Like most busy professionals, neuroscientists have trouble keeping up with everything that’s going on in their field. They just don’t have enough time to read all the papers being published.
Neuroscientists Kasey Hemington and Leigh Christopher, PhD, a Stanford postdoctoral researcher, want to help. They created a new weekly e-newsletter, called BrainPost, that sends easy-to-read summaries of the latest neuroscience publications into their readers’ inbox. To learn more, I recently spoke with Christopher.
What inspired you to create BrainPost?
Throughout my PhD and during my postdoc, I noticed two trends. First, when I talked to other neuroscientists, they were often unaware of research going on in closely related fields. I know that science is specialized, but it dawned on me that if scientists themselves are unable to keep up with other research, there was no way that members of the general public could even begin to stay on top of the latest advances. The second trend is one of too much data. I think with big data comes big confusion. We have too much to consume and therefore we often choose not to consume at all, because it's overwhelming.
We wanted to simplify the process of consuming neuroscience, which is constantly changing. We also wanted to make the information easily accessible when open access to the original scientific publications is not an option. Hopefully, BrainPost can help make neuroscience convenient, fun and digestible.
Who is your primary target audience?
BrainPost summaries provide a little more information than traditional science journalism aimed at the general public. We primarily want to improve awareness about new neuroscience research within the science community. This means anyone who is engaging with neuroscience: a researcher, graduate student, undergraduate student, biotech employee, policy maker, clinician, psychologist, science journalist or science enthusiast. We want to encourage cross-discipline communication and collaboration.
What is your selection and writing process?
We choose recently published online articles from reputable journals that we feel are high quality and move neuroscience forward. We would love to cover more, but for now we are limited by time as only myself and Kasey are working on the newsletter. In the future, we want to bring on more writers.
We send out all of our summaries to authors before publishing the e-newsletter... We’re able to incorporate their edits and comments to ensure our summaries are accurate and don’t sensationalize the findings or misguide the reader.
We hope to eventually cover most of the latest neuroscience publications on our website, acting as a continuously updated resource for neuroscience. Our ultimate goal is to expand and have customized newsletters on topics of interest, as well as a repository of summaries on our website.
Why do you encourage readers to connect directly with the study authors?
Kasey had this great idea to engage scientists by asking them to comment and to respond on social media. Social media can have a positive impact on the way we communicate about science. We want readers to start discussions with study authors to help create a more cohesive community amongst people engaging with neuroscience. When scientists are more social and vocal about their work, it helps to get the word out and for them to be better understood.
All of the scientists who we've reached out to on Twitter so far have been very enthusiastic and responsive. I think they’re excited to have their work recognized, since the academic world does not always offer enough of this recognition. BrainPost will hopefully help with that.
Image by Laszlo Ilyes