Ethical Challenges of Simulation-Driven Big Neuroscience

Christen M, Biller-Andorno N, Bringedal B, Grimes K, Savulescu J, Walter H. AJOB Neuroscience 2016; 7(1): 5–17. Published online 4 April 2016 in American Journal of Bioethics.

Research in neuroscience traditionally relies on rather small groups that deal with different questions on all levels of neuronal organization. Recent funding initiatives - notably the European “Human Brain Project” (HBP) - aim to promote Big Neuroscience for integrating research and unifying knowledge. This approach is characterized by two aspects: first, by many interacting researchers from various disciplines that deal with heterogeneous data and are accountable to a large public funding source; and second, by a decisive role of information and communication technology (ICT) as an instrument not only to perform but also to structure and guide scientific activities, for example, through simulations in the case of the HBP. We argue that Big Neuroscience comes along with specific ethical challenges. By examining the justification of Big Neuroscience and the role and effects of ICT on social interaction of researchers and knowledge production, we provide suggestions to address these challenges.

About the author from LEFO – Institute for Studies of the Medical Profession: From 2014 Berit Bringedal was chair of the Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects (ELSA) Committe in EU's research flagship Human Brain Project. From October 2015 she is a member of the Ethics Advisory Board (EAB). 

This paper is published with 7 open peer commentaries - AJOB Neuroscience 2016; 7(1): 18-34:

  • Big Explanations for Big Expectations: Deriving Lessons From the Human Genome and Blue Brain Projects. by John Noel M. Viaña & Frederic Gilbert, pages 18-20.
  • Managing Ethics in the HBP: A Reflective and Dialogical Approach. Authorship by Bernd Carsten Stahl, Stephen Rainey & Mark Shaw, pages 20-24.
  • The Confidence Criterion in Big Neuroscience. Authorship by Karola V. Kreitmair, pages 24-26.
  • How Likely Are Impressive Benefits to Ensue From Simulation-Driven Big Neuroscience? Authorship by David Trafimow, pages 26-28
  • Big Science, Brain Simulation, and Neuroethics. Authorship by Michele Farisco, Kathinka Evers & Arleen Salles, pages 28-30.
  • Big Neuroscience: When a Big Number Is Not Necessarily a Great Idea. Authorship by Andrea Lavazza, pages 30-32. 
  • Go Big or Go Home: Big Science and ELSI Funding. Authorship by Roy Meirom, Angelic Shavit, Daniel Ben-Ari, Boaz Yona & Dov Greenbaum, pages 32-34.  

Link to full text version of all articles in AJOB Neuroscience issue 1, 2016 (note: not with free access).
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