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Prof. Eva Syková, MD, DSc, FCMA
Director, The Institute of Experimental Medicine
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Dana Foundation: For several years, the Institute of Experimental Medicine has organized a neuroscience lecture series in the Czech Republic during Brain Awareness Week (BAW) that reaches more than 1,500 people. Do you select an over-arching theme each year, or are lectures developed independently?
Eva Syková: Each year we organize a series of lectures–from eight to twelve lectures (for example, this year we have eleven lectures)–that include topics across all fields of neuroscience. Themes tend to cover the most interesting and latest brain research developments in the Czech Republic.
In addition to interesting subjects, our plan is to introduce to the public leading personalities in the neuroscience field. For example, this year our speakers include leading neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, neurologists, neuroradiologists, neurophysiologists, etc.
How do you recruit fellow scientists to participate in BAW? Has their response been positive?
We have a very active Neuroscience Society in the Czech Republic, and our fellow neuroscientists are pleased to participate in BAW. Most of them do not hesitate to accept an invitation to lecture before the general public, particularly because the audience is mostly made up of young students from high schools (at some lectures there are about 200 students plus some other attendees). The students always engage in a lively discussion after each lecture. Throughout the years, the program has gained credibility among the scientific community and the students.
The media plays an integral role in your public outreach. You’ve organized press conferences and each year, Czech neuroscientists and clinicians give interviews to newspaper, magazine, and radio journalists. How did you develop this strong relationship with the local media?
BAW is among the events organized by the Institute of Experimental Medicine ASCR and formally sponsored by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. We receive great help from the Academy of Sciences, which not only prepares the lecture halls from a technical standpoint, but also contacts high schools throughout the country to inform them about Brain Awareness Week activities. We also cooperate with the Media and External Relations Unit of the Academy, which has contacts with specific journalists interested in relevant scientific fields, brain diseases, health issues etc. On the first day of BAW, we organize a press conference. Usually, stories about the press conference appear in major newspapers, radio, and television, in addition to media interviews with individual lecturers.
Your public outreach extends beyond BAW. What type of events do you organize and/or participate in throughout the year?
We are in regular contact with the media throughout the year—newspaper, magazine and radio journalists, and also TV stations, particularly the state-owned TV channels CT1 and CT24, which regularly report new developments in brain research. We organize expert events, such as conferences, workshops, and expert meetings with colleagues from the Czech Republic and abroad. To reach the general public, we organize a number of awareness events for students, such as The Week of Science and Technology, “Open Door Days” at the Institute, public lectures in universities, etc. I often give expert interviews for local TV stations and newspapers on regenerative medicine and on general scientific developments in the Czech Republic.
As an Executive Committee Member of the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, you are involved in the international conversation about the current state of neuroscience research. What do you see as the most pressing issues in neuroscience at this moment?
I see the great importance of focusing on research in regenerative medicine and stem cells, as well as in the research and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Being recently elected as a Senator of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, I particularly work on legislative and financial aspects of science and education in the Czech Republic, and on supporting the translation of basic research results into clinical practice.