The Minerva Foundation, founded by my parents Elwin & Helen Marg in 1983, supports activities that advance our understanding of how the brain functions with a particular focus on vision. The International Conferences on Neuroesthetics started in 2002 with the encouragement and support of Semir Zeki and his Institute of Neuroesthetics at University College London. The intent of the conference is to allow a cross-pollination of scientists, artists and humanists speaking on a theme central to our sensual experience. I'd like to strike the right balance between obtuse technical jargon and inarticulate art, and reach both the lay and professional public. The 2014 conference was a success in that respect, though I would like to see more neurologists and neuroscientists attending— I believe the design of their research could benefit from exposure to perspectives from other disciplines.
What is the mission of the Minerva Foundation, besides organizing the International Conferences on Neuroesthetics?
The Minerva Foundation is involved in two other projects, besides the conference. Since 1985, the Foundation has awarded the Golden Brain each year to a promising or unsung investigator with promising research yielding significant findings in vision and the brain. And this year, we have developed an incubator program devoted to projects at the intersection of art, technology and science, challenging the separateness of those fields, under the leadership of Vero Bollow, Director of the Foundation.
How come you have maintained free access to the conference? Do you plan to have it CME (Continued Medical Education) accredited, to attract more physicians?
Keeping the conference free, allowing students, artists, as well as professionals to make up a diverse audience has its merits, there is no doubt. At the same time, offering a free conference paradoxically may make it appear less worthwhile. Plus, keeping it free limits the amount of resources that we could devote to other projects, including publicizing the conference. We have not thought about CME accreditation but that could be a good idea to pursue.
Could you tell me how many people participated in the conference this year? Also, I was pleased to see a fairly balanced gender distribution in the audience, maybe due to the multidisciplinary approach, promoting diversity. Would you happen to know the percentage of women versus men, and the distribution of their expertise?
It is hard to say what qualifications or proficiencies were represented among the audience or gender since we did not collect that information. In the future, we would like to get the word out more widely in advance so that the conference hall is filled to capacity.
Do you think the 2014 conference went well? Did you enjoy it?
Yes! it was very successful in my eyes. The panel was even more multidisciplinary than it has been in the past. And this is a direction I would like to see continue. Although the topic has not been chosen yet, I anticipate the next conference will not disappoint.
This interview was reviewed and approved but Tamia Marg.
This is part of a series of posts on the 11th International Conference on Neuroesthetics (September 2014).