Dana Alliance members serve as ready resources for questions from journalists and lend their expertise to us as we devise new materials to inform the public. The Foundation’s News Office responds to specific queries from individual journalists through the Neuroscience Resource Center.
Journalists recognize the neuroscience resource service, which offers background information and connections to experts in neuroscience, as a reliable source. This year, reporters and editors representing print, broadcast, and the Internet media increasingly turned to Dana for assistance.
The news staff works with Dana Alliance staff on the Staying Sharp event series, reaching out to local media for each event, and provides media outreach for the New York Brain Bee competition.
News Office Print and Interactive Resources
The News Office produces several publications, as well as Web site content, marketing materials, and interactive member directories. Its annual Advances in Brain Research, which features interviews with leading neuroscientists on timely brain topics, this year covered visual processing and artistic genius; optical imaging; synaptic transmission; prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe disorders; frontotemporal dementia and language processing; basal ganglia; and surgical treatment of motor circuit disorders. Among the experts were Dana Alliance members Ann Graybiel, Ph.D., MIT; Mahlon DeLong, M.D., Emory University School of Medicine; Murray Grossman, M.D., University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Jordan Grafman, Ph.D., National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institutes of Health (NIH); Margaret Livingstone, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School; and Terrence Sejnowski, Ph.D., Salk Institute for Biological Studies. All News Office publications are available via our Web site, www.dana.org.
For Brain Awareness Week 2006, the News Office distributed two new briefing papers. The first examined the implications of “environmental enrichment” on human brain health from birth to death. Contributors included Dana Alliance members Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions; and William Greenough, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The second briefing paper reviewed how imaging studies are transforming understanding of the teenage brain as it grows. It detailed the work of Dana Alliance members Judith Rapoport, M.D., National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); and Jordan Grafman, Ph.D., NINDS, NIH.
The News Office continues to distribute the three arts education books that it produced: Partnering Arts Education: A Working Model from ArtsConnection, Acts of Achievement: The Role of Performing Art Centers in Education, and Planning an Arts-Centered School: A Handbook.
It also produces member resource directories, available in interactive CD format, for the European Dana Alliance for the Brain and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. With searchable contact and biographical information, the resource directory CDs are distributed to selected journalists and to Alliance members, which helps them keep in contact with one another. This year, the News Office improved the online member forms; conducted updates for both directories, available for download electronically; and produced a new CD for European Dana Alliance members.
In 2006, the News Office mailed a postcard about the “Brainy Kids” section of our Web site to more than 8,000 librarians nationwide who specialize in children and youth. Brainy Kids provides information to teachers, parents, and children, via links to selected Web sites, on science-related laboratory experiments, lesson plans, and interactive activities dealing with the brain and other scientific research. In 2006, News Office staff updated the area and also made it easier to navigate.
Office staff also updated the “BrainWeb” section of our site, which provides validated information (Dana Alliance members serve as science advisors), via links to outside organizations as well as articles from Dana publications, on many disorders and diseases of the brain. BrainWeb remains one of the most-visited sections of the site. Staffers also updated “Brain Resources for Seniors,” which provides general, health, and education resources for older people and their caregivers.
In 2006, we continued to increase the number of Dana-sponsored events and interviews available via Webcast and podcast. The News Office organized the recording and broadcast of many of the events at the Dana Centers in Washington, DC, and London, including “Singing in Schools: Choral Singing in America”; “A Conversation with Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel”; “The Creating Brain,” with Nancy Andreasen, Ph.D.; and “Can Immunology Help Win the War on Cancer?”
News Office staff conducted interviews with Dana Alliance members during the Society for Neuroscience meeting for posting as podcasts and audio streams on our Web site. Topics and scientists included development, with Carla Shatz, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School; familial Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s disease, with Sangram Sisodia, Ph.D., University of Chicago; neuroethics, with Judy Illes, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine; brain plasticity and rewards systems, with Robert Malenka, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University Medical School; and sleep, with Clifford Saper, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School. The Internet staff also enhanced the audio stream section of the Web site, so that users can listen to our audio programs without having to download to an external device, such as an MP3 player.
New Web Initiative
The Dana Foundation online team entered 2006 maintaining and developing two www.dana.org Web sites: the existing one, which in late 2006 underwent some refinements, and a new one that made its online debut in April 2007.
The existing site’s home page and article designs were reworked late in 2006 to provide better access and display of timely editorial content. The site continues to be updated regularly to serve the needs of the various Dana program areas and their constituents, be they grant seekers, Brain Awareness Week partners, or readers interested in reliable reports on scientific research.
We partnered with a Web development firm that has a strong track record of creating online homes for medical and scientific organizations, including the New York Academy of Sciences. Working closely with our new Web editor, electronic communications consultant, and program directors, the firm developed a new site design, structure, and site taxonomy (a detailed list of topic and category keywords) to simplify site navigation, become more “friendly” to search engines, and better reflect the breadth of Dana’s content.
The new content management system makes it possible to produce a home page and certain section fronts that change frequently, to keep the site up to date and give visitors good reason to come back to the site often. We will be able to produce coverage of news in a more timely fashion, tapping into assets stored in the content management system, from original reporting to archived articles, video clips, images, and podcasts.
Web visitors who generally know what they are looking for will have a more powerful search engine to find content. The same advanced technology that powers Google will be applied to our new Web site. For users who aren’t sure what they want or who prefer to rummage around in our vast archives, we will offer a simple but powerful browsing method that allows them to explore our content by manipulating categories and topics.
All of our content will be “tagged” with relevant keywords, allowing us to automatically associate related content longside each article, video, podcast, or grant abstract. For example, “neuroethics” will mark news stories, podcasts of lectures, Dana Press publications, and other materials of interest to those who wish to find out more about how we might and should use the knowledge that brain research is giving us.
Looking beyond the April 2007 launch, we will continue to pursue ways to increase awareness of dana.org as a reliable source for resources, news, and other information related to brain science, neuroethics, immunology, and arts education.
We will focus on “search engine optimization” methods that make our content easier to find through Google and other portals, for example, and take advantage of new e-mail products, RSS (“really simple syndication”), and other content-distribution methods to expand our online reach. We will be able to create online communities of interest by offering users the opportunity to interact directly with the site. Online readers will be able to submit comments on articles that, once reviewed by Dana staff, could be published alongside the article.
The substantial investment in time and money that we have put toward this project shows how important the Web is to the Foundation’s education and outreach mission. The Web in general, and our new site specifically, represents an effective means for the Dana Foundation to achieve its outreach mission on an individual, community, and global scale.