Since it formed in 1992, the Dana Alliance has connected with millions of people through Brain Awareness Week; public events, symposia, and lectures; radio, television, and Web programs; periodicals and books from the Dana Press; and the Dana Foundation News Office. The spark to all this activity is the will of the 447 Dana Alliance and European Dana Alliance members (including 15 Nobel laureates) in the United States, Canada, and across Europe to get the message out about the progress and promise of brain research.
With news about the brain regularly on the front pages of daily newspapers and across screens both large and handheld, the Alliance’s efforts to bring the science to the people in ways that everyone can understand are essential. As the neurosciences advance at an ever more rapid pace, so do the complex and sometimes controversial ethical issues that arise around them. The Alliance also seeks to encourage scientists to think about neuroethical issues and to engage the public in a dialogue about them.
Brain Awareness Week 2006
Brain Awareness Week entered its second decade in 2006 with an appropriate theme: “Get Connected.” From its start in 1996 with 160 participating organizations in the United States, Brain Awareness Week has grown into a global network of events. In 2006, more than 1,963 partners in 67 countries participated; new countries added to the roster were Cameroon, Chile, Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe.
Taking place each March, Brain Awareness Week offers events that draw all ages but have a special appeal for young people. In the United States, more than 190 K–12 schools enrolled as partners, and many celebrated the week with activities such as classroom visits by neuroscientists, lessons involving dissection of sheep brains, student research projects, and art and essay competitions on brain-related topics. Other campaign partners include hospitals and universities, government agencies, and service organizations. The Dana Alliance organized its own events as well, including two regional rounds of the always popular Brain Bee competition, in Washington, DC, and New York. Dozens of Brain Awareness Week partners held their own Brain Bees, testing the neuroscience knowledge of local high school students and sending their winners to the International Brain Bee competition at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.
At the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC, more than 700 middle school and high school students visited special interactive stations throughout the museum during the week. Staffed by experts from Georgetown University, Howard University, the National Institutes of Health, and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the stations presented such topics as memory and learning games, illusions, and descriptions of taste and smell (with treats as prizes).
In Europe, many events stressed the importance of an informed public to the neuroethics debate, and thus common themes (in Denmark, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Poland) were brain imaging, surgical tools, and the ability of neuroscience to change or manipulate the brain. Partners in Switzerland took the lead with a two-day symposium featuring neuroscientists from around the world discussing neuroethics—one of 60 events held in that country. Another popular topic, particularly in Sweden, Spain, and Portugal, was drug abuse and addiction.
For the past five years, the Dana Alliance and the Dana Press have collaborated with Oregon Health and Sciences University in events that include lectures and interviews with Alliance members and Dana Press authors, book sales and signings, and interactive activities for all ages. More than fifteen Dana Alliance and European Dana Alliance members and Dana Press authors have participated in the university’s Brain Awareness events.
As coordinators of the campaign, the Dana Alliance and the European Dana Alliance provide their partners with an array of educational resources (in multiple languages) and services to use in planning events. The hub is the Brain Awareness Week Web site, found via www.dana.org, where partners can download information and brochures, find topics and tips for planning activities, and connect with the Alliance and others in their region to share in planning combined, bigger programs.
The Society for Neuroscience, a major collaborator in Brain Awareness Week since its start, joined Dana Alliance staff in 2006 to map plans to help the campaign continue to grow through its second decade. That work will continue in 2007.