COST Action TEATIME have launched a new public forum for those wishing to delve deeper into scientific matters relating behavioral research in laboratory animals. Do you have questions on experimental design, software and hardware, data handling, or animal behavior? Then keep reading as TEATIME are here to help.
TEATIME is concerned with the implementation of new technologies to monitor the behavior of laboratory rodents in their home environment, known as automated homecage monitoring or HCM. Within the network a 'problem-solving café' where members could describe a scientific or technical issue to solicit help from other Action members proved very useful and quickly became popular. The network agreed that such an online discussion platform simplifying knowledge transfer might be interesting to the wider behavioral research community. And so the TEATIME Behaviour Forum was born.
We chat with members of TEATIME's leadership and communications team Maša Čater, Sabine Hölter-Koch, and Vootele Voikar to discover more:
What is the aim of the The Behaviour Forum.
TEATIME's Behaviour Forum focuses on improving homecage monitoring techniques. While the forum is expected to have many posts relevant to HCM, its remit is broader and it also contains material relating to all types of animal behavior experiments, covering both research and welfare.
Who is the intended audience? Can anyone join?
There is no limit to membership and it is open for anyone who is interested. Originally, the forum was intended for researchers, IT developers and data specialists, equipment manufacturers and animal technicians within TEATIME. However, the scope of the discussion topics on research and welfare aspects of animal behavior makes it interesting to the wider preclinical research community. With an increased number of members more people can provide information and solutions to questions posted.
What can people expect to find?
The forum is divided up into several categories. The Q&A category contains the bulk of the site's activity giving users the opportunity to ask and discuss any issue relating to hardware, software or experimental design. Other categories include Guides and Tutorials, Community News, Events, Meetings and Training, and Job Opportunities. The forum includes discussion of both open source initiatives and commercial systems. Commercial representatives are allowed to use the forum but will be identified as such to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. We can add in more categories if there is an interest in posting on wider topics.
How does the creation of the forum serve the objectives of TEATIME?
The forum addresses the research coordination and capacity building objectives of TEATIME. It serves to set up a network of users and people interested in using and developing HCM, and to inform about the technological state-of-the-art, including collaboration with SME developing these systems. It bridges behavioral and data science, enabling the exploration of ways to potentially integrate datasets. It supports the network of users by allowing easy sharing of information and making comparisons available to the wider scientific community. It helps to reduce fragmentation of HCM development by diverse research groups and SMEs, and it promotes the sharing of best practices on their use.
What has been the impact since launch?
To date, 2 months after launch, 473 members have signed up to use the forum. The launch was a great success with 225 sign-ups, 9000 pageviews and 120 posts in 12 different discussion topics on a single day. Since then there is an average of 1000 pageviews per week with new posts or replies added nearly every day. The content of the posts and replies and the diversity of the topics are of high scientific quality, so that the forum is indeed starting to be a great place for shared curated knowledge in Behavioural Science. So far the moderation team encountered close to no issues with users and posts, rules were readily accepted and understood, and the forum community is very healthy. The permanence of such rare content enabling knowledge transfer from experts to newcomers is of great value to our community.
What are your hopes for The Behaviour Forum?
We hope that The Behaviour Forum will grow its audience to become a self-sustaining support tool for a wide diversity of researchers. In particular, it should promote good science as well as good animal welfare by bringing together experts and (young) researchers new to the field. Ideally, it will allow us to achieve breakthroughs in the integration of complex behavioral and physiological datasets.
While this forum is focused on one particular area of science, we believe that its structure could be used by many COST Actions to help support their Action members and the wider community they may want to engage with. It addresses a main objective of establishing stakeholders, communication channels and knowledge transfer to promote an emerging field.