Translating brain science
Turning science into part of our everyday lives
Innovation is the fuel thatpropels our society forward. This fuelis a mix of sound scientific and publicunderstanding.
While scientists and researchers arediscovering new knowledge at fasterand faster speeds, our collective abilityto truly understand—and use—it cantake somewhat longer.
Take the case of the core story of thebrain.
Scientific knowledge about the
brain is complex (few people know the
amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of
matter in the brain that plays a key role
in regulating emotions). And each new
discovery tends to be small, building
on those before it. To make sense of
it, new knowledge has to be brought
together, reviewed and translated into
a common language.
Above all, it has to have champions:people and organizations that take theknowledge into the world, over time.
More than a decade ago, theHarvard Center for the DevelopingChild put together a team of expertsto develop the core story of the brain.The team included highly respectedneurobiologists, developmentalpsychologists, pediatricians andeconomists. Rounding out the teamwas staff with a Washington, D.C.think-tank called the FrameWorksInstitute, which uses communicationsscience to help translate complexknowledge into easily understoodinformation.
The Harvard Center’s goal is
to gather and communicate the
science of early childhood and early
brain development. The hope is
to have people better understand
what it means to their families and
communities and that it can be used to
shape public policy.
As well, the Harvard Centerwanted to “move beyond the public’sfascination with the ‘latest study’” andlook at a body of research that was wellreviewed by other scientists.
Translating science can be a toughtask. And where scientific knowledgeis based on data and evidence, thepublic is far more likely to embraceknowledge when it is told through“sticky” (memorable) metaphors andstories.
As the core story of the brain
(and by extension early childhood