How to get involved in Neuroethics
In the past few months, I've received several emails from students asking for advice on how they can become involved in the field of Neuroethics. Therefore, I've decided to answer this question in a blog post, by sharing my experience and what I - as a neuroscientist, with a training in cellular/molecular biology - did to become involved in Neuroethics. And no it does not involve enrolling in a Neuroethics program!
1. Organize a neuroethics symposium at your department
That was the first initiative I took to become more acquainted with the field of Neuroethics. As a masters student, I could not find any Neuroethics course in my department that I could follow. And I truly believed that Neuroethics was an important topic that should be included in every neuroscience degree. So what was the best way to learn about it myself but also involve others? Organize a symposium! Easier said than done, but approach your coordinator/professor and together put something small together by inviting speakers in the field (even from your own university). The symposium was a great success, to the point that every year the master students organize a Neuroethics symposium surrounding a different Neuroethics topic. My goal of including Neuroethics training for neuroscientists is one step closer due to this simple initiative! You can do it too ;)
2. Read neuroethics books
I love reading. But I love reading Neuroethics books even more. Nerdy right? After becoming acquainted with the field, I was hungry to learn more, I wanted to read all the Neuroethics books that were out there. And to be honest, that's where I gathered the most of my knowledge about different Neuroethics concepts, perspectives, and current discussions. If you do not know where to begin, just start by reading a book. The first book I'd recommend for newcomers is Brainwashed by Sally Satel, a very easy and comprehensive book covering a few Neuroethics notions.
3. Attend neuroethics talks and symposiums/conferences
Another good place to gather information but also keep up with current research and upcoming discussions is to attend Neuroethics talks and symposiums/conferences like the International Neuroethics Society's Annual Meeting (which is now virtual!).
4. Get involved in neuroethics projects
If you're really in it for the longrun, then you'll want to slowly get your name out there by participating in Neuroethics research or other projects. In my case, I decided to get in touch with a Neuroethics professor that is prominent in the field, and ever since I've been involved in several projects of hers. I was lucky that she responded to my email from the first go. But do not despair if this does not happen to you. Keep trying!
5. Join neuroethics societies
Luckily Neuroethics is a growing field and there is always something for someone. I've joined the International Neuroethics Society (INS), and the Italian Neuroethics society - Società Italiana di Neuroetica (SINe). Additionally, the INS has frequent calls for volunteering opportunities, you can also apply to become a member of their Student/Postdoc committee (which was a great experience), and who knows you might even be invited to take part in the organizing committee of their annual meeting (which I am currently involved in).
6. Investigate the ethical and societal implications of your research
To show how serious I am about the introduction of Neuroethics within neuroscience research. I decided to look for the ethical and societal implications of my research (on biomarkers for PTSD in the military). My supervisors were very supportive, which led me to write a commentary (currently published) and currently in the process of preparing another publication on the topic. Sometimes you just need to go that extra mile ;)
7. Write a blog post
What's interesting about the field of Neuroethics is that you can have a voice, an opinion, a different perspective on for instance the use of brain devices for non-therapeutical purposes. Write about it! The Neuroethics Blog is a great platform to not only learn about these different perspectives and topics but to also contribute to! Here's an example of one of the pieces I wrote for the Neuroethics Blog! You can also send us your pitch for a chance to publish on our blog!
8. Tune in to the 'Neuroethics Today' podcast
It wouldn't be fair if I did not think that the 'Neuroethics Today' podcast was a great platform to learn about Neuroethics. Throughout the episodes, I've had conversations with scientists, ethicists, philosophers and even artists about different neuroethical concepts; from conscious brains-in-a-dish to science communication. I've also introduced two additional series including "TIPsy Thursday" where we informally discuss neuroethical topics from a non-scientific point of view; and "2-minutes Neuroethics" where I break down new neuroethical concepts. We also have an awesome blog where we share experiences of neuroethicists, accept Neuroethics-related pitches, and discuss all things Neuroethics!
9. Initiate recurrent neuroethics meetings at your department
The symposium was dedicated for master students, but how can I get my fellow PhD and postdoc colleagues on the wagon? Another idea was to launch a recurrent (monthly) Neuroethics meeting at my department where we invite a speaker, discuss a Neuroethics topic or even watch a science-fiction movie followed by a hot discussion!
10. Join Twitter!
Last but not least, there are lots of active neuroethicists on Twitter that you could follow and keep up with their work. Some of my favorites include: Marcello Ienca (@MarcelloIenca); prof Hank Greely (@HankGreelyLSJU); prof Nita Farahany (@NitaFarahany); Anna Wexler (@anna_wexler), the Neuroethics Blog (@EmoryNeuroethic), the INS (@neuroethicsinfo); and Neuroethics Today of course (@neuroethics2day; also active on Instagram (@neuroethicstoday)). You could also follow me (@katherinebassil) for some Neuroethics-related memes, tweets and more! ;)