During the 2018 Brain Awareness Week (BAW), IBRO is featuring stories from our Global Advocacy Initiative seed grant awardees who have made important impacts in their local communities. Every region of the world has its specific challenges when it comes to raising awareness about the brain, ranging from no awareness at all to competing priorities in policymaking circles. Our seed grant awardees have identified and addressed these challenges by organizing culturally sensitive and socially relevant activities that highlight specific brain issues directly affecting their local communities.
Brain Awareness Impact Story - Malaysia
Towards National and Global Neuroscience Advocacy: Embrace, Network and Change
The field of neuroscience in Malaysia is steadily gaining momentum. It has been estimated that there are more than 200 neuroscientists in the country (including postgraduate research students) who work alongside more than a thousand neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and neuroengineers. New educational and research programmes in the field have been offered by different universities in Malaysia and they have played a leading role in this trend. Positive reception and engagement with the public also suggests that there is a growing need in local communities to learn more about brain-related issues.
Despite the upswing in support and interest, however, there are still several challenging issues that remain. To take advantage of the encouraging environment and address obstacles, our global advocacy seed grant awardee, Dr. King Hwa (Michael) Ling of the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), organized an advocacy workshop and interdisciplinary neuroscience seminar to analyze and explore ways to maintain and engage stakeholder support. The inaugural Global Advocacy Neuroscience Workshop, “Towards National and Global Neuroscience Advocacy: Embrace, Network and Change,” was held at the UPM Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences on 21 March 2016.
The one-day workshop received an overwhelmingly positive response from the 67 participants of academics, neuroscientists, medical specialists, postgraduate students, policymakers, leaders and members of NGOs and industrial players. It provided a forum to discuss four locally relevant issues: 1) Challenges in neuroscience R&D in Malaysia in the next decade; 2) Problem-based-driven research prioritization in Malaysia; 3) The roles of local neuroscientists (academia, societies, agencies and NGOs) in R&D in the next decade; and 4) Embrace, Network and Change, or embrace our differences, stay networked with one and another and make a change to the neuroscience landscape in the country.
The workshop was so successful that it resulted in four resolutions recommended as a reference to all stakeholders to strengthen neuroscience R&D in Malaysia for the next decade.
Resolution 1: The neuroscience R&D resources in the country should be consolidated to avoid redundancy and waste and in order to improve efficiency in neuroscience R&D. All stakeholders shall facilitate the establishment of a national neuroscience registry to improve resource sharing, better understanding of each other’s research, initiate healthy competitions and foster more effective communications among stakeholders from different professional backgrounds.
Resolution 2: Future neuroscience research shall take into consideration the multicultural ethnicities and biodiversity in Malaysia. Research focus should be patient-oriented, outcome-based and address the immediate needs of affected patients and their family members. Neuroscience research in Malaysia shall focus not only on the treatment of neurological disorders but also on preventive care. There will be a focus on educational research that improves lifestyle and general awareness and attitude towards the devastating effects of neurological disorders.
Resolution 3: Stakeholders including academics, neuroscientists, clinicians, neurologists, pediatric neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, policy makers, students, NGOs, caregivers, allied health personnel (including physiotherapist, specialized nurses and medical laboratory technologists) shall acknowledge that they have a role to play in making neuroscience R&D in Malaysia as the prime agenda towards better prevention and management of patients affected with neurological disorders. All stakeholders shall be treated equally and respectfully and share the responsibility to reach out to the general public with effective education and right information.
Resolution 4: This advocacy initiative will not achieve its goal overnight. Common and sustainable goals shall be set for all stakeholders so all parties will drive the neuroscience R&D towards a national agenda without losing sight of commonalities.
It is hoped that these resolutions resulting from the advocacy workshop will provide a robust foundation for the future of neuroscience R&D in Malaysia and may serve as a reference model and inspiration for other countries in the region.
About the Global Advocacy Initiative: The Global Advocacy Initiative was established in 2013 by IBRO and founding partners Society for Neuroscience (SfN), The Dana Foundation, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) and the Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS). Its objective is to facilitate the development of culturally relevant educational and motivational activities that increase awareness and support for brain research around the world.
About the Brain Awareness Week (BAW): To learn more about BAW and find an event near you, please visit the Dana Foundation website.