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iSi Health case study: Challenges in implementing open science and proposed strategies

iSi Health is developing a centralized repository for in silico research tools, such as physics-based models and data. This open science initiative will provide a seal of quality by defining standardized sharing guidelines and promoting good modeling and simulation practices.

Published onApr 26, 2023
iSi Health case study: Challenges in implementing open science and proposed strategies


The open science movement is well underway and supported at KU Leuven, with the implementation of several institutional initiatives, such as the appointment of an ambassador, the establishment of a dedicated task force, and the adoption of new effective research data management tools. In addition, the academic structure of the KU Leuven Institutes that have recently been created further supports the adoption of open science practices. Specifically, iSi Health, the KU Leuven Institute of Physics-based modeling for in silico health, is working towards defining and implementing a centralized repository for in silico research tools, including data, models, custom codes, experimental techniques, and numerical algorithms. However, several difficulties towards achieving open science are noted within the context of the innovative interdisciplinary research lead by iSi Health, combining the fields of medicine and computational modeling and simulations. These difficulties, along with potential identified strategies, are discussed in this poster.

First, given the sensitive nature of medical data, compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is mandatory. Sharing data is a crucial practice for reproducible science, but all aspects of data privacy and protection must be satisfied. Therefore, in collaboration with the Center for IT & IP Law (CITIP) at KU Leuven, iSi Health is investigating the relevant regulatory and legal aspects for in silico health to advise iSi Health members accordingly. Second, there is currently no standardized framework for the verification and validation of physics-based models for in silico health. This lack of framework inevitably impedes model-sharing, as there are no clear guidelines for adequate documentation of methods (e.g. version control, data requirement). Through its research activities, iSi Health is working towards the formulation of standardized guidelines for good modeling and simulation practices, including the required associated documentation. Finally, iSi Health is also focusing on developing a strong network of PhD students and postdocs, motivating and incentivizing this next generation of researchers to further adopt these key principles of open science. Ultimately, institutional repositories and standardizing sharing practices will benefit the iSi Health researchers, by improving access to in silico methods and concurrently providing a “seal of quality” for these novel models.


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Author biographies

Erica Beaucage-Gauvreau (KU Leuven) is the coordinator of iSi Health since April 2022. Erica has extensive experience using physics-based computer modelling and simulation techniques for her research on the human spine during her postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Orthopaedic Research Training (KU Leuven, 2019-2022) and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering (The University of Adelaide, Australia, 2015-2019). Erica is a strong advocate for in silico approaches in medicine and is eager to contribute to their clinical implementation. In her current role at iSi Health, she works closely with the Board of Directors, steering committee, and members of iSi Health to foster and build on the existing collaborations between researchers at KU Leuven and UZ Leuven. She is also working on the adoption of open science practices for the Institute, such as data and model repositories for the iSi Health community.

Ilse Jonkers (KU Leuven) is full professor in the Faculty of Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences and leads internationally known research on the quantification of joint loading, using multi-scale modeling-based analysis to understand the effect of pathological movement on cartilage degeneration. She is also the director of iSi Health, further paving the way towards an integrated biomedical approach, fully exploiting computer modelling and simulations, to address fundamental clinical questions.

Jos Vander Sloten (KU Leuven) is full professor of Biomedical Engineering with a research expertise in computer methods in presurgical planning systems and surgery support. His educational responsibilities relate to basic engineering mechanics, problem solving and engineering design, medical equipment, and regulatory affairs. In addition to currently serving as the vice-dean for international affairs in the Faculty of Engineering Science, he is also a co-director of iSi Health.

Karl Meerbergen (KU Leuven) is full professor at the Faculty of Engineering Science and member of the Subdivision Numerical Analysis and Applied Mathematics. He is internationally recognized for his expertise on numerical methods and scientific computing for a variety of application fields, mostly in engineering and science. He is member of the board of directors of iSi Health, with the aim to integrate in depth the basic sciences within the Institute.

Lennart Scheys (KU Leuven) is a tenured research professor in the Faculty of Medicine. He focuses on bridging his engineering background towards the functional profiling of the human locomotor system in health and disease. He is the director of the Institute for Orthopaedic Research and Training (IORT), KU Leuven/University Hospitals Leuven and a co-founder of Flanders Institute for Biomechanical Experimentation (FIBEr), a core facility of KU Leuven. He is also a co-director of iSi Health.

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