FROM TESSA GARDNER IN THE SCIENCE POLICY CENTRE

Last Thursday evening I attended the re-launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Scientific Research in Learning and Education. Standing in front of the garish mustard and khaki colours of the portcullis-themed wallpaper in the Peer’s Dining Room and celebrating the resurrection of the Group, I was there to consider how the growing body of scientific knowledge on learning and development could be effectively incorporated into evidence-informed education policy.

Amongst the attendees were key figures James Arbuthnot MP and former director of inspection at Ofsted, Sir Jim Rose. Sir Rose gave a short talk highlighting the need to bust numerous ‘neuromyths’ – a phrase he attributed to Usha Goswami, member of the Working Group for the Royal Society’s Brain Waves project  on Neuroscience, Education, and Lifelong Learning . Also in attendance was Baroness Estelle Morris, former Education Secretary and chair of last month’s Royal Society meeting on “Education: what’s the brain got to do with it?”, a series of roundtable discussions with the dialogue logged live via Twitter. (For more information, please read our Neuroscience twitter summary.)

The re-launch event was hosted by Baroness Susan Greenfield on behalf of the Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) Education Trust. A Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Oxford University, Baroness Greenfield has been awarded a CBE and the Royal Society’s Faraday Prize. Baroness Greenfield alluded to scientific research in learning and education as a 21st Century potential zeitgeist, equivalent in importance to climate change. Before letting us discuss amongst ourselves the gravity of this possibility, she cited Barack Obama’s pertinent quote: “It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient”.

The overwhelming message from the re-launch event was that science is relevant to such a vast range of public issues that scientists should be taking on the responsibility of being at the heart of society. This outlook echoes the sentiments felt by many across the neuroscience community, with the Royal Society’s Brain Waves project aiming to explore the implications of developments in neuroscience for a number of areas of concern to society, including education, law, security, and health. Module 1 of the project, which deals with a broad assessment of neuroscience and its relevance to areas of public policy, is due to be launched in December 2010.

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