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King's College London - European Neuroscience and Society Network Neuroschools

Introduction and Aims

Training and education are a key objective of the European Neuroscience and Society Network. Training in the neurosciences is very often a-historical and a-social, in the sense that neuroscience knowledge and experimentation are taught and learned with little attention to their epistemological history, or to the factors- technological, social, cultural, economic- that shaped them or continue to influence them. Likewise, students trained in the social studies of neuroscience or humanities do not always have a chance to be directly exposed to how rationales and questions in neuroscience experimentation are formulated, or to the process of design and actualisation of experiments.

With the goal of contributing to help break down such intellectual barriers, the ENSN has developed NeuroSchools. Intended for early-career neuroscientists and social scientists, Neuroschools offer a symmetrically transdisciplinary environment for cross-tutoring and sharing of ideas and for innovative, critical thinking about key issues in modern neuroscience. 'Transdisciplinarity', unlike interdisciplinarity, does not simply mean laying two or more disciplines next to each other. Rather, it means to set about a question simultaneously taking into account visions and methods on the same topic from seemingly different perspectives.

Our schools are open to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the disciplines of biology, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, psychology and history/philosophy of science. Applicants are selected on the basis of their merit, research interests and genuine aspirations in trying to transgress disciplinary boundaries.

A small group of successful candidates (12-15) are invited to spend a one-week long period to attend seminars, participate in laboratory 'practicals' and focus groups, and to present their own work. All courses take place at a laboratory, but consist of a balanced mixture of theoretical and hands-on practical modules offered by a small core of senior experts. Reflexive lectures and conversations involve scholars from participating disciplines in speaking on thematic issues of common interest, but different meaning, in each of their fields and all activities are designed to ensure maximum dialogue across disciplines. An essential component of the 'Neuroschool' is the 'experiment' contest.

Throughout the course participants are asked to think of a sound and rigorous experiment that is based on accepted methodologies in science, but also incorporates a societal dimension in the attempt to address timely and unresolved issues at the interface between neuroscience and society. The present faculty assesses projects on the basis of their justifiability, novelty and feasibility and the winning team is given the chance to perform the experiment in an ENSN host laboratory.

The main aim of our Neuroschools is to identify key questions in the relationship between neuroscience and society and to suggest adequate research modalities to address them. We strongly believe that this type of 'heterologous learning' at the interface between disciplines will be very effective as it may be more likely that leaps in knowledge occur at the border between neighbouring disciplines, rather than at the centre of well defined areas of study.

We hope that participants will bring home an enriched baggage of useful knowledge and that the learning time spent together will inspire constructive and enjoyable future collaborations.

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