Society for Neuroscience 2014

14-19 November 2014 at the Walter E Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, USA

by Robyn Grant, SSI Fellow and Lecturer at the School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University

Highlights

An amazing conference for neuroscientists

  • Good sessions on reproducibility, focussing on methods and code availability
  • Due to the software leaflets at my presentation I received interest from researchers I had not met before at UCL, NY, Arizona and Boston Universities who want to use and develop my piece of software further
  • Also could use the software for eye tracking, following discussions with other researchers
  • The next step for me is to run my tracking meeting this December, and contact my new collaborators with our new specifications to see if they suit them
  • This conference confirmed that an open source, sustainable version of this tracker is needed by the neuroscience community. Not just those in active touch, but those in translational neuroscience and vision research are also very interested. I will be working on the tracker with my PhD student over the next few years, and hope to apply for a project grant, or send my student on an SSI course soon, once the majority of algorithms have been written.

Event report

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Conference is an international conference of all neuroscientists in any field, from behaviour to cellular to computational. There were 31,600 attendees this year. I delivered a poster and my four-hour presentation received a steady stream of visitors for the full four hours. There has not been a significant improvement in whisker trackers since I was there last, and ours remains at the forefront of the software.

Chatting to visitors to my poster, amongst others, I realised that incorporating eye tracking would be a useful addition to the package and should not be too hard to incorporate. Vision and translational neuroscientists are interested in using the whisker tracker to quantitatively measure exploratory behaviour in their mouse models.

It is very difficult to fully capture the research areas at SfN as it is just so large and vast! However, I was interested to see that there is a lot of comparative anatomy work that still really needs to be done, which is great, as the tracker can accompany this with comparative behavioural analyses.

I visited the computational modellers and algorithm developers, but a lot of these researchers were not British and therefore outside of the remit of the SSI at this stage. I had SSI information at my poster, and also left some leaflets in the leaflet area at the conference, which is likely to reach many researchers.

There was a good discussion on reproducibility in research that I attended, by changing policy to make sure that methods and software are better defined and clearly explained, and for all data and code to be made available.

Although there is a shift in this respect, the constraints on researchers in time, money and innovation means that most research is not reproduced, nor will it be unless funders and university directors get on board with this thinking. I will be writing a blog article on my thoughts about this.

I think that I will continue with my research plan and am encouraged from this meeting that I am on the right track. I will be applying for an MRC and Wellcome Trust grant in the near future, once the software and mouse models have advanced a little bit more.