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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Neuroscience is ready for neuroethics engagement

Das, J., Forlini, C., Porcello, D. M. et al.
Front. Commun., 21 December 2022
Sec. Science and Environmental Communication

Neuroscience research has been expanding, providing new insights into brain and nervous system function and potentially transformative technological applications. In recent years, there has been a flurry of prominent international scientific academies and intergovernmental organizations calling for engagement with different publics on social, ethical, and regulatory issues related to neuroscience and neurotechnology advances. Neuroscientific activities and outputs are value-laden; they reflect the cultural, ethical, and political values that are prioritized in different societies at a given time and impact a variety of publics beyond the laboratory. The focus on engagement in neuroscience recognizes the breadth and significance of current neuroscience research whilst acknowledging the need for a neuroethical approach that explores the epistemic and moral values influencing the neuroscientific agenda. The field of neuroethics is characterized by its focus on the social, legal, and philosophical implications of neuroscience including its impact on cultural assumptions about the cognitive experience, identity, consciousness, and decision-making. Here, we outline a proposal for neuroethics engagement that reflects an enhanced and evolving understanding of public engagement with neuroethical issues to create opportunities to share ideation, decision-making, and collaboration in neuroscience endeavors for the benefit of society. We demonstrate the synergies between public engagement and neuroethics scholarship and activities that can guide neuroethics engagement.


Building on research from numerous fields and experiences of the past, engagement between neuroscience, neuroethics, and publics offers a critical lens for anticipating and interrogating the unique societal implications of neuroscience discovery and dissemination, and it can help guide regulation so that neuroscience products promote societal well-being. Engagement offers a bridge not only for neuroscientists and neuroethicists, but also for neuroethics and the public. It is possible that more widespread use of neuroethics engagement will reveal yet unknown or overlooked ethical conflicts in neuroscience that may take priority over the ones listed here.

We offer this paper as part of a continued and expanded dialogue on neuroethics engagement. The concept we propose will require the input of stakeholders beyond neuroethics, neuroscience, and public engagement in science to build practices that are inclusive and fit for purpose. Effective neuroethics engagement should be locally and temporally informed, lead to a culturally situated understanding of science and diplomacy, aim to understand the transnational nature of scientific knowledge, and be mindful of the challenges raised by how knowledge of discoveries circulates.