News nr. 46 | January 2015
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Mind-Brain School funded by the UL and Coordinated by Dr. Ana Sebastião Approved
Mind-Brain School funded by the UL and Coordinated by Dr. Ana Sebastião Approved

Ana Maria Sebastião, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology and Neurosciences
Director Institute of Pharmacology and Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine and
Unit of Neurosciences, Institute of Molecular Medicine

Application to the Mind-Brain School funded by the UL and Coordinated by Dr. Ana Sebastião Approved.
Recently the University of Lisbon (UL) approved the Mind-Brain Doctoral School, which broadly aims at reinforcing UL’s organisational, scientific, formative and technical abilities as well as strengthen the technological and social impact of this knowledge. 

Taking advantage of the recent University merger, this Doctoral School will join the already existing knowledge and technologies of the different schools of the University of Lisbon, namely Science (FCUL), Pharmacy (FFUL), Letters (FLUL), Medicine (FMUL), Psychology (FPUL), the Technical Institute (IST) and the Social Sciences Institute (ICS). These institutions foster or are deeply connected to Associate Labs and Research Centres in key areas for the study of the mind and the brain. Under the coordination of Dr. Ana M. Sebastião of the Faculty of Medicine, different members, who are part of the aforementioned institutions, encouraged the proposal for the creation of the Mind-Brain Doctoral School. The Doctoral School will not substitute or become a parallel structure to the already existing ones in UL. Its aim is to articulate competencies, making the UL even more competitive in an area in which it has recognised value and tradition and align it with national and regional research and innovation strategies. The School will work as a forum to encourage synergies between the institutions that are a part of it and a source of cooperation between the academia and the business world. At its basis the Mind-Brain Doctoral School has the existence of infrastructures in the UL where complementary research activities take place, which are crucial for the post-graduate courses. The School develops naturally in the institution with the most publications and citations in areas that help improve the knowledge about the mind and the brain in Portugal. For instance, in the last 5 years the UL has contributed with about 1/3 of the publications (Web of Knowledge) in Neurosciences/Neurology. The UL also stands out in the scientific production in Human Sciences connected to Cognition, such as Linguistics and Philosophy of Cognitive Science, namely through publishing in highly demanding journals (the acceptance rate is lower than 5%).
The UL fosters the Institute of Ageing – in research activities and advanced training at the Social Sciences Institute – whose goal is to conduct studies about aging in an interdisciplinary framework that covers areas such as Demography, Social Sciences and Health Science.

Studies about the prevention of the cognitive decline in the elderly or in neurodegenerative, neurological or psychiatric pathologies are the strengths of the different research teams of the UL. 

The UL leads the Lisbon Living Plus consortium, to which members of this School belong, in the application to one of the co-location centres (INOSTARS), of the Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) in Healthy Life and Aging Actively. In this area, the Mind-Brain Doctoral School will strengthen the communication both with social systems and companies that promote innovation. 

Associated to an intense and recognised scientific activity, the UL has an outstanding activity in post-graduation courses in areas connected to the knowledge of the mind and the brain. The UL makes available several trans-disciplinary doctoral programmes that are deeply connected to the study of the brain and cognition. Due to their characteristics and subjects, three programmes are at the core of this proposal: the PhDs in Cognitive Science, Integrated Neuroscience and Robotics and Cognition.
The Doctoral School will develop its activity in close partnership with existing programmes of the UL that cover similar scientific areas, namely the PhD programmes in Voice, Language and Communication (FLUL, FMUL and IST), in Complexity Sciences (ISCTE-IUL and FCUL) and in Medicine and Pharmaceutical Innovation (FFUL). All of these programmes are happening as a result of partnerships between the multiple institutions that are part of the School. The Mind-Brain Doctoral School will, thus, inherit this inter-institutional dynamics and its organisational culture, which it will develop. 

The Mind-Brain School’s specific goals are:
• To expand the execution and development of doctoral programmes in the area, which already exist at UL.
• To take advantage and increase the UL’s potential by connecting the already existing network of human, scientific and organisational resources.
• To secure the UL’s role as a reference in the brain-mind area, highlighting a set of applications in socially relevant areas such as health, education, active aging, crisis management and social movements.
• To project the UL as a national leader and privileged representative in international partnerships, especially within the European community.
• To increase UL’s competitiveness and its visibility to social agents and within the economic sectors, encouraging partnerships with systems of technological innovation and knowledge transference.

The following set of activities is scheduled:
• Internal activities to increase synergies in research and teaching post-graduate courses, through:
o Cross-access to curricular units and joint research seminars with data sharing, plans and projects;
o Supervising shared research;
o Sharing equipment and lab infrastructures;
o Defining strategies and projecting infrastructures of interest to the UL, the scientific community and society in general.
• External networking and divulging activities, through the organisation of scientific conferences and the participation in national and international events as well as interaction with society.
• Activities of a transversal nature, such as the development of an online platform that will work as basis and support for the development of these activities.

The Doctoral School hopes to achieve a broad range of results, among which the following stand out:
• To develop trans-disciplinary scientific activity in the mind-brain area, which will be translated into a significant increase in the bibliometric indicators.
• To enhance its ability to attract national and international PhD students in this area, with an increase in the number of doctorates per year.
• To increase the ability to attract national and international founding by the labs, centres and research groups working in the area.
• To increase the societal impact of the knowledge produced, which will be achieved through the reinforcement of the connections to institutions and companies, which will contribute to the financial autonomy of the School.

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