About The OpenBehavior Project and the Open Source Movement

What is the OpenBehavior Project and how did it start?
Welcome to OpenBehavior! We are a repository of cutting edge, open source tools for advancing behavioral neuroscience research. We are dedicated to accelerating research through the promotion of collaboration and open source projects. We aim to foster a community of sharing by providing a resource for researchers around the globe. OpenBehavior features hardware and software tools created for the investigation of behavior and cognition.

In 2016, it became clear that there were many projects reporting on new tools for the study of behavior, and thus we launched the OpenBehavior project. Access to design files and build instructions relied on word of mouth and isolated blogs and posts on social media. We made it our goal to disseminate information about tools as soon as they emerge as preprints on bioRxiv or PsyArXiv, peer-reviewed manuscripts, or independent posts by developers on Hackaday, GitHub, OSF.io, lab websites, or social media. The project is based around a website covering bleeding-edge open source tools and a related Twitter account that keeps followers up-to-date with new projects relevant to behavioral neuroscience across species such as flies, fish, rodents, and, more recently, humans. Through these efforts, we hope to contribute to the rapid replication and adoption of new tools into ongoing research and trigger modifications of existing tools for novel research applications.

To date, dozens of projects have been shared through www.openbehavior.com, with even more shared through active Twitter engagement. In May 2019, we celebrated our 100th open source project post. Our posts have thus far covered a wide variety of projects, such as devices for delivering rewarding foods and fluids, measuring home cage activity, video tracking and analysis, and physiologic methods used in behavioral experiments such as miniaturized microscopes and fiber photometry.

What is Open Source and what are the benefits?
The main idea behind an open source project is that the creator or developer provides open access to the source code and design files, whether that be for software or hardware. Open source projects typically provide a license for others to use and modify the design, although many licenses require that any modifications remain open source. Under such licenses, it is not permissible to take an open source design, modify a few things, and claim it is a new closed design. Releasing a project with an open source license provides transparency for others to view, modify, and improve the project. Open source can be relevant for many levels of scientific research; open-access journals, code and data repositories, and sharing methods, protocols, or files are all examples of how one can contribute to open source science.

The term “open source” is also often synonymous with being cost-effective. Many commercial products used in neuroscience can be replicated in an open source manner at a fraction of the initial cost. However, there are additional advantages to incorporating open source science in a research lab. With a recent increase in microcontrollers, microprocessors, 3D printing and laser-cutting technologies, most people now have access to create devices or products in a way that was previously unavailable to researchers. Additionally, a major benefit to open source science is the ability for customization and flexibility. Instead of being restricted to studying only what a commercial part is capable of doing or measuring, it is now possible to study a level deeper through developing a device or software that will help answer the research question, instead of letting the technology drive the research question. In behavioral neuroscience, this allows researchers to enter uncharted territory of analyzing previously unmeasured or fine-grained aspects of behavior.

Projects Posted to Date!

Latest Tweets and Blog Posts from OpenBehavior

Latest Tweets on OpenSource Projects

Video Repository: Change in license and upcoming activities

This week, we report on a change in the licenses for the videos in our repository. We also report plans to expand our efforts to help researchers access video data sets from neuroscience experiments. We are delighted to find that our video repository has assisted many...

Curated Itinerary on Open-Source Tools at SfN-24

The OpenBehavior project is once again asking for you to let us know if you are presenting a poster or talk on a new open-source method or using an existing method in your research. Please complete the form at the link below and we will add your presentation to our...

Printed Circuit Boards

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the flat, often green boards found inside most electronic devices and in microcontrollers such as Arduino. They provide a way to connect electronic components together and contain etched copper traces that act as miniaturized...

Resources for learning electronics

This is a post with some good news that we wanted to share with the community.Luis Garcia is a Boy Scout. He used resources on the OpenBehavior website for his Electronics Merit Badge. Our resources page includes links to websites where you can order electronics and...

Open-source tools: stuck & struggling?

At our pre-SfN workshop on open-source tools, participants discussed the need for more interactions among researchers using the tools. Sometimes people get help with their projects by posting on social media. But not everyone sees these posts. Online forums...

The OpenBehavior Team

Mark Laubach, PhD

Professor, American University – Washington, DC.

Co-founded The OpenBehavior Project in 2016.

Just vibin’ with his family, dog and two cats. Loves rock music, good beer, and the New York Mets.

Alexxai Kravitz, PhD

Professor, Washington University – St. Louis, MO.

Co-founded The Open Behavior Project in 2016.

Loving the midwest way of life with his wife, daughter, and abundance of plants. Enjoys using open source tools to hack parenthood, and investigate plant communication.

Jibran Khokhar, PhD

Professor, University of Guelph – Guelph, ON, Can.

Contributor for OpenBehavior and advocate for all things open source!

Rooting for the Toronto Raptors. When not chasing after his two sons, you can find him writing down all his credit card and ID numbers down in secret — just kidding! He has an stunning ability to keep them ALL memorized.

Jensen Palmer, MS

Doctoral Student, American University – Washington DC

Managing the video respository and RRID initiaves.

Granite state transplant in DC for grad school. When not crushing experiments in the lab, you might find her playing pick-up field hockey, kicking rocks, playing the same song on repeat (@ Michelle Branch) or enjoying one of her favorites: pad thai. 

Linda Amarante, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher – NIMH, Bethesda, MD

A total badass who keeps OpenBehavior alive and well, mostly through a perfectly curated twitter timeline.

Multi-modal NUMTOT traversing the Seattle region. When not performing cool experiments or advocating for open source science, you can find her exploring Seattle, watering her plants, or playing and coaching softball.

Jude Frie, BAS, B.Sc.H.

Doctoral Candidate, University of Guelph – Guelph, ON, Can.

A chill nerd creating content for OpenBehavior.

Just a Canadian addiction researcher, eh! Away from the lab he can be found drinking the strongest coffee and playing guitar for his cat (who happens to love Jack Johnson).

Samantha White, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher – NIMH, Bethesda, MD

Content curation and website management.

Digging rabbit holes in decision making philosophy, satiety in reward-guided behavior, behavioral limitations of rodent species, and most recently, rock and roll. In her spare time she’s probably at a concert or spending time at the pool hall with friends.

Sean Bradley, PhD

Staff Scientist, NIMH (Contractor) – Bethesda, MD

Contributer for OpenBehavior

Kevin Chavez Lopez, BS

Research Assistant, American University – Washington, DC.

Managing the 3D print repository, generating content, and working on OB Workshops.

One of the funniest people you’ll meet. 3D print expert on the hunt for a good lunch. When not in his cave in the lab, you’ll find him exploring the world or coaching his friends at the gym (and in life).

Former Contributors

Wambura Fobbs
Meagan Mitchell
Kyra Swanson
Hannah Goldbach
Michael Preston
Julia Licholai
Hao Chen
Marty Isaacson
Cammi Rood
Lan Hooton

Funding Support

NSF 1948181 to ML and AVK, 2021-24

NASA DC Space Grant Consortium to ML, Summer 2017

Always looking for more support.