Increasing the impact of medical image computing using community-based open-access hackathons: The NA-MIC and 3D Slicer experience

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Abstract

The National Alliance for Medical Image Computing (NA-MIC) was launched in 2004 with the goal of investigating and developing an open source software infrastructure for the extraction of information and knowledge from medical images using computational methods. Several leading research and engineering groups participated in this effort that was funded by the US National Institutes of Health through a variety of infrastructure grants. This effort transformed 3D Slicer from an internal, Boston-based, academic research software application into a professionally maintained, robust, open source platform with an international leadership and developer and user communities. Critical improvements to the widely used underlying open source libraries and tools—VTK, ITK, CMake, CDash, DCMTK—were an additional consequence of this effort. This project has contributed to close to a thousand peer-reviewed publications and a growing portfolio of US and international funded efforts expanding the use of these tools in new medical computing applications every year. In this editorial, we discuss what we believe are gaps in the way medical image computing is pursued today; how a well-executed research platform can enable discovery, innovation and reproducible science (“Open Science”); and how our quest to build such a software platform has evolved into a productive and rewarding social engineering exercise in building an open-access community with a shared vision.

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