track, but which I hope will help others within the field. 


Whitaker, K. J., Kang, X., Herron, T. J., Woods, D. L., Robertson, L. C., & Alvarez, B. D. (2014). White matter microstructure throughout the brain correlates with visual imagery in grapheme-color synesthesia. NeuroImage, 90, 52–9. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.12.054


OpenCon 2014 program:

Right to Research homepage:

Open Access Week 2014 events page:

Open Science: Peer Review

On 23rd December 2013 I received notification that the paper Bryan Alvaerz and I wrote, “White matter microstructure throughout the brain correlates with visual imagery in grapheme-color synesthesia”, was accepted to NeuroImage.

It was the best Christmas present.

The whole experience with NeuroImage has been excellent. We had good reviewers who were polite and thoughtful. Their comments have improved the manuscript and we were accepted after one round of revisions. In our letter to the editor we thanked the reviewers for their insightful comments and I almost included a footnote: “No, really, I mean it!”.

On 24th December I sat down and made sure to pay this forward. I was asked on 18th December to review a paper, and I wanted to make sure that it didn’t get forgotten in the Christmas rush. I was given quite a tight deadline (2 weeks) and I really wanted to encourage these sorts of speedy turnarounds from journals and other reviewers.

It really sucks to be left waiting once you’ve sent your baby out into the ether.

I’ve submitted the review now, but I’d like to keep a track of how long each of these processes take. I strongly believe that scientists should be rewarded for their reviews even if they are anonymous. Peer review is the foundation that all of academia is built upon, and while it has its flaws, there’s a chance that the system we have is the best we’ve got.

However, I’d like to contribute a little to the #OpenScience movement. And to that end, I’m going to make public on my GitHub account two CSV files. One, reviews_for_me, logs all of the submissions of my papers, and the other, reviews_by_me, logs my reviews and how long I took to send them in.

Once there are more than one entry in each I’ll make a little graph of the times to review.

Even if the least it does is keep me honest and motivated, that will be enough. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll encourage others to take as much care as those thoughtful reviewers Bryan and I had for our paper.