The sciencedigital@UNGA75 series of virtual side events organised within the context of the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA75) was held from 24 September to 2 October 2020. The central theme of these activities was to advance awareness of the role and contribution of science and digital technologies to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this context, EBC hosted two side sessions, on the topic of “The Potentials of Increased Collaboration in Science: examples from the brain communityexploring how global research collaboration can support brain research in a meaningful way, to the benefit of patients across the globe. The second session that EBC coorganised with the European Federation of the Neurological Associations (EFNA) and the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) was entitled “Do the SDGs address the global burden of disease? A focus on regional health and research policies”. This session highlighted the importance of an integrated and all-encompassing approach to brain health.

“The Potentials of Increased Collaboration in Science: examples from the brain community

Prof Wolfgang H. Oertel, EBC Vice President, introduced the first session on “The potentials of Increased Collaboration in Science” which featured several video messages from a prominent line-up of speakers:

  • Mr Carlos Morais Pires, Cabinet Member of Commissioner Mariya Gabriel;
  • Prof. Tracy Bale, President of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO);
  • Prof Carmen Sandi, President of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies;
  • Dr Walter J. Koroshetz, Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the U.S. National Institutes of Health;
  • Prof Barry Everitt, President of the Society for Neuroscience;
  • Mr Linhao Chen, Deputy Director General of International Cooperation within the Ministry of Science and Technology in China;
  • Mr Quan Zhang, Director of Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality,
  • Professor Linda J. Richards, Head of the Brain development and disorders laboratory (Queensland Brain Institute); Co-Chair of the Australian Brain Alliance and Spokesperson of International Brain Initiative;
  • Prof Amadi O. Ihunwo, Secretary General and CEO of the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA);
  • Prof Foad Abd-Allah, Vice-President of the African Academy of Neurology;
  • Prof. Mohamed Hassan, President of the World Academy of Sciences
  • Dr Caroline Montojo, from the Kavli Foundation and International Brain Initiative.

All the international guests shared their visions from a different point of view on the role of international cooperation in the constant progress of brain research.

A panel discussion between Prof Monica Di Luca, EBC President, Dr Tomás Ryan, Chair of the FENS-Kavli Network and Prof Mu-ming Poo, Founding Director of the Institute of Neuroscience (ION) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences followed after the presentations. During a live Q&A with the audience, the panelists responded to stimulating and thought-provoking questions raised by the participants.

Do the SDGs address the global burden of disease? A focus on regional health and research policies”

The second session exploring how the SDGs address the global burden of disease stressed the need to make the brain disorders, neurological and mental alike, the political priority. Frédéric Destrebecq, EBC Executive Director had the pleasure to moderate the session and Joke Jaarsma, President of the European Federation of the Neurological Associations (EFNA) and EBC Treasurer, gave an insightful introduction in which she acknowledged an addition of mental health and neurological disorders to list of priority NCDs (noncommunicable diseases).

After a word of welcome, Prof. Valery L Feigin (National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences) had a presentation on global burden of disease with a particular focus on neurology including key priorities and recommendations. After that, Tarun Dua, Head of the Brain Health Unit (Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, WHO) highlighted the importance of more high-level strategic linkages between work on non-communicable diseases, sustainable development goals and the universal health coverage. Dr Samuel Wiebe, President of the International League Against Epilepsy and the Director of the Clinical Research Unit Cumming School of Medicine (University of Calgary) presented afterwards epilepsy as a case study emphasizing the current challenges and the opportunities for action at a global level. Last but not least, Prof. Valery L Feigin (National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, Auckland University of Technology) provided some interesting insights on how free mobile digital technology can reduce the global burden of stroke.

Finally, the session was closed by a fruitful and interactive discussion on the importance of the multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach. After a stimulating exchange, the speakers replied to all the questions of the public during a live Q&A.