A new “Science Bridge” initiative will pair Eastern and Western institutes to promote meaningful collaboration between communities of neurobiologists
Mosaic from the "golden age" of Islamic art and science
More than 200 leading scientists around the world, including 29 Nobelists, have joined the Science Bridge initiative. Recalling the Golden Age of Arab and Persian culture in the 10th cent., in which scholars of all faiths entered into free discourse, these scientists believe that deep, extensive exchange between people of different religions and cultures is the way to create a better world and to move forward in the areas of brain research and the search for treatments for mental illness and neurological disorders.
In an opinion piece recently published in Neuron, 122 authors from 82 universities and research institutes describe the initiative, which aims to create a new Golden Age of tolerance and understanding by promoting collaborative studies that will create bridges between East, West and Middle East, North and South.
The Israeli participants in this initiative include Profs. Menahem Segal, Ehud Ahissar and Ofer Yizhar of the Weizmann Institute of Science; Profs. Idan Segev, Hermona Soreq and Drs. Ami Citri and Mickey London of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Prof. Mouna Maroun of Haifa University. They join researchers from Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt, as well as Spain, Germany, the US, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Japan.
Prof. Mazhir Hasan of the Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience in Spain, who was born in Pakistan and is now a leader in his field, is one of the driving forces behind the Science Bridge initiative. He says that as scientists aim to create new knowledge, they can be a uniting force for humanity, and together, as neuroscientists, they can address the pressing needs of refugees and victims of war. These populations suffer from problems ranging from malnutrition and delayed development to debilitating mental disorders.
The Weizmann neurobiologists point out that as the scientific approach aims at generating cognitive representations of the world based on common understanding across people, the larger the population sharing the common understanding and the larger the variation in their background, the more reliable these representations can be. So even from a narrow scientific point of view this bridge promises great advantages.
The initiative, which is currently seeking funding, plans to advance in two stages; in the first, scientists will meet and discuss their work in scientific conferences, mostly on neurobiology topics. In the second, research institutes will be “twinned,” pairing a western institute with one in the Middle East or Southern Asia.
The founders of this initiative envision research in which Sufi whirling and Jewish meditation practices might be studied for their psychological effects along with more traditional research methods, and in which young researchers from all countries are nurtured. Ultimately, the scientists envision the Science Bridge becoming a bridge for peace that will promote understanding among people.
Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.