All day, I wandered among the posters whenever I could, and indeed learnt some cool stuff about the differential processing of external and self-generated vestibular systems, a topic very dear to my heart! However, I’d like to tell you about the panel I attended over lunch, because this issue is important: ‘Proactive strategies to increase the positive public perception of animals in research’. The first speaker, Rolf Zeller, introduced the Basel Declaration. If you work with animals and don’t know about it, you should go and find out about it here, and even better, go and sign it. Its signatories pledge to the there Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement), to the best available animal care and welfare, but also to communicate about animal research openly. I think this is the way forward!
Dario Padovan was up next and described what he does with ProTest Italy, reaching thousands of (presumably younger) people on Facebook. They also havea number of youtube videos, for instance on primate research. What his talk highlighted to me is that we need to use all available channels of communication to reach as wide an audience as possible, and that they are successfully doing so. (For my German friends: ProTest Germany works along similar lines.) The director of the primate centre in Seattle, Michael Mustari, then introduced non-human primates as suitable animal models for a variety of human diseases. Finally, science writer Jason Goldman talked about how important it is to use simple and jargon-free language; that it is easier to reach people by telling stories and touching their emotions; and he also came up with several examples using the same level of simplicity and directness that you might find in a leaflet by animal rights activists. I was in general heartened to hear that many organisations are starting to use a wieder range of communication channels (including social media), and that communication need not only be defensive – we can (and should) be proactive! A more comprehensive blog post by Amanda Dettmer about the panel can be found here.
The last highlight of the day was of course the presidential lecture by Nobel laureate May-Britt Moser on grid cells and spatial navigation. I loved it! She managed to create a very friendly, enthusiastic atmosphere while telling us about the fabulous science that has been done in her lab. While the studies that led up to the Nobel Prize are of course fairly well-known, she included enough newer studies and unpublished data to keep it interesting also for those who have been following this field at least a little bit. It’s amazing what you can find out from rats chasing chocolates! And of course her ‘gift’, a music video from artists they invited to their lab, was the perfect climax at the end. Thanks for an enjoyable and inspiring lecture!
Now it is already Neuroscience 2015’s last day – I will be presenting a poster in the afternoon at board A34, hopefully see you there! For those who can’t make that, I will later write a final SfN post on the experience of presenting a poster.