OpenCon application 2016

OpenCon is a conference for early career academics and seeks to empower the next generation to advance Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data.

These are the essays from my (successful) application to attend OpenCon 2016 in Washington DC.

The application was submitted on Monday 11th July 2016.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License which means you can distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon these answers as long as you credit me for the original creation.

Application essays

Describe yourself in 1-2 sentences.

Maximum 280 characters (~40 words). It’s up to you what information to provide. Many people write something similar to their Twitter or Facebook bio.

Postdoctoral fellow studying adolescent brain development and the emergence of mental health disorders. A passionate advocate for replicability and reproducibility in academic work and for improving diversity in STEM. Python coder. Dog owner. Network analyser. Happy hiker.

Why are you interested in Open Access, Open Education and/or Open Data and how does it relate to your work? If you are already involved in these issues, tell us how.

Maximum 1600 characters (~250 words). There are many reasons why Open is important. This question is asking specifically why Open is important to you. Please use your own words to describe your perspective and experience.

I am a member of the Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network (NSPN), a collaboration of around 60 researchers at the University of Cambridge and University College London. Funded by a £5 million Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in 2012, we have collected neuroimaging data from more than 350 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 24 at multiple time points. My recent work on the mechanisms of adolescent brain development of particularly well connected brain regions (network “hubs”) integrated MRI measures of cortical thickness and myelination with human gene expression data openly released by the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

All our results replicated in two independent cohorts and the data and code to reproduce our findings is openly available on GitHub ( Our work would not have been possible without the exceptional Allen Brain Atlas and I look forward to supporting the innovations that will come when others build on the data we collected.

NSPN is made up of talented statisticians, clinicians, physicists, psychologists and epidemiologists, and every member is passionate about producing ground-breaking interdisciplinary research. I coordinate and lead regular meetings in order to facilitate collaboration and the exchange of new analysis hypotheses, techniques and interpretations. By working openly together we are all better equipped to translate basic science to clinical applications and thus make a difference in the millions of lives affected by adolescent mental health disorders.

The biggest goal of OpenCon is to catalyze action. What ideas do you have for advancing Open Access, Open Education and/or Open Data, and how would you use your experience at OpenCon to have an impact?

Maximum 1600 characters (~250 words).

I am most motivated to build momentum around recent efforts to enhance the reproducibility and replicability in science. Publication bias and researcher degrees of freedom limit the translation of neuroimaging studies to the clinic and we are wasting millions of dollars each year on closed basic research and unpublished clinical trials. With the advent of open data requirements, we are able to investigate the invaluable, and often unasked, question: Which neuroimaging findings are generalisable?

Generalisable results are those which are robust to similar but not identical analysis techniques, and which hold across different data sets. The first steps towards this answer is to ensure that all publications are reproducible (what they say they did is what they did) and to support the publication of a priori replication studies that use the same analysis pipeline on an independent cohort.

I am confident that the ideas generated when members of the OpenCon community come together will transform my dream of knowing which results can be relied upon when developing treatments for mental health disorders, into a reality. I am excited to share my field’s innovations that overcome some of the challenges regarding data storage and methodological plurality and I look forward to building educational tools to prevent researchers from “re-inventing the wheel”. I hope to learn about faster, non-traditional publishing methods, including living manuscripts and ways in which we can clean up the published literature to more prominently promote and reward open, reproducible research.

For the events you checked, please explain how you participated and/or how you plan to participate.

Maximum 600 characters (~100 words).

Last year I co-organised the first OpenCon Cambridge meeting. Run as a satellite event of OpenCon in November 2015 we sought to build connections between researchers, students, librarians, policy makers, government data analysts and citizen scientists. As a result of our vibrant half-day event we now hold regular lunch meetings and maintain an active mailing list: the introductions and discussions continue to thrive. We have begun planning our OpenCon Cambridge 2016 event and will promote the University’s Open Access Week, Open Data Day and Open Education Day events widely to our network.