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Prizes recognise crucial role of world’s young scholars

The brightest new research talent in the science of consciousness came together for the final of the EUROCORES CNCC essay prize, held in Edinburgh on 28th June. Two winners were plucked from a shortlist of six finalists who represented the cream of emerging academics in the field.

The finalists each had the chance to give presentations on their submissions at a day long conference at Edinburgh University. The announcement marked the long awaited culmination of a difficult selection and judging process.

The award, which is part of the ESF’s EUROCORES programme, was aimed at creating a space for promising young researchers to join established scholars from across the scientific and philosophical community and bring their work to a wider audience.

Edinburgh’s own PHD student Dave Ward, and Hong Yu Wong from University College London, were selected as joint winners and each received €1500 for their submissions. Only six out of the total of 44 submissions were eventually shortlisted for the competition. The final six candidates were chosen for the unique contribution they are making to the understanding of consciousness, and all papers will be published in a forthcoming edition of Psyche.

Hong Yu Wong presented a paper on bodily experience and human agency, which examined the crucial role of bodily awareness in the control of action. The paper drew on empirical and conceptual knowledge to demonstrate human agency depends on embodied consciousness.

“It is very nice to win this prize and a big help for my career,” Hong Yu said. "More importantly this was a very interesting competition because it celebrates this kind of interdisciplinary approach and gave us junior scholars an opportunity to interact with and get feedback from established professionals."

Dave Ward’s paper focused on how our knowledge of colour facilitates human action in the world. Dave’s view is that our ability to distinguish colour is a function of how we sort information in our consciousness in order to “sift, sort and track” our perceptions and act accordingly.

“This is a really great honour,” said Dave. “To be chosen from such a talented group of entrants is great, and it was good to have a chance to get some top feedback on my work.”

Following the announcement of the prize-winners, Professor Andy Clark, from Edinburgh University, commented on the quality of talent on show at the conference, and predicted a promising future for a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to understanding consciousness.

“Interdisciplinary studies of the mind are becoming more and more important,” he said. “Encouraging young scholars like this who are truly empirically informed, interdisciplinary, and excited about the mind – bringing them together and showing them that they can do things like this – I think is incredibly important.

He emphasised that EUROCORES is an essential form of support for helping young research talent make the move into serious cutting edge scholarship.

He continued: “The European Science Foundation is doing a very good job of supporting that. It is just an exciting time to be studying the mind and a therefore a great time to get young scholars interested.”

The idea for the essay prize was born out of an attempt by those working on the EUROCORES programme to allow young researchers an opportunity to present their work to the international academic community. The programme is run by senior scholars in the field and brings together the world’s leading minds in the exploration of human consciousness. Projects across Europe aim to form a complete understanding of mind from both a social and cultural perspective, as well a conceptual and scientific one.

Despite the fact that this work is highly specialised and involves pioneering work at a high level, a lot of the research is carried out by students at PHD level. These young scholars explore detailed conceptual problems and carry out experiments and investigations in crucial areas. Organisers of the EUROCORES programme were conscious of the vital role these contributions make to the overall goal of understanding consciousness. The essay prize aims to recognise this work, and the rich pool of talent that forms the basis of an exciting global project to unravel the mysteries of the mind.

Professor Clark added that an award like this can also help to recognise the powerful contribution graduates are already making to international cutting edge research in the science of consciousness.

He added: “One thing that we have seen here is just how much serious, first author work is being done, by people whose names you probably won’t see in published journals for a few years yet, but who are certainly going to be at the forefront of the next generation.”

Thomas Lau | alfa
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