Five-point strategy will maximize the impact of research and maintain leadership in mental health research and care

Today, the Douglas Research Centre (DRC) joins The Neuro’s Tanenbaum Open Science Institute (TOSI) as a partner in research data sharing and collaboration through the adoption of a set of institutional Open Science principles.

Through this partnership, the DRC commits to publicly releasing research findings and facilitating the use of data for educational, health, and societal impact, all while minimizing the use of restrictive intellectual property protection on research outputs in order to accelerate the rate of medical breakthroughs.

Inspired by The Neuro’s Open Science commitment in 2016, this is the second TOSI partnership of its kind—the first being with the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute in 2021. These partnerships flow from of TOSI’s mission to encourage the adoption of Open Science across Canada. To accomplish this mission TOSI provides guidance and funding to support interested organizations, both of which were key to the DRC’s decision to adopt Open Science.

The collaborative effort

The DRC has already taken on a number of Open Science projects. Its Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Platform (MCMP) was the second in Canada to adopt OMERO, software for openly sharing microscopy images. The Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank is in the process aligning its practices with those of the Cellular Biospecimen Imaging and Genetic (C-BIG) Repository, The Neuro’s open sharing platform.

In 2019, the DRC launched an in-house Open Science team. One year later, it received $100,000 from TOSI to design a set of institutional Open Science Principles. Now, it’s committed to an Open Science strategy organized into five guiding principles aiming to broadly share research outputs, maximize societal impact, and empower research participants and service users.

As a mental health research centre, the DRC will pioneer Open Science research in a challenging area for patient privacy. Mental illness creates unique emotional, social, and cognitive vulnerabilities. Open Science policies must be designed to benefit the research community while respecting the needs of patients and research participants. Overcoming these challenges will create a model for other mental health institutions when implementing Open Science practices.

“As the first Canadian mental health research organization to adopt Open Science at the institutional level, we are leading a transformation in our field,” says Dr. Gustavo Turecki, Scientific Director of DRC and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University. “Many of the Douglas’ research programs have Open Science principles at their core, spanning from extensively sharing brain tissue samples to our far-reaching knowledge translation activities. We expect to show that Open Science in mental health is not only feasible, but most importantly that it enables solid and rapid scientific advances in a research environment integrated to clinical practice.”

“Implementing Open Science in mental health research certainly brings challenges, the obvious one being safeguarding the confidentiality of our research participants and service users,” says Professor Sylvia Villeneuve, a researcher at the DRC and Canada Research Chair in early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. “We learned many lessons through openly sharing the PREVENT-AD dataset, a longitudinal cohort of pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease participants that is now findable through the unified interface of the Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform. We found a balance between implementing appropriate safeguards and being as open as possible. Participants are eager to be part of Open Science studies.”

“I’m delighted to see the DRC join Team Open Science,” says Dr. Guy Rouleau, The Neuro’s Director and TOSI co-founder. “It’s exciting to watch the movement spread across Canada, one institution at a time. More and more scientists and administrators are recognizing the value of Open Science, and I encourage more of them to take this step. TOSI is here to help however we can.”