Science Communication: Dana Resources

In the past decade, I’ve seen more and more scientists step outside their labs—or invite people in—to share how science affects our daily lives and why basic and translational research is important. Spreading the science love isn’t just the purview of reporters and PR people anymore, and interest is high.

Groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have included plenty of sessions on science communication in past years, including workshops to help researchers hone their “elevator pitches” and find compelling stories in their data. In 2017, both the International Neuroethics Society and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) included scicomm sessions during their annual meetings. I couldn’t even get into one of the workshops at SfN because it was so popular the room was already packed before the session started, with a standby line down the hall! (See also video of SfN’s 2017 “Dialogues” chat, with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and physician Siddartha Mukherjee chatting with SfN President Eric Nestler about “the excitement and importance of communicating the promise of scientific inquiry to the public.”)

Since part of the Dana Foundation’s mission is educating the public in a responsible manner about brain science and the potential of research, we’re glad to see this trend. Here are a few of our resources to help you reach out.

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Paula Croxson Receives SfN Science Educator Award

Paula Croxson (photo: Veronica Szarejko)

Each year, the Society for Neuroscience recognizes outstanding neuroscientists who have strongly added to public education and awareness about the field. The Dana Foundation sponsors these awards. This year’s award was presented to Paula Croxson, D.Phil., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, during the society’s annual meeting, in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

Q: How did you get into doing events like “Pint of Science” gatherings?

Dr. Croxson: I started by taking part in Mount Sinai’s outreach program, MINDS, and through that was introduced to others who were taking part in the Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week efforts in New York (BraiNY). My first event was when I told a story for the science storytelling show The Story Collider. I found myself on stage telling a true, personal story about my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease and how my own research into memory disorders helped me understand what she went through. It was incredible. I hadn’t imagined what an impact my story would have on other people, and I hadn’t realized how much more connected it would make me feel to the impact my work could have on the world. It changed my life.

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Advice for Scientists on Engaging the Public: From the Archives

Researchers Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik and journalist Devin Powell recently ran an informal survey of scientists who had made an effort to popularize their research. You can guess the tenor of their results by the headline they ran under in Scientific American: “Scientists Should Speak Out More.” That story is behind a paywall, but an anecdotal list that goes with it, “How Scientists Can Engage the Public without Risking Their Careers,” is free to read.

We interviewed Martinez-Conde in 2014 on her outreach, including her talks featuring magicians and illusions and starting the annual “Best Illusion of the Year” contest. On the question of why do outreach now, she said:

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Dana Press Offers Cerebrum Anthology 2015

CerebrumBookCover15In the last ten years, we have learned more about neuroscience than in all of recorded history, writes Alan Leshner in the Foreword of the new Cerebrum: Emerging Ideas in Brain Science 2015, an anthology that became available in paperback this week. Leshner, chief executive officer, emeritus, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and former executive publisher of the journal Science, comes to that conclusion based on his 40 years in the neuroscience field.

The anthology consists of articles and book reviews featured each month during 2015 on the web. As the editor of Cerebrum, the online research-based journal published by the Dana Foundation, I’m confident that this year’s stories are examples of that kind of progress. Our goal is to take complex research and explain its importance in simple and understandable language to anyone interested in the brain.

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BAW Partner Interview: Ana João Rodrigues

This is the second in a series of Brain Awareness Week partner interviews, in which partners share their BAW experiences and tips for planning successful events. Ana João Rodrigues, Ph.D.,  is a faculty investigator at ICVS, University of Minho, Braga, in Portugal, and the neuroscience outreach coordinator at ICVS. Rodrigues is also a Dana Alliance member.

Ana Joao Rodrigues

The University of Minho’s Brain Awareness Week (BAW) program draws hundreds of people to its events, ranging in age from young students to elderly people. Can you give an example of a well-received activity or topic for each age group?

BAW is one of the several programs our institute organizes every year to promote interest in science and to disseminate scientific knowledge. BAW initiatives include participants from 4 to 80 year olds, and more than 30 researchers!

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