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Enhancing Student Research Experiences with Open Data from the Allen Brain Map

Published in Tech News.

The Allen Brain Map is the main data repository for the Allen Institute for Brain Science, containing big, open datasets commonly used in neuroscience research (Allen Institute for Brain Science, 2022). Open data from the Allen Brain Map can be used to teach core concepts in neuroscience, data analysis methods, and other critical skills and knowledge to neuroscience students. These datasets can be used as the main data source for completely online lab experiences, or analyzed in combination with data students collect themselves. Applications may range in scope and format from a short worksheet used in a single class session to a coding tutorial to a guided independent research project. While open online data cannot fully replace lab experiences

for learning techniques, they can be used to expose students to analysis of big data, introduce resources widely used in the field, and teach skills like statistics and coding. This article reviews potential assignment formats where big and open data can be applied, introduces selected popular resources and sample use cases for each, and discusses benefits and limitations of open online data for lab experiences. Some specific applications in the context of distance learning are also detailed. Key words: open data; big data; data analysis; student independent research; online labs.

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