NeuroHub: A Research Information Environment for Neuroscientists
Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary activity involving participants collaborating from the mathematical, physical and life sciences as well as the medical sciences. It is dependent upon information technologies, computational capabilities and access to a range of instruments. As such it is an ideal exemplar of an interdisciplinary-based collaborative project that will enhance the currently available e-infrastructure to support emerging methods of research and the changing nature of the scholarly communications lifecycle.
NeuroHub aimed to develop a set of sustainable tools and framework that will allow neuroscientists to efficiently and effectively use existing and future e-Infrastructure, by doing so enabling a more productive research cycle, streamlining the laboratory experience from conception of experiment to publication of the research results.
The system developed is already in production use at the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN) in Reading, the Department of Pharmacology(Neuroscience) in Oxford and the Centre for Biological Sciences in Southampton with a community of 70 researchers at the time of writing. The system is allowing neuroscientists at Southampton having access to experimental data and results on the move; this has proved to be advantageous when they are on working abroad as it was reported from Prof Philip Newland when he was working in Japan and Brazil. He was able to communicate more effectively with his RAs in Southampton, supervise their work and present “fresh” experimental data and results to his colleagues over there. CINN scientists are also using NeuroHub to communicate with collaborators in Australia. NeuroHub is also an important supporting technology that allows distributed multidisciplinary teams at CINN to work on the analysis of large-scale data sets across a hybrid Cloud computing environment. CINN has stopped using mailing lists within the centre and now use NeuroHub to collaborate with other departments across the university.
NeuroHub was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) under the Information Environment Programme from June 2009 to November 2012
Oxford scientists are now able to access data files on the move using mobile and tablet devices. One of our tester users reported she could work more effectively from home and while commuting on the train by having access to data files that previously she was not able to access remotely. Furthermore, both image and electrophysiology formats are now archived in a structured way, which has imposed discipline upon the group with respect to its own data management.
Neuroscientists at all sites are using digital pens as a way to capture experimental data.
NeuroHub System Interface
In general, the project has had an impact on the way neuroscientists are tackling data management and sharing. They are becoming more aware of its benefits and significance and this has been reflected on the way they address “Data Management” sections in their grant proposals. The use of NeuroHub will help them to carry on with their data management plans and to report back to funding agencies on this regard. Furthermore, they see the benefit of using digital pens to capture their notes and uploading them into the system, preserving valuable experimental information.
The system delivered by the NeuroHub project is sustainable and extensible and therefore can be augmented to meet the needs of other scientific areas outside of neuroscience. It was designed using a combination of two well supported open source technologies, Drupal and Alfresco. Both of these products have huge user and developer communities, as well as a number of commercial companies that are able to provide professional support.
NeuroHub system has been released as open source to the community under the GPL License. NeuroHub can be freely downloaded from the project’s code repository. For more information please visit our website.