Call for 2023 CCN GAC Proposals

The call for CCN GAC 2023 proposals is closed now.

CCN Generative Adversarial Collaborations (GACs)

What are the most exciting challenges and controversies in cognitive computational neuroscience right now? How can we make tractable plans to solve them collaboratively? As part of the annual CCN Program, the CCN Program Committee is organizing the second installment of our new, innovative event type: the Generative Adversarial Collaborations (GACs). The goal of a CCN GAC is to identify, debate, and make concrete plans to address the most challenging, controversial, and exciting theoretical and empirical debates in our field -- and then to begin implementing these plans.

We highly encourage the CCN community to actively engage in the CCN GAC online discussions throughout the summer preceding the workshops, the GAC workshops as part of the annual CCN annual meeting in August/September, and the ensuing GAC publications and solicited commentaries coming early in the following year.

What is a Generative Adversarial Collaboration (GAC)?

Most science proceeds with competing viewpoints investigated and published in parallel, following separate lines of inquiry, and by separate groups. Scientists converge on points of contention or agreement—and discover potential collaborators—through reading these publications, interacting informally at conferences, and other largely one-way or asynchronous methods of communication. In the case of competing theories, this process often leads to further series of parallel, separate experiments being performed, where one group claims the results support their view, while another group argues it wasn’t the right experiment or a key control condition is missing.

The CCN GAC project aims to foster direct debates that lead to collaboration. Inspired by the CCN 2019 Challenges and Controversies event, which ended in a hug, we hope to get scientists with opposing viewpoints to debate robustly and then start collaborating. Scientists with opposing views are invited to come together to discuss their opposing viewpoints in a constructive and amicable way, with the aim of collaboratively developing concrete approaches to addressing and potentially resolving core questions and open controversies with a keen focus on feasible goals for the near future.

Each selected GAC will be carefully facilitated with the support of CCN over the coming months, including explicit feedback and interactive participation from the CCN community, and then kicked off with a virtual debate and discussion event—all with the targeted goal of developing proposals to arbitrate the competing hypotheses or models. The GAC team will then write a paper together laying out their plan for resolving the controversy through experiment, simulation, or theory. These papers are expected to clarify the controversy or open question and to propose concrete steps—experimental, theoretical or a combination—as a challenge to the larger community to engage. CCN is coordinating with the Neurons, Behavior, Data analysis, and Theory journal to publish the GAC papers as a special issue along with accompanying peer-reviewed commentary pieces from community members inspired by the Behavioral and Brain Sciences model. We will then invite all the GACs to present their progress with the plan they proposed in the paper at the following CCN. With this ambitious programme we aim to significantly propel scientific progress on foundational questions and help spark ideas for future research projects and grant proposals resulting from the CCN GACs (see also Ellemers et al., 2020, Lakens 2020). 

GAC workshop formation

Phase 1. First, you will need to form a core team, consisting of at least 2 members with opposing viewpoints who are willing to both debate and work collaboratively together on the next steps. The core team can also contain several other members of your choosing whom you feel can and will substantively contribute to developing ideas and exploring avenues for possible resolution of the controversy. This core team will together write and submit the letter of intent, followed by the proposal for the CCN GAC workshop and subsequent rapid invited special issue publication. A small number of proposals will be selected for participation in the  CCN GAC kickoff workshops, to take place IN PERSON at the CCN annual meeting and subsequent special issue (see below for timeline).

Phase 2. All proposals will be published online, and we will solicit comments, reactions, and feedback from the whole community through an open discussion and feedback process. Community members may choose to submit comments, critiques, and reactions to as many of the GAC proposals as they wish, although we encourage feedback to be substantive and constructive: “Cool idea!” is encouraging, but the goal of this feedback is to strengthen the GAC, and potentially allow the core GAC team to identify select community members who could join the GAC and help drive it toward fruitful outcome. Relevant theoretical background, conceptual observations, and/or concrete ideas of experimental paradigms or approaches which further understanding or potential resolution of the competing views are highly encouraged. This step will also help CCN understand the community’s engagement with the GAC proposals, so we can select the GACs that best reflect the diversity and interests of the CCN community to ensure participation in the CCN GAC workshops.

Phase 3. Using the feedback from the community and evaluating the potential contributions, CCN will review and select which GACs will participate in this cycle's CCN GAC workshops. All community comments and reactions will be shared with the selected GAC core teams to encourage them to bring on board those who have demonstrated commitment and potentially valuable contributions. We will also share community reactions with any unselected GAC proposals’ core teams so they can continue to develop their proposals if they wish. The core GAC teams will then integrate this community feedback into their GAC, and potentially invite community members to join the GAC whom they feel can substantively contribute to the project.

Phase 4. The (potentially expanded) GAC team will organize and then run a GAC workshop that we encourage to include clear presentation of the controversy or open question, debate about points of uncertainty or contention, and explore potential avenues to resolve or move forward at the CCN GAC workshops as part of the CCN annual meeting (see timeline below). After the workshops, the GAC team is expected to collectively and collaboratively write a position paper that outlines theoretical and/or experimental proposals for submission to a special issue around first quarter of the following year and to continue working on their project throughout the following year culminating in a presentation of their accomplishments at the following CCN annual meeting.

GAC workshop structure - IN PERSON!

CCN GAC workshops are expected to be highly interactive, starting with an overview of the question and a debate between two or more proponents of competing hypotheses or theories and then moving to commentaries and reactions from the rest of the GAC team. We expect that GAC kickoff discussion will be approximately one hour long, followed by structured commentary, fireside chat, and/or other formats presented by other GAC members for two to three hours. Importantly, we expect these CCN GACs not to be a series of isolated talks, but instead an integrated presentation of competing viewpoints and open questions focused on moving the scientific process forward. Key components of the debate and discussion should include focus on identifying conflicting experimental results and brainstorming specific experimental approaches and potential empirical (or theoretical) outcomes that might arbitrate the competing theories. 

CCN GAC workshops (debates + commentary) will be recorded and broadcast to an audience with a capacity of thousands; interaction from the audience is encouraged during the live event. 

GAC special issue manuscripts

After the initial debate and workshop, the GAC team is expected to develop and submit the invited submission manuscript to the publication venue arranged by CCN. 

Workshop attendees & special issue commentaries

Even though they are not part of the GAC core team selected to organize the workshop, audience members/attendees of the CCN GAC workshops via live stream and other community members are all invited to contribute commentary pieces, to be peer-reviewed for publication as accompanying pieces to the main GAC position paper in a special issue (journal arranged by CCN). Thus, through the GAC workshops, main position paper, and accompanying commentaries, the broader community can come to serve as public discussants of (or even advisors to, in some cases) the main project even if they do not become involved as core GAC members.

Target GAC outcomes - summary

In sum, selected GAC proposals will participate in the following:

Applying to lead a CCN GAC

Applicants to the CCN GAC call should submit:

Selection process

A small number of CCN GAC proposals will be accepted for the CCN GAC workshops and following development during the year. The selection process will involve the CCN Program Committee and Review Committee evaluating the proposals for (1) adherence to the above criteria and (2) diversity and breadth of target audience, and will incorporate feedback solicited from the CCN community in the process.

Commitment from CCN

For the CCN GACs and future related products, CCN will:

Timeline targets (subject to revision)

Leading up to CCN annual meeting

February - Call for proposals, Google form for submissions opens (if you cannot access Google forms because of geopolitical restrictions, please email us at

March - Deadline for proposals, post proposals for community feedback

May - Deadline for feedback from community, GAC selection & community feedback sent to selected GAC organizers

July  - Final list of GAC discussants, proposed workshop schedule

Aug - GAC workshops IN PERSON @CCN annual meeting!

Following CCN annual meeting -- target timeline

Jan /Feb - Submit core manuscript (GAC team) to special issue of NBDT, peer review

Feb/March - Publication of core GAC manuscripts, solicitation of peer-reviewed accompanying commentary pieces

March - Solicitation of commentary piece proposals and selection for peer review

April/May - Peer review of commentary pieces

June - Publication of commentary pieces

July/Aug - GAC prepares presentation of results of the year, + reaction to commentary pieces

Aug/Sept - GACs present their progress at CCN annual meeting