Highlighted Selections from:

GRAY MATTERS Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. "GRAY MATTERS Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society" Bioethics Commission (2014): 1–64. Print.

p.4: The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) is an advisory panel of the nation’s leaders in medicine, science, ethics, religion, law, and engineering. The Bioethics Commission advises the President on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology. The Bioethics Commission seeks to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in a socially and ethically responsible manner. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.24: Ethics integration is a process by which scientists and ethicists engage with each other, and often other stakeholders, such as communities, to understand the social and ethical dimensions of their work, including the relationship between science and the societal context in which it operates. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.26: Professional ethics in science is derived from expectations of responsible conduct of research, codes of conduct, and the character traits that are the hallmark of good scientists. Professional ethics applies throughout the research process, from the reflective articulation of a research question to the honest and responsible communication of scientific findings. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.26: Research ethics consists of ethical and regulatory guidelines that govern research, including those concerning research involving humans or animals. Responsible neuroscience includes recognition, interpretation, and application of existing ethical principles and regulations; assurance of compliance with regulations; and consideration of other ethical safeguards for human participants and nonhuman animals in research. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014


“I think by asking the fundamental question[s]—[W]hy are you doing this? Why do you think your lab director wants to get this grant in particular? Why does your institution promote it in this way? Why did the funding agency write the solicitation in the following way?—by asking these questions you can really impact what’s already there, and in the process the scientists can take ownership rather than the moral expert insisting on what the logical case is. ...[I]t’s a subtle move, but it allows for a co-responsible approach.... I would suggest that the word ‘curiosity’... is potentially an engine for both ethical care and scientific creativity.”

Fisher, E., Associate Director for Integration, Center for Nanotechnology in Society; Assistant Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies and the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University. (2014). How the Inclusion of an Ethicist on a Research Team Might Affect Change in Scientific Research. Presentation to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, February 11. Retrieved April 7, 2014 from http://bioethics.gov/node/3379. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014


“[B]rain science is a fine place to begin to figure out how to integrate bioethics education into the preparation of scientists. Ethics education in this area will be particularly challenging, and therefore exciting to work on, because brain science requires collaboration across so many disciplines and because it will raise profound questions across all three domains: responsible conduct of research, research ethics, and the societal impact of the knowledge and technologies that emerge. Since existing bioethics education programs have focused much less on this third area of societal impact, and since brain science engages so many questions in that domain, I recommend that there be considerable attention to the ethical and social impact questions, not just to research ethics and RCR [responsible conduct of research]. It is also my hope that we will not just train or educate, but that we will commit to designing for learning, and specifically for a kind of learning that is transformational, so that we are preparing not just scientists, but citizen-scientists who are professional in the fullest meaning of the word, aware of the power science holds in society, and capable of secular moral reasoning in our highly pluralistic society.”

Solomon, M.Z., President, The Hastings Center; and Clinical Professor of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School. (2013). Transformational Bioethics Learning in Brain Science. Presentation to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, December 18. Retrieved April 4, 2014 from http://bioethics.gov/sites/default/files/Solomon%20Remarks%20to%20Pres%20Commission.pdf -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014


“I think that science education has to be fundamentally restructured from the get-go, and that that is what is ultimately going to address these issues, and I think that scientists think the way they think because their education leads them to think that way. They’re siloed because that’s how they’re trained. It should be no surprise that they exist within a particular world when that is how science education is organized, and I think that that is something that has to be dealt with.”

Sankar, P., Associate Professor, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy; and Senior Fellow, Leonard Dan’s Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania. (2014). ELSI Origins and Early History. Presentation to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, February 11. Retrieved April 4, 2014 from http://bioethics.gov/node/3379 -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.30: For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), one of the federal agencies involved in the BRAIN Initiative, has integrated ethics formally into its neuroscience research efforts. DARPA has convened an independent panel of six nationally recognized bioethicists—not employed by the agency—to inform the ethical conduct of neuroscience. The panel provides expert insight to DARPA program managers on ethical, legal, and social issues associated with their BRAIN Initiative projects. Each program manager consults an ethics mentor at the inception of a project to incorporate ethical considerations according to “the three Cs—character, consent, and consequence.” Ethics mentors provide insight on issues such as respecting autonomy through informed consent, or the individual and societal consequences of neurotechnologies. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.35: Integrating ethical considerations into routine science decision making occurs by embedding ethicists and social scientists into the laboratory where learning is reciprocal. As one researcher who studied the effectiveness of the approach noted, “Rather than experiencing societal considerations as ‘ethical speed bumps’ imposed on their projects, the [researchers] indicated that such reflections broadened their decisions. They realized that they were making choices, that these choices were based on a range of considerations, and that by reflecting on them, they found that decision outputs and inputs can both vary.” Periodic meetings between researchers and persons with experience dealing with ethical issues can be used to discuss researchers’ decisions, the relevant considerations, potential alternative choices, and possible outcomes— an approach that can be particularly responsive to the ethical issues facing individual researchers. -- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.37: Recommendation 1: Integrate Ethics Early and Explicitly Throughout Research

Institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research should integrate ethics across the life of a research endeavor, identifying the key ethical questions associated with their research and taking immediate steps to make explicit their systems for addressing those questions. Sufficient resources should be dedicated to support ethics integration.

-- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.39: Recommendation 2: Evaluate Existing and Innovative Approaches to Ethics Integration

Government agencies and other research funders should initiate and support research that evaluates existing as well as innovative approaches to ethics integration. Institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research should take into account the best available evidence for what works when implementing, modifying, or improving systems for ethics integration.

-- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.41: Recommendation 3: Integrate Ethics and Science through Education at All Levels

Government agencies and other research funders should initiate and support research that develops innovative models and evaluates existing and new models for integrating ethics and science through education at all levels.

-- Highlighted jun 2, 2014

p.42: Recommendation 4: Explicitly Include Ethical Perspectives on Advisory and Review Bodies

BRAIN Initiative-related scientific advisory and funding review bodies should include substantive participation by persons with relevant expertise in the ethical and societal implications of the neuroscience research under consideration.

-- Highlighted jun 2, 2014