The Dana Foundation is taking great and growing advantage of the reach of the Internet, but not at the expense of direct contact with live audiences. Face to face, people absorb both the content of a lecture, demonstration, or debate and an intuitive sense of how meaningful the content is to the speaker, to fellow listeners, and to themselves. In person, teachers and learners can swap places, exchange information, and gain immediate answers to questions—and a sense of how confident the other party is about the answer.
One of our goals is to create spaces where people will want to come and discover what the most creative minds in our fields can share with them. In 2006, we hosted specialists and laypeople of all ages at our Dana Centers in London; Washington, DC; Austin, Texas; and Rehovot and Tel Aviv, Israel. Each center has a different focus, which may include public talks and events, meetings, conferences, symposia, or workshops and training sessions for teachers and students. All contribute to our mission to educate and inform people, especially in the areas of brain science, immunology, and learning through art.
The Dana Centre, London
Our London hub, in its third year of operation in 2006, specializes in public events that engage the audience and whet its appetite for science. Events range from lectures to interactive workshops on such topics as arts and the brain, the mechanics of drug addiction, methods of deep brain stimulation, and brain surgery.
Built with support from the Wellcome Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, and the Garfield-Weston Foundation, as well as the Dana Foundation, the center is housed in the Wellcome Wolfson Building and run by the London Science Museum. It also is home to the small staff of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB).
Highlights at the center in 2006 included:
- Pioneers in the field of deep brain stimulation (DBS), the neurosurgeons Tipu Aziz, Marwan Hariz, and Patricia Limousin gave a talk on the technology, its potential, and how patients are selected for the treatment. Mike Robins, one of the first people to be treated with DBS for Parkinson’s disease, and Amy Westall, who has dystonia, spoke about the dramatic changes that the surgery made in their lives.
- A lively panel discussion that included the author examined the ideas expressed in Dana Alliance member Nancy Andreasen’s The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius.
- The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Crime Watch presenter, Nick Ross, led the discussion “Criminal Minds,” with forensic psychiatrists Annie Bartlett and Tony Maden and geneticist Steve Jones.
- European Dana Alliance member Professor Richard Frackowiak moderated an event that combined comedy and science, “What Makes You Laugh?” Science comedian Mark Stevenson and physiologist Harry Witchel demonstrated the social function and biological sequences of humor.
- Closing out the year’s programming, the Reverend Nick Goulding and Professors Bruce Hood, Albert Weale, and Lewis Wolpert discussed whether religion and science can ever be compatible in a spirited roundtable titled “God Rest Ye Merry Scientists.”
Since the Dana Centre opened in 2003, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain has presented 70 events, averaging three per month, often in partnership with organizations such as the Medical Research Council, the British Neuroscience Association, and Imperial College. The center often extends its audience worldwide via live Webcasts and videoconferencing, allowing people to watch and e-mail their questions to be answered by the panel or expert in real time. People also can tune in via Dana’s Web sites (www.dana.org, www.edab.net) to watch and listen to past events, recorded for Webcasting or podcasting.
The Dana Center, Washington, DC
Our Washington center sponsors activities that range from invitation-only science and arts workshops to open-to-all programs presented by distinguished scientists. One event, a panel discussion on arts in education, featured a stirring performance by the H-B Woodlawn High School chamber singers. More than 115 people attended a 90-minute discussion featuring Nobel Prize winner and Dana Alliance vice chairman Eric R. Kandel, M.D., discussing his science memoir, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, with Dana’s chairman, William Safire.
As part of an international two-day conference called “Neural Basis of Skill Acquisition, Reading, and Dyslexia” at Georgetown University, the Dana Center hosted a panel discussion on how neuroscience research is leading to changes in educational practices. And the center twice played host to the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, which held workshops aiming to gauge the cognitive performance of neuroscientists in various styles of office or laboratory space and to develop a set of neuroscience and architectural hypotheses on how best to design facilities for people who have Alzheimer’s disease.
In April, National Institute of Mental Health director and Dana Alliance member Thomas R. Insel, M.D., and some of his
senior staff briefed representatives from about 30 professional science societies at the Dana Center and took questions about the research and future priorities. In June, the center was host to a seminar for state and federal judges on emerging issues in neuroscience and how to weigh claims such as using brain scans to determine whether someone is telling the truth, cosponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Federal Judicial Center, and the National Center for State Courts.
Many of the events in Washington also were recorded for Webcasting and podcasting and are available at www.dana.org.
The Dana Center, Austin, Texas
At this Dana Center (our first, in operation since 1993), the focus is on K–12 learning. While it initially focused on Texas education, the center now works with a growing number of national organizations committed to standards-based education reform.
In 2006, the Dana Center worked to build the Urban Mathematics Leadership Network, partnering with Achieve, Inc., a national education organization founded by the National Governors Association and the Business Roundtable, to
bring urban mathematics teachers together to find answers to common problems. One area they focused on is how to improve students’ success in Algebra I, including strategies for working with English-language learners and students with special learning needs. Participating school districts included Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, New York City, Richland (South Carolina), and Spokane. In 2006, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Portland joined the network, increasing the reach of this program to serve more than one-third of all urban students in the United States. The Dana Center’s partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program and its Urban Superintendents Network is helping to ensure that the work of the two-year-old mathematics leadership network is supported at the district level.
The Dana Center for Science Literacy, Rehovot and Tel Aviv, Israel
Established by the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and the HEMDA Centre for Science Education in Tel Aviv in 2005, the Dana Center for Science Literacy was inspired by the Dana Centre in London but follows its own path. In the two cities, Dana provides a forum for people to learn how science is interwoven with society through lectures, panel discussions, and “mini-courses,” a series of eight sessions on a given topic. Participants ranged in age from 9 to 85; most were from 40 to 60 years old.
Mini-course topics in 2006 included breakthroughs in the life sciences and their implications; diseases and drugs; and humans, brains, and computers. Panels addressed such questions as whether the energy problem is a crisis or opportunity, how to develop alternative water supplies, and how science is served or disserved in the movies. In its first full academic year, programs at the two sites attracted more than 3,100 people.