With a new year right around the corner, ‘tis the season for fresh beginnings. As such, PLOS Neuroscience is embracing change by welcoming Giuseppe Gangarossa as a new community editor. Get to know Giuseppe in the Q&A below, in which he shares why he’s passionate about Neuroscience, his goals for his new role and his vision for the future of the Neuroscience.
ER: Tell us a bit about yourself. What are you currently working on and what originally inspired you to become a neuroscientist?
GG: I received my PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Bologna (Italy). During my training I have been working at the Karolinska Institutet of Stockholm (Sweden) and at INSERM in Montpellier (France). Currently I’m a postdoctoral fellow working in Paris at the Collège de France, one of the oldest academic institutions in Europe. My research project focuses on understanding the synaptic and molecular events occurring in the basal ganglia system, a brain circuit involved in many neurological and psychiatric disorders. I also teach at the University, mainly Neuroscience and Cellular Biology.
I decided to become a neuroscientist early in my life. I was around 10 years old when at school a biology teacher showed us a drawing by Ramon y Cajal. I was completely unaware he was the father of the modern neuroscience. Exactly at this moment my way was clear in my mind, I wanted to be a painter… Only briefly after did I realize that I didn’t want just to draw neurons but especially to uncover their secrets.
ER: Besides getting to working with a fantastic neuroscience community through the blog and social media, a main highlight of our role as editors is featuring our favorite research on the site. What topics particularly intrigue you, and what types of blog posts can we look forward to reading from you?
GG: I devour neuroscience-related articles and I love every single field of our specialty, although I admit to have difficulty understanding neurocomputational data. I really love our field and I find it extremely exciting. I particularly enjoy those studies that are able to decipher neuronal mechanisms taking advantage of different approaches (cellular and molecular techniques, animal behavior and electrophysiology). I also enjoy when neuroscientists take the risk to challenge previous theories and propose novel hypotheses. Obviously, I get hyperexcited when some pre-clinical findings lead to important clinical applications. I also have an interest in understanding neuropsychiatric disorders, so our readers will find posts dealing with drug addiction, mood disorders and other brain disorders.
ER: The PLOS Neuroscience blog is a dynamic entity and is constantly changing with the evolving vision of the community. What are your hopes or expectations for the future of PLOS Neuroscience?
GG: I love the idea of sharing knowledge in an open, informal and direct manner. I love the idea to speak out of the academic ivory tower and I strongly believe that our PLOS Neuroscience Community is the perfect place where research, communication and creativity meet one each other. I hope that as editors we will be able to stimulate interesting discussions and especially to promote curiosity, creativity and future inspirations. Nowadays we tremendously need creativity and I fear that we are in an historical moment where we are producing more than creating. I believe that we should try to reverse this tendency. I may sound too ambitious but I really wish that our platform becomes a key player in the Neuroscience field.
ER: More broadly, where do you see the field of Neuroscience headed over the coming years?
GG: Big efforts in the US and EU have been made to invest in neuroscience research. In fact, mental health is one of the major priorities for our societies. The American BRAIN Initiative and the European Human Brain Project are clearly headed to unraveling and understanding brain circuits. Human behavior is coded through an integrative buildup of brain circuits. This is a crucial point for the advancement of neuroscience. For example it looks pretty clear that optogenetic and pharmacogenetic techniques are almost essential tools of investigations to dissect neuronal circuits. However, although these fancy techniques have enormously improved our understanding of the brain, I believe we should not take the risk to discard other aspects of brain functioning such as protein-protein interactions, gene regulations or structural modifications. Much more needs to be discovered and this is simply great.
ER: Do you foresee – or hope to see – any major transitions in how we conduct or communicate science?
GG: This is a really interesting question and I could talk for hours and hours. I believe that nowadays science is conducted more as a business than as an intellectual effort. For example, a negative result is more likely experienced as a failure, even though scientific data are simply results without a positive or negative connotation. Science is science, there is no positive or negative science, but just science. I have the feeling that we are more obsessed with collecting grants and high impact factor papers than really challenging science dogmas. In this context, communicating science is of critical interest, especially because we are constantly connected to the world and need to expand our cultural horizons. However, being a scientist does not necessarily mean being a great communicator. I would say that communicating science really depends on each of us; it is matter of public engagement and it requires motivation and devotion. I strongly encourage young neuroscientists to communicate their research and to pave the way for a new era of scientific discoveries.
ER: What would you change in how we conduct science?
GG: I have thought many times about this point. I do not have the perfect solution, but I would love to contribute to two fundamental changes: improve Open Access and abolish the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). Open Access should be a moral obligation and I believe that everyone will agree that science and education must be accessible to everyone. I think each scientist should wonder why we put boundaries on knowledge. Regarding the JIF, I find it somehow ridiculous and scientifically irrelevant to classify people and discoveries depending on a simple number, which is not synonymous with quality and reproducibility.