<![CDATA[Reid H.J. Olsen - Thoughts/Blog]]>Fri, 15 Jan 2016 15:19:13 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Open-Source Neurobehavioral Software´╗┐]]>Thu, 07 Jan 2016 00:53:23 GMThttp://reidolsen.weebly.com/thoughtsblog/open-source-neurobehavioral-softwareI'm a huge advocate for "open-source" science. To me this term refers broadly to both the open-source/open-access journal system and to the development of tools and software with open or creative-commons licenses. I consider science a "common good," and a highly important human endeavor, and so philosophies or practices that restrict access to knowledge or tools to generate knowledge run directly counter to increasing the "greatest good" the institution can generate.

I'm not blind to the problems inherent in such a system. Predatory "pay-to-play" journals are rampant, and I screen and I constantly help fend-off invitations to reviews from these journals that are sent to my lab . The generation of lists of predatory journals  (such as Beall's List of Predatory Open Access Publishers) is very helpful, but obviously incomplete and based on subjective criteria. Open Access software tools rely on a dedicated community in the absence of funding, and are often not validated or are rushed out. However, this latter component of Open Access Science has a long history and tradition in terms of Matlab scripts and other tools available to the analysis community.

Between 2010 and 2012, I was fortunate to be involved in the development (or rather continued development) of a piece of open-source software for neurobehavioral testing called PEBL (Psychology Experiment Building Language). This software package is more of a programming language that is continually updated with features and hosts a package of non-copyrighted versions of proprietary neurobehavioral tests. Therefore, users can generate or modify automated tests at ease, and with the advent of touchscreen softwear, wearable devices, and other technologies, these software can be used to emulate or incorporate much of the physical aspects of many older tests as well. However, the problem of validity must always arise.
Data table showing relative costs of neurobehavioral testing software. Generated from Piper et al., 2015, "Reliability and validity of neurobehavioral function on the Psychology Experimental Building Language test battery in young adults."
Recently, my colleagues and myself published a validation and reliability paper in the open-access journal PeerJ (an offshoot from the developers of PLoS). The paper sough to validate some of the more common variations of proprietary tests based on their common measures, test-retest reliability, floor/ceiling effects, and general agreement with the existing literature on the proprietary tests. It also sought to utilize the software in a sometimes-problematic population (young adults). The data from the paper support an argument for validity of the software (at least in terms of its reliability and correlations between common measures of performance across tests). As PEBL is used more and more as an alternative to costly proprietary software, these papers and similar will be critical in acceptance of their findings.

These software packages are kind of a corollary to repositories such as addgene, which serve to make research materials free or available at minimal cost. I feel very positive about how  open-source technology is continuing  to open science to a wider demographic by reducing costs and allowing active participation in its own development, 
<![CDATA[SfN 2015!]]>Sat, 24 Oct 2015 23:08:27 GMThttp://reidolsen.weebly.com/thoughtsblog/sfn-2015Picture
What a trip! The lab had an absolutely awesome time at SfN 2015 in Chicago! We took in some great posters and talks, consumed some excellent food, and stayed in an absolutely incredible loft in a super-hip neighborhood right off the river! Personal highlights included meeting Claudio Elgueta who came to my poster, seeing my interns Isaac and Szu-Aun present and get exposed to the huge world of neuroscience, the excellent food, and seeing old friends and colleagues!

This year, Juan gave the keynote talk at the Inscopix event, and both Andrew and I presented data from our respective projects. It seems like everything was well received, which is always encouraging to hear!

Chicago is an excellent place for SfN. It's an awesome city with great public transit. My only complaint is that McCormick Place is really out of the way. An advantage to DC is that the convention center is in immediate walking distance of awesome restaurants, sights, and sounds. But you really can't beat Chicago for native scenery. I love the way the glass, steel, and river comes together to create a perfect union. I can't wait for next year at San Diego!

Some images from Song Lab at SfN 2015 in Chicago

<![CDATA[I have a new cat.]]>Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:13:41 GMThttp://reidolsen.weebly.com/thoughtsblog/i-have-a-new-catMaggie found her living on the street. 
<![CDATA[Working with undergraduates]]>Thu, 18 Jun 2015 23:07:20 GMThttp://reidolsen.weebly.com/thoughtsblog/working-with-undergraduatesI have had the distinct pleasure of working with a large set of undergraduate students over the past too many years of my research career. Starting as a technician in a lab that actively recruited students visiting for the summer, I was for some reason trusted with their training and education. I soon came to find that not only did I take great pride in seeing their excitement for science grow, but I realized my own work improved as I became imminently more mindful of everything I did. I had expected that my productivity might slow a bit—and perhaps it would were I not fortunate enough to be burdened by such a group of young geniuses—but I found just the opposite. Moreover, I was surprised at how invested they became, and saw this investment returned in the form of a fresh perspective that informed the research as it was being conducted.

Today my two current students, Isaac Haniff and Szu-Aun Lim, received merit-based travel fellowships from UNC in order to attend the 2015 Society for Neuroscience annual conference. This is in addition to Szu-Aun previously receiving two prestigious research fellowships for the work she is doing with me. I am incredibly proud to work with them, and humbled that they continue to work with me.

I realize that I draw great pleasure from teaching and training. While I am pursuing a research-faculty track (I feel silly saying that so early on in my career), I hope to find an opportunity to maintain at least a touch of undergraduate teaching along the way. Perhaps it is because of my own experiences as a young intern, but I feel that there should be a sense of responsibility to perform educational outreach to undergraduates in addition to the high-level basic research we perform at R1 universities.

If you’re on the fence about taking a student—give it a shot.