Responsible Dual Use in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

Discussion on responsible dual use at the HBP Education workshop at Karolinska Institute in 2018. Photo credits: HBP Education

Neurotechnology as many other powerful technologies can potentially be ‘dual use’ technology, namely it can be used for beneficial as well as harmful purposes. How can we ensure that neuroscience and technology developed for civilian applications is not misused towards malicious ends? What can researchers, engineers, policy-makers and other stakeholders do to safeguard responsible use of neuroscience and neurotechnology?

To address these questions, the Ethics and Society Subproject of the Human Brain Project (HBP) has recently published Opinion on ‘Responsible Dual Use’ Political, Security, Intelligence and Military Research of Concern in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (Aicardi et al 2018). To implement this Opinion, the HBP has established the Dual Use working group that includes Ethics Rapporteurs and other representatives from different subprojects and Ethics Advisory Board.

Broad dual use agenda

In preparation and towards implementation of this Opinion, the Ethics and Society Subproject in collaboration with HBP Education and experts within and beyond HBP has undertaken a broad range of research, outreach and engagement activities including:

Ethics experts have positively evaluated the HBP dual use activities such as the webinar as ‘a first promising step in the direction of awareness-enhancing strategies’ (Ienca et al 2018: 273). The newly established Dual Use working group will build on, consolidate and further develop analysis, training and engagement in this complex and novel area within and beyond HBP.

Novel approach

The Opinion suggests to apply principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to identify ‘dual use of concern’ that can threaten peace, health, safety, security and well-being of citizens. It outlines a number of recommendations that can help to ensure ‘responsible dual use’. These include recommendations to policy-makers to extend policies on dual use to consider and mitigate potential risks, to universities to provide appropriate training and to businesses to ensure self-regulation.

These recommendations are particularly relevant in the context of changing security and policy in Europe. The EU Framework Programme funds research with an exclusive focus on civilian applications. However, in light of new threats (e.g. cyber and terror), changing global security situation and transatlantic relationship, the EU has started to support dual use research from the Structural Funds as well as security research and development within its security and defence policy. This adds a new urgency to clarify the relationship between various uses of research.  

References:

Aicardi, C., L. Bitsch, N.Bang Badum, S.Datta, K.Evers, M.Farisco, T.Fothergill, J.Giordano, E.Harris, M.L.Jorgensen, L.Klüver, T.Mahfoud, S.Rainy, K.Riisgaard, N.Rose, A.Salles, B.Stahl and I.Ulnicane (2018) Opinion on ‘Responsible Dual Use’. Political, Security, Intelligence and Military Research of Concern in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology. Ethics & Society. Human Brain Project.

Ienca, M., F.Jotterand, and B.S.Elger (2018) From Healthcare to Warfare and Reverse: How Should We Regulate Dual Use Neurotechnology? Neuron 97: 269-274.

Mahfoud, T., C.Aicardi, S.Datta, and N.Rose (2018­) “The Limits of Dual Use.” Issues in Science and Technology 34 (4): 73-78.

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