Mind Science Foundation announces Rare Consciousness Research Awards


Under the gaze of MSF founder Tom Slick (shown in portrait), Dr. Abraham Verghese, Director of the Medical Humanities and Ethics Dept. at UTHSCSA, receives Tom Slick Research Award from MSF Executive Director and Board Members.

SAN ANTONIO -- A David-size Texas foundation is taking on the Goliath-size question of human consciousness--one of the great unsolved problems of science.

The Mind Science Foundation announced today that it has awarded seven research teams worldwide a 2004 Tom Slick Research Award in Consciousness. Only twenty research teams were considered for this honor. Research in human consciousness can produce findings that will impact how we educate children, create art, stay healthy, or relate to others.

Grants recipients include the head of the Royal Institution of Great Britain; a "TIME 100" scientist; an MD/author of two national bestsellers; and researchers whose work was named by the New York Times among the "67 most exciting new ideas for 2003."

Dr. Bernard Baars of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, said, "To my knowledge, this is the only foundation in the world awarding grants specifically for consciousness research." Dr. Baars is a founding member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.

MSF Award recipients include Dr. Christof Koch, a leading neurophysicist and head of the Computation and Neural Systems Program at the California Institute of Technology (Cal-Tech), and research associate Melissa Saenz, who is from San Antonio. Dr. Koch is a key collaborator in consciousness research with Sir Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist who identified the double helix DNA.

Other Award recipients announced today by the Mind Science Foundation are:

  • Abraham Verghese, M.D., MFA, D.Sc. (Hon.), Director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center and author of two national best-sellers, "My Own Country" and "The Tennis Partner;" and Dr. Therese Jones - University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio

  • Baroness Susan Greenfield, Ph.D., Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain and member of Parliament, named one of the "50 most inspirational women in the world" (Harpers); and Drs. Toby Collins and Edward Mann - Oxford University, London

  • J. Allan Hobson, Ph.D., director of Harvard Medical School's Laboratory of Neurophysiology, and Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., both internationally recognized sleep and dream researchers; and Drs. David Kahn and Edward Schott - Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston

  • Fred H. Gage, PhD., named as a "TIME 100: The Next Wave Innovator" and winner of the Decade of the Brain Award; and Leigh Humm Leasure, Ph.D., winner of a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health - Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla

  • Elizabeth Mayer, Ph.D., Psychology Department UC-Berkeley, affiliated with the International Consciousness Research Lab founded by Brenda Dunne and Dr. Robert Jahn of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR), who have worked to develop aspects of "Coincidence Theory" which was named by the New York Times among the "67 most exciting new ideas for 2003." - University of California-Berkeley and Princeton University (PEAR/ICRL)

  • Steven Laureys, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist and neuroscience researcher with expertise in coma, vegetative, minimally conscious and locked-in syndrome states; and Dr. Pierre Maquet, noted expert in sleep and dream research - Cyclotron Research Center, University of Liege, Belgium

    The awards are named after visionary entrepreneur, explorer, philanthropist, and author Tom Slick (1916-1962) whose notable institutional legacies are the Southwest Research Institute (the world's third-largest nonprofit applied research institute) and the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, with a current staff of nearly 400 people.

    In 1958, Slick established a smaller organization, the Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio, Texas, expressly to explore the human mind. "I regard the creation of the Mind Science Foundation as the most important undertaking of my life, and I plan to devote most of my time to it. I feel that the human mind has tremendous, unexplored potential and I want to go about the discovery and development of that potential in a scientific way," said Slick four years before his untimely death.

    "We initiated the Tom Slick Research Awards in Consciousness this year to fulfill his vision of studying the mind as a means for improving the condition of humankind," says Mind Science Executive Director, Joseph Dial. "Insights into the workings of our minds inform the ways in which we teach our children, make economic decisions, create art, develop computers, deliver healthcare, and implement justice."

    Dr. Emilio Romero, M.D., Chair of the Mind Science Foundation's Scientific Advisory Committee and Co-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UTHSCSA, notes, "In our invitation to submit, we made it clear that we wanted to encourage collaboration with younger researchers as a means of stimulating interest in the field of consciousness among promising young scientists." The basic criteria for an invitation to submit are publication on the subject of consciousness in a peer-reviewed scientific journal or book.

    Regarding future grants, Dial comments, "We will continue to act as an incubator of leading-edge consciousness research with private invitation grants in the $15,000 - $30,000 range. This initial round of funding is the most difficult for researchers to find. It will help them develop crucial pilot data with which they can pursue larger rounds of funding with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). We are the 'angel' round in the funding of consciousness research."

    In 2003, the Mind Science Foundation (MSF) co-sponsored a seminal MIT conference with the Dalai Lama and leading Western scientists, "Investigating the Mind"; a lecture by UN Ambassador of Peace, Dr. Jane Goodall; a workshop on "Community Healing" focused on racial prejudice with Dr. Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard) and Dr. Rico Ainslie (UT-Austin); and a lecture on "TV Violence and Children" with Dr. John Murray (Kansas State).

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