Our experiments are focused on adjudicating between two of the most popular theories of consciousness, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) and Global Neuronal Workspace (GNW) theory using three distinct invasive and non-invasive techniques in human neuroscience (fMRI, MEG/EEG and ECoG) in 500 human volunteers and patients. Our experiments follow best science practices, using common, standardized materials across all laboratories, with two laboratories per techniques (for built-in replicability), blinding half the dataset to test generalizability and uploading of all data into a common, cloud-based infrastructure. An important asset of this consortium is that while adversaries have agreed on the experimental protocols, and a set of outcomes supporting/challenging their respective theory, the data collection and analysis is carried out by teams of theory-impartial experts, assuring the highest scientific standards and preventing biases from tainting our studies.
Our aim to provide a proof-of-concept for performing open science in a large consortium has led to developments in a number of areas, most of them inspired by the desire to provide the community with a rich, multimodal dataset for future discoveries and education. The biggest challenge was the lack of protocols to document the process of the research in a standardized format. For data collection, we are developing an Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) to document the status of the instruments, experimental protocols, and context of the experiments. We teamed up with the Neuroinformatic Unit at the Human Connectome Project to develop a web- and iPad based, easy to use ELN, to ensure metadata ingestion. Although data value and reusability depend on the richness of the metadata, there are no standard ontologies for human neuroscience. As part of a newly acquired grant, we are working on expanding previous ontologies to describe experiments. Together with the researchers who developed Blue Brain Nexus, an ecosystem that allows discoverability through using a knowledge graph, we will be connecting the ELN. The interface between the data collection tool and the data discovery tool will enable us to materialize our “MINDSCOPE” and to act in accord with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). Every tool we are developing is available to others free of charge. We explore innovative ways to share and integrate data and metadata automatically across laboratories; as well as relevant code and data derivatives with the aim to improve information sharing, accessibility, and discoverability.
Hackathons are run as competitions engaging the research community as a whole (software developers, scientific experts, project managers, etc). In order to maximize efficiency during analysis optimization, we plan to conduct three Hackathons, one per research modality, i.e. fMRI, M-EEG and ECoG. In particular, we propose to run a Hackathon on one of the most complex and time-consuming analyses, i.e. decoding. The aim is to significantly speed this up by arranging a decoding challenge in which the whole community is invited to provide the best decoding algorithm tested on our data in exchange for a prize. The advantage of tapping on the wisdom of the community and run Hackathons is that scientists from all over the world can participate in the challenge, submitting analysis codes with full optimization. This enables a form of crowdsource science, making for a most cost and time effective strategy to attain the scientific goal.
Our aim is to propose, find, and use innovative ways for Open Science practices (adversarial collaborations, protocols to validate instruments, Electronic Lab Notebook, etc.). We started to develop new ways to store knowledge and ideas. The preregistration, experimental data, analysis protocols and data will be made freely available to the global community. We are creating a large, reproducible, transparent, and open multimodal dataset to drive trustworthy scientific inquiry of the data, obtained in two experimental paradigms (one involving a video game) to study mental process under naturalistic scenarios. Together, this will materialize into the “MINDSCOPE”: as now anyone can access the data to make novel discoveries; transforming the modus operandi of science, from an isolated, individual-based effort to a large-scale, collaborative endeavor. Regardless of the outcome, this process aims to change the very sociology of the bio-medical sciences; while training the next generation of scientists and encouraging global participation, untapping the expertise of the scientific community and industry at large. Ultimately, our goal is to act as librarians in a growing and dynamic community who aims to ultimately preserve knowledge and data for the future generations.
We strongly believe in openness, in democratic access, in accurate and reproducible science, in fair educational opportunities, and in building a community. We believe in interdisciplinary training the next generation of open, respectful and interdisciplinary scientists, who can easily communicate with psychologists, clinicians, physicists, neuroinformaticians, mathematicians, and data scientists. Our immediate focus is to establish and maintain tools for the education of the project members. We concentrate our efforts on creating and maintaining periodical training sessions, the Cogitate Journal Club, and we regularly invite speakers for workshops and seminars dedicated to latest interesting topics in the field.
We diligently engage in outreach activities, through public speeches and popular media, conference proceedings, publication of detailed articles in widely-read neuroscience journals and dissemination of knowledge in online documentation and online lectures that allow the users to inspect the many facets of the project, and learn about their implications. We welcome interested parties to connect with us to discuss further opportunities to disseminate knowledge and share our experience in this project.