The Neurological Institute at Montreal's McGill University is host to the "Tanenbaum Open Science Institute," endowed by a $20M contribution; since last spring, the unit has pursued an ambitious open science agenda that includes open access publication of all research data and findings, and an end to the practice of patenting the university's findings. Instead, they will all be patent-free and usable by anyone.
They see this as a pilot program for open science across disciplines and institutions.
The CBIG-Repository is already partnering with the Quebec Parkinson Network. "That pilot project is the best example of what we hope to do," says Karamchandani. "We already have more than 100 patients [with Parkinson's disease] who have altruistically agreed to donate to CBIG. Fifty of those patients will receive high-level imaging and all of this will be anonymous, de-identified and placed on a secure server where researchers with an ethically valid and scientifically valid question can access the elements of the data that they require to answer their research questions."
Tanenbaum hopes that the Neuro's open science practices won't be a one-way street. "One of the first challenges is to get other institutions that are dealing with neurological research and brain disease to open up their science, too. That's why part of my gift is a challenge fund to encourage other institutions to do this."
The Neuro expects its open science policies will spur new partnerships with other organizations and companies that are trying to develop treatments for brain diseases. Patents can get in the way of these sorts of collaborations.
In a recent piece published in the journal PLOS Biology, McGill law professor Richard Gold, BSc'84, wrote that the Neuro hopes its approach to open science "will draw companies to the Montreal region, where the Neuro is based, leading to the creation of a local knowledge hub." Gold, an expert on intellectual property issues who has been serving as an open science adviser to the Neuro, added that the plan was already bearing fruit – Thermo Fisher Scientific, a multinational biotech firm interested in neurodegenerative diseases, will be partnering with the Neuro.
Ushering in a bold new era for open science