Dec 10 2019

Professor Narender Ramnani, Department of Psychology, is part of the British Neuroscience Association (BNA), and has recently become a member of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee (P&SC). We caught up with Narender to discover more about the BNA, and the significance of being accepted as a member of the P&SC.

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within the Department of Psychology?

I am a Professor of Neuroscience in the Department, and my main role is Deputy PGR Lead.

2. We understand that you are a Trustee for Research Policy at the British Neuroscience Association (BNA). Could you tell us about this association and your role?

The British Neuroscience Association is the main organisation that represents the interests of neuroscientists in the UK. It aims to place brain research high on the agenda of UK life science policy makers. I have been a member of the governing body of the BNA since 2005 in various roles, but my current role is that of a BNA Trustee with responsibility for delivering parts of this strategy.

3. The BNA was recently accepted as a member of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee (P&SC). What is the significance of this new membership?

It is important to the BNA that MPs and peers in Parliament understand key findings in brain research, and also that they appreciate the views of neuroscientists on ways in which to improve the culture around research. Membership of the committee provides an arena in which the BNA and parliamentarians can discuss evidence from neuroscience research, it’s impact on society, and ways in which to improve the way that science is administered and conducted.

The BNA will also work with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) to produce material that keeps parliamentarians informed about developments in neuroscience. We also recently held an event in the House of Commons to launch our new ‘Credibility in Neuroscience’ Manifesto, which promotes a cultural shift towards research reproducibility, open science and incentivising measures such as pre-registration.

It was a special moment to open the launch on 25 November, and to share the platform with other speakers, Professor Lord Robert Winston (British Neuroscience Association Patron), Professor Dorothy Bishop (Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at Oxford University) and Dr Anne Cooke (BNA Chief Executive).

4. Are you currently working on any other projects or research?

My research programme is funded by the BBSRC and focuses on the mechanisms of movement, learning, and higher cognitive function in the human brain. We also plan to study the impact of aging on these mechanisms. The techniques we use include brain imaging (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and a range of behavioural methods including eyetracking.

I talk more about this in a film which is part of the Talking Teaching series:

 

5. How does your research help to inspire your teaching?

When learning about neuroscience, it is important for our students to acquire a good understanding of brain organisation. Of course, we could teach our Psychology undergraduates about brain anatomy using only figures and diagrams as in most other universities, but I feel that students gain a deeper and more profound understanding, and feel more inspired, by handling and observing at first hand actual post-mortem human brain specimens. Over the course of the last ten years I have developed and maintained a long-term teaching collaboration with St. Georges Medical School that has allowed me to bring human brain specimens to Royal Holloway for lectures and small-group teaching sessions.

This teaching method is specialised and becoming rare, so I also use this as an opportunity to train early career researchers in this teaching skill so that they can use it in their future academic careers.

6. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway and within the Department of Psychology?

It’s a fantastic place mainly because there are so many other like-minded individuals in the department who continue to support and inspire, not just each other but also the students.

7. Beyond your research and teaching, are there any other areas you’re pleased to be involved with?

It is important to me that staff and students feel that they have equality of opportunity at Royal Holloway and are treated with respect and fairness, so I’ve played active roles in various equality initiatives, helping to shape and monitor policies and actions, since 2013. This has included membership of Royal Holloway Race Equality Charter, Athena SWAN and other committees that have won national awards. I also led the Athena SWAN team in my Department whose efforts won a Silver Award in 2016.