Last week there was a conference in Manchester titled NeuroBusiness 2015, billed as the ‘first of its kind in the UK’. Actually the ‘neuroleadership‘ guys have been doing similar stuff for ages. They have some serious conceptual issues, and there’s also an excellent piece on TheConversation.com about neuro-quackery in business and education. NeuroBusiness 2015 took it to a whole new level though. On the front page of their website there’s a quote from Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester, which reads:
“I very much welcome the opportunity to bring neuroscientists together with business.”
This is a noble aim, but apparently no-one let the conference organisers know about it, as browsing the list of speakers quickly reveals that there were no neuroscientists invited. None. The closest we have is Dr Jenny Brockis who appears to be a medic who found a more lucrative calling in Brain-fitness-related motivational speaking (*yawn*) and Dr Paul Brown, a clinical psychologist who has…. let’s say, an ‘interesting’ background, with various academic appointments in South-East Asia. Dr Brown is also the author of the book ‘Neuropsychology for Coaches’, the title of which suggests he doesn’t really know what the term ‘neuropsychology‘ refers to. Unless of course it’s a book for American Football coaches who have to deal with regular traumatic brain injuries in their players, which I doubt.
Anyway, I’ve no idea if the conference was a roaring success or not, since, as a neuroscientist, I wasn’t invited. What I do know is that it turned into an utter debacle on Twitter. Conference attendees started tweeting nonsensical things like:
“Hack your brains dopamine to become addicted to success!”
“Men’s brains fire back to front, women’s fire side to side. That’s why women multi task well”
…and the neuroscientists on Twitter quickly and gleefully piled on with sarcasm, jokes and general rubbishing. At one point it became really rather difficult to detect which were genuine #neurobusiness2015 tweets and which were fake sarcastic ones. I did notice there were significantly less tweets from the conference on day 2 – was some announcement made? It was all jolly good fun for us neuroscientists, but I did start to feel a bit sorry for the conference organisers at some point.
However, I have a suggestion. One which would prevent something like this happening again. If any of the conference organisers happen to be reading this, my suggestion for NeuroBusiness 2016 (if it happens) is this:
INVITE SOME NEUROSCIENTISTS. People who actually know something about the brain. Some of us are actually quite engaging speakers, who would relish the opportunity to emerge from our dark basement labs, and spend a day interacting with normal people. We’re not all massive nerds, obsessed with the abstract minutiae of our particular area of research. Well… I mean, we actually are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t function normally as well. Some of us even like to think about how neuroscience can be applied in every-day life too. Just have a look around at people’s CVs and publications, and pick a few good ones. Or have a look on Speakezee, or even just send me an email through this site, and I’ll send you a list of suggestions.
Business people – it’s great that you’re interested in the brain. We get it. We are too, that’s why we do what we do. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who have realised that sticking the neuro- prefix on some old load of bollocks is a jolly good whizz-bang way to make loads of money on the motivational speaking circuit. If your computer breaks, you wouldn’t call a motivational speaker, would you? You’d call an IT expert. If you want to know about the brain – ask a neuroscientist.