The 3rd Human Brain Project (HBP) Curriculum workshop ‘Same, Same, or Different? Neuroscience, Robotics, AI and Medical Informatics: New Insights with Diversity and Ethics’ took place at the Graz University of Technology (Austria), from 26th to 27th September 2019.
The two days’ workshop showcased not only the interdisciplinary nature of HBP, but also offered insights on how scientists from neuroscience, robotics, AI, and medical informatics consider variables such as sex, gender, age, etc. The purpose of the workshop was to offer an opportunity for discussing the disciplinary aspects of the HBP, such as neuroscience and medicine, as well as the broader interdisciplinary aspects such as ethics and diversity in Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) together with their practical application.
People from different backgrounds and disciplines participated in the workshop. Researchers and students explored and made best use of research design, methodologies and the operationalisation of variables in their field of expertise. The workshop offered a space to share experiences and gain innovative insights from cross-science perspectives that could be used for research concepts, papers and proposal writing.
A welcome address delivered by Robert Legenstein drew the curtain open for the workshop. He introduced the Institute of Theoretical Computer Science, a competence centre for computer algorithms, which among other functions investigates fundamental problems in information processing, related to computer algorithm designs and computational models.
AI, Robotics & Neuroscience Research
Benedikt Feldotto delivered the first lecture on robot stereotypes. The lecture discussed different ways people react and connect with robots with insights on diversity of robots and AI. He led a discussion on how to dispel stereotypes and judge what makes a robotic system scary or cute, harmful or useful.
The talk on multimodal characterisation of neurobiological substrates of personality traits was delivered by Alessandra Nostro. She discussed her findings on gender effects on both structural and functional neural correlates of personality.
Data Protection & Ethics
Jan Fousek’s talk focused on how to use medical brain images to construct whole brain model and its implications with emphasis on ethics and data protection. He stressed the need to formulate a technical and legal framework for sharing data.
Simi Akintoye and William Knight in their lecture discussed ways that European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to the processing of identifiable personal data, how appropriate data governance can ameliorate challenges facing big data projects, such as the HBP and how the HBP implements novel data governance strategies to tackle such challenges.
A visit to the Definitely Affordable Virtual Environment (DAVE) concluded the first day. The DAVE is used for interactive exploration of architectural models and other virtual worlds.
Responsible Research and Innovation & Diversity
Michele Farisco started the second day with a talk on Neuroethics and Philosophy in RRI. He gave an insight into what constitutes RRI, its limitations and connection with philosophy. He further explained conceptual issues of consciousness and its disorders as contained in his recent article (Farisco et al 2018).
In the following lecture on societal impact through engagement of public and experts in the HBP context, Sita Kotnis explained ways of engaging the public to achieve an alignment of research and innovation with societal values.
Harald Kleinberger-Pierer delivered a lecture on diversity and ethics in the history of science and how it influenced the outcomes of science and technology. He gave an insight not only on how history helps in understanding past works of science but also in reflecting on current research. Danny Gomez-Ramirez in his talk focused on how to collaborate with artificial agents to solve mathematical problems.
Hands on Session and Poster Competition
A hands-on session for research design led by Karin Grasenick explored the diversity of research objects and target groups. Participants were handed a collection of pictures of fruits with various colours and were asked to paste them on a white paper using any explainable pattern. The exercise clearly showed the benefits of interdisciplinarity in research and projects.
Four posters were presented at the poster competition. Julian Anslinger’s poster titled ‘Ethical and diversity-related aspects during the development of a multifunctional data patch’ emerged as the winner.
Agenda for the Future
Alois Saria and Karin Grasenick concluded the workshop sessions by highlighting successful achievements of HBP such as the establishment of six ICT- platforms with impacts like the creation of digital brain atlases, treatment of brain diseases and development of ‘neuromorphic’ computer architecture. The HBP have reached half – way point and will dedicate the remaining funding periods to building sustainable infrastructure that can be accessed by researchers for novel experimental approaches to brain research using advanced high performance and brain-inspired computer technology, they noted.
Juliana Nnadi is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Evidence Based Law Reform, Faculty of Business and Law, De Montfort University (Leicester, UK). From October 2019-March 2020 she holds a ‘Frontrunner in Responsible AI’ internship with the Human Brain Project’s Ethics Support team at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR).
Farisco, M., Hellgren Kotaleski, J., Evers, K. (2018) Large-scale brain simulation and disorders of consciousness: Mapping technical and conceptual issues. Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 585 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00585