Ideas exchange: Understanding the Human Object

Investigate ways to promote the exchange of ideas between scientists, artists and other stakeholders without loss of depth, subtlety or nuance to facilitate the identification and prioritisation of new research topics and concerns.


  • Healthcare
  • Humanities
  • Experimental psychology
  • Cognitive neuroscience

Stakeholder engagement in science policy is becoming increasingly important. Scientists and policy makers are pushed to engage more widely with other professionals and the wider public in conducting their research and in identifying specific questions that science should address. Consequently, researchers, research organisations and funders are all keen to identify and prioritise novel and ground-breaking topics in order to maximise the relevance and impact of their research. New technologies have revolutionized the dynamics of the relationship between scientists, artists, policy makers and the wider public, introducing challenges as well as opportunities to develop new approaches for shaping interdisciplinary research collaborations. However, the push toward economic viability and market orientation has directed public attention and funding towards applied research with an emphasis on technological or short term solutions, running the risk that important new ideas are ignored. In addition, interactions between researchers and stakeholders can be impaired by a failure to properly understand each other’s ideas and by social factors such as individual status or group dynamics. The multi-disciplinarity of CogNovo presents a valuable opportunity to explore innovative and creative solutions for facilitating cross-disciplinary scientific communication and take advantage of emerging modes of knowledge production to meet the cross-disciplinary research landscape with scientifically informed innovative communication strategies.

This project will proceed from the question: How can research in the cognitive sciences be applied to finding strategies for effective scientific communication between professionals, policy holders, opinion formers, and lay audiences on their own terms, avoiding a reduction of complexity, subtlety and nuance? You will develop innovative communication strategies inspired by recent findings in cognitive neuroscience that will be tested through a series of experiments to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of concept exchange through text, visualisation, visual analogy, dialogue and beyond, where there is a willingness to communicate, challenged by paradigm conflict. Your experiments will explore 1) the role of imagination and prediction in the context of cross-disciplinary communication; 2) Individual processes: what factors influence the identification of novel (vs. established or derivative) ideas? What influences individuals’ evaluation of these ideas and how is this influenced by their perceived professional status (scientist, professional, public, policy maker)? Prior research on creativity and source memory are relevant to this strand of the research. 3) Group processes: what influences how a group decides upon the ideas to select for priority? Prior research on group decision making is relevant to this strand of the research, including research on social status within a group.

You will have privileged access to evidence-based data from a) academic publishers concerned with innovative multi-modal dissemination (to this end we expect close collaboration with Leonardo: MIT Press and Amsterdam University Press); and b) stakeholder groups working in health care (professionals, public and policy makers). CogNovo works in partnership with the Cochrane Agenda and Priority Setting Methods Group which provides access to a wider community of researchers working on different methods to identify and prioritise questions for research.

Research Fellow
Agi Haines

Mona Nasser, Martha Blassnigg, David Moles, Michael Punt, Sue Denham (Plymouth University)


Leonardo (MIT Press), Amsterdam University Press, Cochrane Research Prioritisation Working group, Humboldt University Berlin

Further Reading
  • Pullman D, Zarzeczny A, Picard A (2013). Media, politics and science policy: MS and evidence from the CCSVI Trenches. BMC Medical Ethics 2013, 14:6 doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-6
  • Nasser M, Welch V, Ueffing E, Crowe S, Oliver S, Carlo R. Evidence in agenda setting: new directions for the Cochrane Collaboration. J Clin Epidemiol. 2013 May;66(5):469-71. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2012.08.006