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Teamwork psychologists and educators appreciated and rewarded by KNAW

A team of developmental psychologists and educators are involving young people in the communication about brain development. A second team of Leiden neuroscientists conducts research into music and spatial skills and searches for healthcare applications. Both teams were awarded a sum of 10,000 euros by KNAW for their work.

The KNAW pilot fund 'Science communication by scientists: Appreciated!' supports scientists who are committed to science communication.

Van der Ham/Schaefer Team

Are men better at reading maps? Does listening to classical music make you smart? There are many over-simplified ideas about both music and spatial awareness which only accentuate the importance of communication about science. Neuroscientists Ineke van der Ham and Rebecca Schaefer have built up an impressive track record in the appealing, popular subjects of music and spatial skills. With their work they are responding to questions from different target groups about what is known about the brain and these fascinating everyday topics.

Ineke van der Ham put her experience with science communication to use when she collaborated on the policy document 'Curious and involved, the value of science' produced by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Rebecca Schaefer was recently awarded an NWA-WECOM grant by NWO for an inclusive science festival that actively involves people with a refugee background.

The communication about their research is extremely diverse, in terms of form, content and target groups: public lectures for children, adults and senior citizens, interviews in both printed and online journals, podcasts, national and international newspapers, radio and television, open experiments with the general public and many other events. In addition, the scientists actively look for healthcare applications that could help people with brain disorders. Both devote a lot of attention to lectures and demonstrations and to articles for clinical journals and patients' associations, all freely available online. They also collaborate frequently with different institutes, contributing to directly applicable research such as at music schools, with the police and in secondary schools.

Developmental and educational psychology team

Young people who need help with a school project can find information about brain development and behaviour at www.kijkinjebrein.nl. This up-to-date website (only available in Dutch) has now been expanded to include teaching materials and knowledge clips that teachers can use in primary and secondary schools. A group of Leiden scientists are experts in communication about brain development for both young people and adults, thanks to their backgrounds in Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Neurosciences and Education. In addition to education professionals, these scientists also reach other youth professionals, for example through the brochure on ‘The developing brain’.  

The Developmental and Educational Psychology Team, which consists of psychologists Annelinde Vandenbroucke, Neeltje van den Bedem, Berna Güroğlu, Iris Koele and Kiki Zanolie and educators Dietsje Jolles and Linda van Leijenhorst, explain research on brain development in adolescents in an accessible and fun way. 
CHANGE Research Platform Leiden

“This way we provide young people with knowledge about their development that is useful to them, in a way that they can relate to."   

In order to embed neuroscientific knowledge in society, this group of scientists listened to what young people and social partners had to say to they could find the best way to set up the research and distribute the findings. With this approach, young people and professionals helped to make the information readily applicable in practice, for example at festivals such as the Museum night 2019 in Leiden, or in museums, such as the Museum van de Geest and NEMO Science Museum. Thanks to this group, brain science is now the subject of a special edition of the open access journal Frontiers for Young Minds, aimed at children aged from 8 to 14 years. The KNAW provides funding for informative and inspiring video clips on brain development, made in collaboration with young people and aimed at their themes and experiences at school.

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