A newly elected president is inaugurated at Oxford. Read the transcript from speeches below.
Secretary General [SG]: MY LORD, the Convocation House of the Society assembled on the 18th day of August 2016 at Oxford to elect the new President. I am pleased to inform the House that Mr Max Brzezicki, FNS has been duly elected to serve as the new President for the period of five years.
The House recognises Mr Max Brzezicki [MB], FNS.
MB: By taking the honour of the President of the Society, I solemnly swear to obey the Act of Foundation of the Society, and The Scientific Method, and that I shall defend the values of the Society and I shall be always questioning and investigating the sciences, for the good of Humanity.
I shall respect the Patient’s autonomy and shall be pursuing their recovery at all times. And that the Good and Honour of the Society, and the Wellness of the Mankind shall always be for me the Highest Rule.
So help me God.
SC: Let the record show that Mr Brzezicki has taken the oath. The Oxford Neurological Society has appointed Mr Brzezicki to the position of the President of the Society.
The House recognises the President of the Society, Mr Max Brzezicki, FNS
MB: MY LORD: Sixty years ago, on a misty and windy morning, the doors of the editorial room of the “Nature” slammed wide open, as one John Maddox entered the room. The newly appointed editor-in-chief, as I imagine, glanced over the pile of yellowing submission papers and looked at the overworked, desperate and restless staff.
The Nature, yes, the very journal you, my dear colleagues know very well, although, I am told, some of you may correspond with the rejections department more than they would wish.
Well, it’s still better than me, with a blank ResearchGate account and a vision of Impact Factor of 3 as the absolute Himalayas of scientific publications.
This very Nature, one of the oldest journals running articles across all scientific disciplines, with ground-breaking publications such as the discovery of Xrays, of the neutron and wave nature of elementary particles and, let us not forget, the landmark paper of our colleagues from East Anglia about the structure of the DNA.
But back then, in 1966, it was in shambles: instead of leading the way in new discoveries, the news & views section was mainly running official notices about birthdays and retirements.
Instead of striving to be published there, most scientists submitted preliminary results, sparing the icing on their research cake for more important journals.
Just think about it – does it not resemble the state of the Society at the moment?
Ask yourself, my dear fellows, when was the last time a Nobel prize laureate joined the tiltyards of the House? How many of you have submitted a paper to a top-notch journal in the last decade? How many of young, clever and ambitious scientists have never even heard of the Society?
The answer to that, I understand, may be painful. But although the medicine is harsh, it is that what is needed for the patient to survive.
MY LORD – Despite great efforts of many of the Members, our Society is on the brink of collapse. It is a house that, although built on solid ground, is now tilting towards the sea, as the water has eroded the base of the cliff, and the weathering of the rocks has taken its toll.
Inside its byzantine-like ballrooms and libraries, the orchestra may still play joyful tunes, but beyond that, a Damocles’ sword of impending disaster is knocking on the front doors.
Some of you, my dear colleagues, may think that you have a bigger fish to fry within the Society. But I am afraid to say, that not only there is no fish, but that the bath is dry and the baby has vanished.
MY LORD – John Maddox began with recruiting intelligent, young people and gave them unprecedented powers and responsibilities. He introduced a stringent but prompt reviewing process, savaging the errors of thought and misguided conclusions, but giving a fair chance of publication to anyone: regardless of how maverick and unbelievable the new idea was, it had a chance of appearing in the journal, provided it stood up to the evidence.
And this statement, my fellows, was not a cliché.
In 1988, Maddox caused a controversy when he agreed to publish a homoeopathy paper by Jacques Beneveniste. The editor-in-chief did not dismiss the idea for the sake of it. He allowed the paper, provided he could inspect the Frenchman’s laboratory.
The findings, as you may expect, turned out to be a result of “shoddy science” and Beneveniste’s own “delusions”.
The author reacted in a peculiar (but some may say typical) manner, by rejecting the claim and viewing it as an attack on France and the French in general.
MY LORD – I would perish the thought of ever comparing myself to John Maddox, but I do believe that his treatment is the right thing to do for the Society.
Here is what I am intending to do during my presidency:
First, we need to continue our educational mission – the neuroscience is still a terra incognita of sciences. We must show that the nervous system is beautiful and interesting in its complexity, but can be easy to understand. We must inspire people to explore the brain and learn about the meanders of clinical neurology. We have to show that nervous pathologies can be managed: switch from “describe and catalogue” to “diagnose and treat” and dare to make the process more accessible for the wider audience.
Secondly, we must innovate and reform – we need to use all weapons in our armoury: new technologies, conferences, meetings, quality reviews, and board appointments. We must present an integrated approach to utilising our resources to get the message across and to involve a large number of scientists and doctors in our work.
Finally, we need to sail forward and regain the role of the flagship of debate, argument and avant-garde approach to the neurosciences. This year, we were the first academic institution to publicly condemn the current model of addiction. I want to build up on that and to ensure that the Society provides a platform for using the latest evidence to scrutinise the established consensus.
We will continue working with initiatives like AllTrials.net, NICE, SenseAboutScience and AskForEvidence. These are our invaluable partners and fellow warriors of the Scientific Method. We must support the mission of securing the evidence-based medicine and truthful publications in our clinical practice and public health policies.
And yes, some of my plans may be overly ambitious. But alas, I can promise you two things: that we will work hard and that we will not back down, not for a second, until we see the Society prosper once again.
MY LORD – here is my call for all the talented, intelligent and clever scientists.
I know you are waiting for the day when your results will be published without the supervisors changing your protocols and the editorial teams rejecting your negative results.
I know you are waiting for the day when you will no longer have to appease the politicians, and subjugate the truth to the zeitgeist of the day.
I know you are waiting for the day when you will be free to fully develop, realise your potential and progress in your career without the limits of bureaucracy or systemic flaws.
And I also know that no one can give you that just now. But you’re waiting for the day someone will at least do things that are unpopular and take the message where it needs to be heard.
And to all those people, I’ve got only one thing to say.
This day is today.
And I beg this motion to the House.