SfN18: Telling Stories of Science

Guest post by Kayt Sukel 

There’s an old Hopi proverb: “Those who tell the stories rule the world.”

In today’s world, where science seems to often get short shrift, Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist at New York University and a member of the Dana Alliance, believes that storytelling can be a powerful tool for scientists to share, teach, and connect with the world outside their laboratories. She convened the second storytelling session at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting this year, recruiting scientists and science educators like Monica Feliu-Mojer, director of communications and science outreach at Ciencia Puerto Rico; Rachel Yehuda, director of the traumatic stress studies division at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine; Paula Croxson, senior manager for education programs at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute; Jean Mary Zarate, senior editor at Nature Neuroscience; and Uri Hasson, professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, to discuss why stories can be so compelling—and what they can offer the average budding neuroscientist. Part storytelling event and part scientific presentation, each participant demonstrated how personal narratives can transform science communication in different ways.

Monica Feliu-Mojer tackled the elephant in the room with the first presentation in the session, “Who Speaks for Science?”  Continue reading

Fumiko Hoeft Receives SfN Science Educator Award

Fumiko Hoeft  (photo by Peter Morenus/UConn)

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 Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) at the University of Connecticut and director of the Laboratory for Learning Engineering and Neural Systems (brainLENS.org) located at UConn/UCSF , during the society’s annual meeting, in San Diego, on Tuesday.

Q: Was it a conscious decision for you to do a lot of education and outreach, as well as research?

Dr. Hoeft: Yes. The experience of education and outreach is not so different than what we do as physicians. I always wanted to be a physician: In my elementary school graduation album I wrote, “I want to be a physician and help the underserved.” When I started research at Harvard, three years after graduating from medical school in Japan, I missed clinical work and interacting with people terribly. Continue reading

Eric Kandel is Alan Alda’s Podcast Guest

AlanAldaPodcast_highres

Image courtesy of Alda Communication Training Co.

On the latest episode of the Clear + Vivid podcast, host Alan Alda, well-known actor, writer, and, in recent years, crusader of science outreach, sits down with old friend and Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Eric R. Kandel, director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University and author of The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves. Kandel speaks to Alda about his work, the satisfaction of connecting with audiences, and fleeing Austria in the aftermath of its annexation to Nazi Germany.

The podcast focuses on communication and connection. It’s through conversations with individuals holding mastery in various fields that Alda guides the listener, stopping to appreciate peaks and valleys of the art form. In this, Alda and Nobel Laureate Kandel find and sustain a relaxed stride, offering listeners morsels of wisdom: The importance of being mindful of your audience, focusing on one person and changing your approach based on their responses (favorable or not); the role of laughter in forming connections; and the delicate dance of simplifying your ideas to a lay audience without treading on and distorting the science. Continue reading

International Neuroethics Society Essay Contest

ins horizontal
Submissions are being accepted through July 9 for the International Neuroethics Society’s (INS) Student/Postdoc Essay Contest in Neuroethics. The contest aims to promote interest in neuroethics among students and postdocs from around the world.

Those looking to enter can submit in one of two categories: academic or science communication.

From the INS website:

One winner from each category will be selected by the INS Student/Postdoc Committee in August and recognized at the 2018 INS Annual Meeting in San Diego—the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to neuroethics. Winners will also receive a free 1-year INS student membership and a Michael Patterson Travel Stipend ($250 USD) to support travel expenses to the meeting.

In addition, up to five authors of science communication essays will also be selected to participate in a 1-on-1 editorial mentorship with INS Chief Operating Officer Elaine Snell and INS Board member Mo Costandi, co-chairs of the INS Communication, Outreach, and Membership Committee. The winning essays and those selected for the mentoring opportunity will be considered for publication by the INS or by another institution appropriate for the topic discussed.

For additional details on eligibility, topics, and how to submit, visit the INS website. Good luck!

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.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: