Many ethical and social issues are raised by neuroscientific findings, but neuroscience can also help answer fundamental questions. From the nature of consciousness and morality to the existence of a free will, to name a few. To identify and manage issues raised by brain research, anticipation, reflection, and cross-disciplinary dialogue are key. In a recent publication, Human Brain Project researchers react to the BRAIN 2.0 Neuroethics Report and share their own experiences.

The authors argue that the BRAIN 2.0 Neuroethics Report offers a good starting point both methodologically and contentwise, including the need for a conceptual approach to identify and address issues raised by brain research. However, they note that a conceptual approach requires more than conceptual clarification, which in itself is not enough to explore and eventually address the often implicitly assumed connection between neuroscience, philosophy, and ethics, as well as their mutual relevance.

Neuroethical approaches that go beyond compliance with existing laws and guidelines have a key role to play. Both in capacity building to enable identifying and addressing implications, and in revising beliefs that are sometimes taken for granted by the scientific community. Perhaps especially the idea that science is value-neutral.

“A fully-fledged neuroethics approach needs to offer more than assistance to neuroscience researchers. It has to focus on the construction of scientific knowledge and ethical or social reasoning and analysis of relevant scientific and philosophical notions. And on the legitimacy of different interpretations, not just from the outside” say Arleen Salles, who co-authored the recent AJOB Neuroscience publication with Michele Farisco.

The authors wholeheartedly endorse the BRAIN 2.0 Neuroethics Report’s call for more culturally sensitive research and opening up science to society. Acknowledging the connection between the two, through the framework of responsible research and innovation alongside neuroethics, is important to ensure broader insights from different cultures. As is acknowledging the crucial role of cultural diversity in neuroscience research. This can then act as a stepping stone not only for more effective collaboration but also for global and ethically sustainable neuroscientific research.

Read the paper: Of Ethical Frameworks and Neuroethics in Big Neuroscience Projects: A View from the HBP

By Anna Holm

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