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Montreal Neuro at centre of 'open science' movement

Montreal Neuro at centre of 'open science' movement
From Global News - September 3, 2017

Montreals world-famous brain research centre is in the middle of conducting an experiment on what could be its most ambitious subject: itself.

Since 2016, McGill Universitys Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has been transforming into what is touted as the first research centre of its kind in the world dedicated to the principles of open science.

Along with the citys artificial intelligence community, the Neuro is helping to make Montreal a world leader in the international push toward democratizing scientific research.

To say youre the first is pretty ambitious, but for all the evidence we have, we are the first, Guy Rouleau, director of the Neuro, said in an interview.

Open science is broadly understood as a movement to make scientific research and data open and accessible to researchers around the world.

Most research is currently published in commercial journals and behind expensive paywalls, costing universities tens of millions of dollars a year to access.

The Neuros open science ambitions are threefold.

It is currently building what it hopes will become the worlds largest library of brain imaging, clinical, demographic, genetic and cellular data, as well as biological samples from patients with neurological disorders.

READ MORE:Erasing bad memories may be a reality, according to Canadian docs

The Neuro is also creating what it calls an open drug discovery platform, which will run tests on nerve cells from sick patients in order to explain how neurological diseases manifest and to help develop cures.

Thirdly, the centre is building an informatics system in order to share its large-scale research data.

All three planks of the project are to be open and accessible to researchers anywhere on the planet.

The Neuro, however, is still allowing its researchers to publish in expensiveand exclusivecommercial journals, a practice that reflects part of the academic culture that is slow to change.

Academics are still largely valued by how often and where they publish. Their salaries and research budgets, however, are often paid for by tax dollars or with foundation money, but they are expected to work for free for commercial journals by reviewing articles.

READ MORE:Canadas complicated history with scientific freedom

Their research papers are then sold back to universities with the profits going to the corporate publishing houses.

Scientists will want to publish in a prestigious journal even though they know its bad for the community, because they think its good for their reputation, said Yoshua Bengio, one of the best-known artificial intelligence researchers in the country.

Bengio, Canada Research Chair in Statistical Learning Algorithms at Universite de Montreal, is on a personal crusade against commercial publishers of scientific journals and shames them publicly.

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