On Saturday, neuroscientists celebrated public outreach about the brain at this year’s Brain Awareness Week (BAW) reception at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in San Diego. BAW partners traded outreach tips and demonstrated their success in posters, and we heard from several speakers, including BAW Campaign Director Kathleen Roina, post-doctoral researcher and science communicator Jean-Francois Gariepy, and Dana Alliance member and SfN President Larry Swanson, Ph.D.
Drawing attention to the impact BAW can make, Roina shared a story about how a Brain Awareness Week event affected one young woman’s educational path. Sayeeda won the New York Regional Brain Bee in 2006 on her second attempt and later went on to win a prestigious New York Times Scholarship. In the Times article announcing the scholarship winners, Sayeeda listed the Bee among her accomplishments and credited it for fueling her love of neuroscience.
Addressing the audience, Roina said:
I know most of you have had similar experiences—whether it was a student who said “the brain is cool, I want to be a neuroscientist” after you visited their classroom; or an audience member who thanked you after a lecture and told you how much the information meant to them.
It’s what Brain Awareness Week is all about, and it’s why, year after year, we all remain committed to the campaign—a campaign that’s for all of the “Sayeedas” out there, whom we touch and inspire through the work we do.
Roina congratulated the partners on the success of the 2013 campaign (the most successful to date), which reached more than half a million people in 58 countries.
Gariepy was up next and he encouraged the use of social media in science outreach, offering some useful tips:
- Make it clear to your readers whether what you’re posting is opinion or peer-reviewed research.
- If you make an error, acknowledge it and apologize.
- Be open to feedback.
- Choose a niche.
Illustrating the power of the Internet, the audience was treated to a screening of the winning video from the Society for Neuroscience’s Brain Awareness Week video contest, which can be viewed on YouTube. Travis Grenier, the first non-scientist to win the contest, made a short video about congenital anosmia, a rare condition that causes an inability to smell.
The last speaker, Larry Swanson, remarked on the importance of making time to educate the public about neuroscience: “Everybody is busy these days—we’re busier than ever—but volunteering is important.” Helping students by introducing them to science and encouraging their interest is a great way to get involved in public outreach, he said.
Additional photos from the reception
To learn more about Brain Awareness Week, please visit the BAW website or Facebook page. And for continuing coverage of the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, check out the Dana Foundation’s twitter feed.
–Ann L. Whitman