Last week the Ethics Support team was at the annual Human Brain Project (HBP) Open Day and Summit in Maastricht (Netherlands). This event was the halfway mark for the HBP which was started in October 2013 as a ten-year FET Flagship Project funded by the European Commission.
The Open Day on 15th October brought record numbers of 670 attendees including 359 from the public. The Ethics Support team was part of the Social, Ethical, Reflective booth that provided an overview of social and philosophical research and ethical issues raised by the HBP. This included posters highlighting collaborative work of the Ethics and Society Subproject on data protection, privacy and responsible dual use. Securing privacy interests and advancing data protection measures are key concerns of the HBP. Their importance was recognized during the proposal development, and taken up and reinforced by the Data Protection and Privacy Opinion written by the Ethics and Society Subproject and members of the Ethics Advisory Board. This Opinion has had an important impact on the HBP as can be seen by the appointment of Data Protection Officer and work of the Data Governance Working Group.
Responsible dual use is another collaborative topic for the Ethics and Society Subproject that was showcased during the Open Day. While brain research aims at advancing neuroscience, brain related medicine, and brain inspired computing, its results can also be used in political, military, security and intelligence domains. Technologies developed for civilian use that can also have military use are known as ‘dual use’ technologies. When should researchers, society and policy-makers be concerned about potential uses of neuro-ICT research? And what can they do to avoid ‘dual use of concern’? During recent years Ethics and Society Subproject members have undertaken a range of research, engagement, awareness and education activities to address these questions. The next main activity on this topic will be ‘Dual Use and Responsible Research’ workshop taking place in Stockholm, 15-17 November with few places remaining.
The Open Day was followed by the HBP Summit taking place from 16-18 October and bringing together 494 researchers including 88 PhDs. The Summit started with a welcoming message from Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society who among other things emphasised importance of Artificial Intelligence and AI ethics. The Summit programme covered a broad range of topics from plenaries on neuroscience and platform science to sessions on innovation, gender and citizen engagement. In her keynote, Chair of the Australian Brain Alliance Linda Richards highlighted importance of international scientific collaboration such as exemplified by the International Brain Initiative bringing together brain initiatives from the EU, US, Canada, Korea, China, Japan and Australia.
The Ethics Support team members organized sessions on data governance, research compliance and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as meetings with the Ethics Advisory Board and Ethics Rapporteurs. The HBP Ethics Director Bernd Stahl chaired the Town Hall meeting ‘The Future of the HBP – 2023 and beyond’ focusing on the development of sustainable research infrastructure.
At the Summit poster session, the Ethics Support poster presented our tasks, collaborations and recent publications as well as highlighted our key aims:
- to facilitate research-based ethics dialogues with HBP scientists, Ethics Rapporteurs and the Ethics Advisory Board to support reflection, good practice and compliance, and
- to develop good practices for ethics support processes, combining empirical research and practice as part of the Human Brain Project’s approach to Responsible Research and Innovation.
To get a glimpse into the HBP Open Day 2018, watch this video.