We all know it's important, we all know it's timely, we all know we can do better. But it's challenging to bring together two fields that have been trained to work separately. Neuroethics for Neuroscience, and Neuroscience for Neuroethics. How does one go about it? How can we improve current practices? In this piece, I list a few suggestions that I believe could really help in bridging the fields for responsible brain research and innovation.
1. Fund brain research that mention neuroethical issues
What if (non-)governmental funding organisations funded research proposals that incorporate a neuroethics section? This could help stimulate neuroscientists to think of the ethical implications of their work while preparing the study in question (and not after). But also, this could work towards promoting brain research that is ethical and takes into consideration any potential societal or legal implications.
2. Introduce neuroethics training to early-career neuroscientists
What if neuroscientists become acquainted with the different concepts of neuroethics early on? The introduction of (online) courses, workshops, discussion forums, within Master programs, or PhD/post-doc trajectories can create a foundation for neuroscientists to appreciate the importance of neuroethics in and out of the lab. The earlier, the better!
3. Invite a neuroethicist to recurrent lab meetings
What if neuroethicists were invited to keep neuroscientists in check when discussing some of the most cutting edge research? Fine, maybe not keep them in check but help redirect their attention to important ethical implications of their work that might otherwise skip their mind. A great example is Jeantine Lunshof at one of the most prestigious labs in Harvard.
4. Organise joint conferences
What if conferences were truly interdisciplinary? Not only within the neuroscience disciplines but jumping across other relevant fields and/or stakeholders. Every conference has an organising committee which has a big say in what will be included (or not) during the conference. Imagine how complete conferences would be if neuroscientists and neuroethicsts came together and organised them! This could look like this: talks about recent findings in neurosciences, but also talks about recent findings and discussions in neuroethics; workshops for neuroscientists and neuroethicsts; poster presentations for both; live discussions, etc. For example, the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) 's annual conference always includes a talk on neuroethics. But there is always room for more!
5. Diversify👩👩👧👦 the team
What if research groups were not composed of only neuroscientists, or only neuroethicists? "Il faut de tour pour faire un monde" or "It takes everything to make a world". A team composed of neuroethicists and neuroscientists will not only bring life to the team but value. Lots and lots of value! Imagine this: Professors X hires 2 PhD students in her team. One to focus on the brain research and the other on the neuroethical implications. An abundance of value!
6. Grab a beer🍻 together!
You always hear that the best collaborations/ideas always happen in a bar, when you're relaxed, and open for anything!