reproducible research in the neurosciences

Mark Laubach laubach at biogfx.neuro.wfu.edu
Mon Apr 8 20:05:31 EST 1996


I wanted to sum up the comments I've received on the idea of putting
data and code from computer-intensive studies of the CNS on the net.

First, several people have done a good bit already to get this sort of
thing going.  The page mentioned by Paul Bush contains some really
nice stuff for those interested in neural modelling.  Those of us who
do neural recording could learn a lot from the efforts of Sejnowski's
group on how to use the net to get our stuff out there for others to
use.  The idea of reproducible research is alive and well on the Salk
server.  Also, Lester Ingbar has done well himself in putting his work

on the net.  I think we need more progress along these lines in
neuroscience in general and especially in neural recording.

A second line of comment was a mxied response both positive and
negative about the possibility of large scale participation in this
sort of effort.  I guess someone will have to try to get things going
and let those who want to participate do just that.  I will try this
myself after I get my thesis together this summer.

To those who worry about someone re-analyzing their data, coming to
conclusions other than those made by the collectors of the data, I
can only say that I thought the whole goal of science was to check all
possible interpretations of a data set.  Alternative interpretations,
IMHO, are the root of debate and progress in science at large and
could not be anything but beneficial for anyone willing to let their
data speak for themselves.

Others pointed out that without detailed notes on the actual
experiments themselves it would be difficult and perhaps not worth it
to reproduce and re-analyze.  I agree.  This might not happen if we
could agree to some standards for data analysis and archiving in
general, but this is a different matter.  In any case, programs like
matlab allow to easily make data sets, figures and analyses
reproducible.  At least its a start.

I should point out that my major interest is not so much to "get at
someone's data" but to get my own code out and to use others' code.  
This is where I think the real progress will come for data analysis in
neural recording.

In any case, I look foward to more discussion on this issue and to
trying to get something along these lines going for my own data and
code.

Mark Laubach




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