Coalition Showcases NSF-Funded Research on Capitol Hill
Scientists funded by the National Science Foundation visited Capitol Hill recently to speak to members of Congress and their staff, White House representatives, and other policymaking and research agencies about their work during the 21st Annual Coalition for National Science Funding Exhibition and Reception.
The Society for Neuroscience’s booth featured Georgetown University scientists Maximilian Riesenhuber and Clara Scholl, who presented their research with an exhibit titled “The Brain Basis of Multi-Tasking and Automaticity.”
“These events are important because scientific researchers rely on federal funding to pursue basic research,” Scholl said. “It is vital for scientists to communicate the value our scientific research missions add to society.”
The Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience at Georgetown is funded by two NSF grants that support their work on the neural mechanisms underlying human object recognition (in vision, audition, and most recently touch) as a gateway to understanding intelligent behavior. The lab has a strong history of NSF funding, including a CAREER Award to Riesenhuber and a Graduate Research Fellowship to Scholl to fund her graduate work at Georgetown. Lab colleague Nelson Jaimes joined Riesenhuber and Scholl to talk about their research with Capitol Hill staffers and legislators.
For all three scientists, this was their first advocacy event. “I was really struck by how everyone I spoke with at our poster had their own personal interest in neuroscience,” Scholl said. “Neuroscience impacts everyone's lives in very personal ways, and going forward I will try to leverage that fact to communicate more openly and broadly about my work.”
Riesenhuber agreed: “It is nice to get the public excited about research and science in general. This is a really exciting time for neuroscience research, as we now have the technology to tackle those questions that have been puzzling people for a long time about how the brain gives rise to the mind.”
Nine members of Congress attended the exhibition, including Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who stopped by the SfN booth. “I'm grateful for those members of Congress who are advocating for science funding — I wish there were more of them,” Riesenhuber said.
The CNSF Exhibition and Reception annually draws more than 300 attendees. This year featured 37 exhibits by universities and scientific institutions demonstrating discoveries in an array of fields, from a potentially revolutionary way to gauge voter sentiment to algorithms for predicting space weather to the physics of how cells move.