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Re: Open-source MRI hardware initiative project

Hi Lionel,

let me also add some comments from my side. I am a physicist working
on MRI - mostly on image reconstruction algorithms and real-time MRI.
We released an image reconstruction platform developed at UC Berkeley
as an open-source project: https://mrirecon.github.io/bart/

> I am a researcher in MRI hardware at the University of Aberdeen,
> Scotland. I am currently working on the development of a completely new
> type of MRI system (see ffc-mri.org), but I would like to avoid the
> traditional route of commercialisation as I see many problems with it.
> Instead, I have been thinking for a while of preparing an initiative for
> the development of open-source hardware in MRI.

An open-source hardware platform for MRI would be nice - even if it
is only useful for research and educational purposes.

> The aim of this initiative would be, in a first stage, to pool the
> technical solutions already in the public domain together so as to help
> small research labs like mine and, in a second stage, to create a rally
> point for these labs to share knowledge, resources and to organise
> collective work. If this proves successful, it may expand into a
> complete open source MRI hardware platform but that would be in the far
> future. I already approached several research groups who expressed their
> enthusiasm about this idea so there would be several academic
> participants to start with (at least 3, probably 5 to 8), and some of
> them are already willing to provide some designs.

Sounds good. Just do it!

> I would like to get some advices from the Debian Med community regarding
> several aspects:
> - What solution would you think is the most appropriate to organise a
> community portal? I do not have any IT help from my University on this
> project but I am willing to put a bit of my own money to get a server
> somewhere if necessary. Bear in mind that I have little training on how
> to maintain a website, though I can take some time to learn.

My recommendation would be: Have a wiki and an open mailing list 
with public archive. If you have more time you can design a nice
website. Hosting a website is really cheap and for scientific projects
it is usually possible to have the university host it somewhere, but
there are also sites such as github etc. where you can have a
website/wiki and host schematics for free.

> - I know there is an active part of Debian Med that works on MRI
> software (and make great things, actually!), would any of them be
> interested in this initiative?
> If yes, what would you expect from it, or
> what would you be willing to provide at this stage?

I can't offer much help as I am currently not doing any
work on MRI hardware. But I think it is interesting...

> Also, would you have
> some recommendations so that open-sourced MRI hardware would easily
> interface with the already existing open-source software?

Consider supporting the ISMRM raw data format which is a vendor-neutral
format for MRI data. If this is too much work or does not support
your use-case, you can also create your own data formats and APIs. If
you do something simple which is well-documented, there should be no
problem supporting it from the software-side. I can help with this.
Obviously, try not to use proprietary software to control the hardware.

> - Would you have any suggestions regarding the conduct of such a
> project? I have no experience in the management of open source projects
> and I am actively looking for documentation about it. In particular, how
> can I organise this project so as to avoid bottlenecks in the future?

Don't worry about this. Put as much useful stuff as possible online
and create open channels for communication, e.g. a mailing list 
or a forum. Then see what happens. At least initially, I would not
expect a lot of contributions from outsiders anyway.

> - Can you see any funding bodies that could be interested in this
> initiative, in the short to medium term?

Why not? Funding agencies fund all sorts of things. One could
argue that the utility of a research grant is maximized if
schematics etc are made open-source.

> - Do you know of organisations that would be interested to know of this
> project or to provide guidance? I already plan to contact OSHWA and the
> CERN Open Hardware Repository, but I am sure there would be others who
> can help.

Maybe also the ISMRM? At least for software, there is some interest
in sharing:  http://www.ismrm.org/MR-Hub/

> - Where can I advertise this project efficiently? I am currently
> thinking about FOSDEM, if this sounds reasonable.

Advertise at workshops and conferences in your field.

> That is all for the questions for now. Thanks for taking the time to
> read this, and congratulations to you all for the great work you do to
> maintain and develop the Debian Med project!
> Lionel


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