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Lab Times





processed data (e.g. spike times, behavioral

events), intermediate level data (e.g. local

field potential, spike waveforms, position

data), and wide-band raw data for enabling

reproducibility and cross-validation”.

One format that meets all those require-

ments seems to be the HDF5 format, the

project’s current favourite. Developed in

the late 1980s, the Hierarchical Data For-

mat has, over the years, found many fans.

NASA adopted it as the standard data and

information system for their Earth Observ-

ing System; R&D Magazine selected it as

“one of the 100 most technologically sig-

nificant new products of the year 2002” and

special effect artists used it for the Lord of

the Rings movies. Now, HDF5 is perhaps go-

ing to revolutionise neuroscience.

According to its developers, HDF5 “sup-

ports an unlimited variety of datatypes,

and is designed for flexible and efficient

I/O and for high volume and complex data.

HDF5 is portable and is extensible, allowing

applications to evolve in their use of HDF5”.

Hence, it appears to be well-suited for the

neurophysiological data hotchpotch. And

the best thing about it, it’s open source and

distributed free of charge.

Should the HDF5 format make the cut,

the Neurodata Without Borders initiative

will test it on available datasets and then

share it with the broader neuroscience com-


( )


Costs of Open Access in the UK

Worth the Money

The once unthinkable dream of freely avail-

able research articles is becoming a more

cherished reality for researchers and the

science-savvy public. This is especially true

in the UK, where the government push-

es vigorously for Open Access to publicly

funded research for quite some time. Con-

sequently, two of the largest funding pro-

viders in the country, Research Council UK

and Higher Education Funding Councils, in-

troduced new Open Access policies, advis-

ing UK researchers to make their research

openly available, if they have the slightest

interest in receiving money from them.

While this move is a step in the right di-

rection, Open Access publishing comes with

investments in the form of working time

spent on management, advocacy (telling

and advising researchers about their OA op-

tions) and infrastructure development. To

get an estimate of the true costs of OA in the

UK, UK-based consultancy, Research Con-

sulting, devised a web-based survey and in-

vited a number of UK higher education in-

stitutions and public sector research estab-

lishments to share their experiences in real-

ising Open Access. Among the respondents

were: Imperial College London, King’s Col-

lege London, the University of Edinburgh

and the University of Oxford. The resulting

report, Counting the Costs of Open Access,

and all data is available, free for everyone

to see and read, on the Research Consult-

ing website.

The main findings: “Achieving compli-

ance with Research Council UK’s open ac-

cess Policy cost at least £9.2m in 2013/14

– with a further £11m or more spent on ar-

ticle processing charges (APCs)” and “The

time spent on increasing open access to re-

search within UK research organisations in

2013/14 is equivalent to more than 110 full-

time equivalent staff members.”

Unsurprisingly, investment of money

and time differs considerably between the

two possible routes of OA – the gold route

(the author pays the journal an article pro-

cessing charge) and the green route (an ar-

ticle is deposited in a publicly available re-

pository). The report breaks down all the

costs involved and finds that “making an

article open access through the ‘gold’ route

takes two hours or more, at a cost of £81”.

These numbers are composed of 31 min-

utes and £24 at the author stage, where

the scientist figures out the requirements

for a gold OA publication and directs his

request to the institutes’ relevant depart-

ment. It takes another, on average, 43 min-

utes and £24 for the administration to re-

ceive, review and process the request; 30

minutes and £17 to request, pay the invoice

and liaise with the publisher; and a final

30 minutes and £16 to confirm payment,

check article’s OA availability and its cor-

rect license. The survey respondents report-

ed that most time is wasted liaising with the

publishers. In contrast, publishing an arti-

cle via the green route takes about 45 min-

utes and costs £33. Here, the most common

time delay was a “lack of author familiarity

with the green OA process”.

Improvements in sharing knowledge,

policies and procedures, better automa-

tion and facilitating the depositing process

could help to cut the costs for OA further;

and thus make it an irresistible option for

all researchers and institutions.

EMBO Installation Grant winners

Back to the Roots

Since 2006, EMBO, the European Molecu-

lar Biology Organisation, is determined to

“strengthen science” also in European coun-

tries that are less blessed with a well-oiled

research infrastructure. Their Installation

Grants help young scientists to relocate to

the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, and

Turkey and get started with establishing in-

dependent laboratories. Up until today, a

total of 71 group leaders have received an

annual support of €50,000 for three to five

years and also a few more practical bene-

fits like networking opportunities, access

to EMBL core facilities or a free job advert




In December, EMBO announced the

winners of the latest round of funding. Of

the eight grantees, relocating from univer-

sities in Canada, Germany and the United

States, three will set up research shop in

Turkey, two in the Czech Republic, two in

Portugal and one in Poland.

Ana Domingos, for instance, moved

from Rockefeller University in New York

to the Gulbenkian Institute of Science in

Portugal to study obesity. Using the lat-

est neurogenetic techniques, she wants to

“identify neurons that play a fundamental

role in eating behavior and metabolism”.

According to her website, Domingos is, by

the way, currently looking for “motivated

graduate students at Masters or PhD level”.

Also among the grant winners is Pavel

Plevka. After a four-year postdoc stay at

Purdue University, USA, he returned to his

home country, the Czech Republic, in 2013

to establish his own research group at the

Masaryk University in Brno. Plevka stud-

ies viruses, such as the human enterovirus

71 and the dengue virus. X-ray crystallog-