Ethics Support Outreach and Dissemination: Q&A with Inga Ulnicane

Giving a talk about ethics of Artificial Intelligence at the HBP Science Alignment meeting in Alpbach (Austria), May 2018. Photo credits: Bjoern Kindler

Over the last year, Ethics
Dialogues blog have published Q&A with the task leaders of the Ethics Support work
package in the Human Brain Project (HBP). So far, the following tasks have been
introduced: Ethics Support in the HBP, Compliance Management, Support
for Ethics Advisory Board, Ethics Rapporteur
, Ethics-Related Data
and Data Protection Officer.

The final Q&A with Ethics
Support task leader is with Dr. Inga Ulnicane, task leader for Ethics Support
Outreach and Dissemination.

Q1 & Q2: What are the aims and main activities of Ethics
Support Outreach and Dissemination?

Today outreach and dissemination often is part and
parcel of research, as scientists are expected to engage with diverse
scientific communities, social and professional groups, policy-makers and
media. The main aim of this specific task is to facilitate links with stakeholders
within and beyond the HBP to share the Ethics Support’s research results and
good practices such as dialogues approach to

developed by the team.

A broad range of activities is used to that end
from scientific publications and talks at the scientific conferences to
organisation of and contribution to outreach and education activities. It also
includes the launch and maintenance of Ethics Dialogues blog and communication via
social media such as Ethics Support twitter account. These activities cover
many topics from Ethics Support tasks such as compliance and data governance as
well as other topics on which we work together with our collaborators, for
example, Responsible Research and Innovation, dual use and ethics of Artificial
Intelligence (AI).

As a separate task in the HBP Ethics Support
work package, it is limited to the current HBP funding

that started in April 2018 and will end in March 2020. However, it builds on the
activities started earlier and many of the activities will continue in the next
funding period where they will be integrated in a new project structure.

Q4: What are the main achievements of Ethics
Support Outreach and Dissemination so far?

The team has
been very active in many diverse dissemination and outreach activities ranging
from scientific publishing to contributing to EU ethics developments. Recent
scientific publications include articles on ethics
, data
and gender. Further scientific publications are in the pipeline. Our
team members regularly participate in international scientific conferences and
workshops. For example, during the past year, we have contributed to scientific
events on topics such as healthcare
in the era of Big Data
and changing relationships
between technology,
security and society in Europe
. And of course,
we actively contribute to the HBP events like the HBP
Summit and Open Day
and many others organised together with our
collaborators (more on that later).

We also
facilitate participation of the HBP in the EU-wide ethics developments. For
example, we initiated and supported the HBP contribution to the piloting
of the EU
guidelines for Trustworthy AI

The Ethics
Support team is always looking for new and innovative ways of outreach and
dissemination. Our Ethics
Dialogues blog
is an example of that. We started this blog a
year ago in October 2018 and since then we have published more than 30 blog
posts written by our team members and collaborators. We are developing our blog
as an inclusive platform to encourage sharing of research results, expert
opinions, good practices and new developments. 

Q5: What are the main challenges for Ethics
Support Outreach and Dissemination for the next years?

As mentioned
earlier, while by the end of March 2020 it will cease to exist as a separate
task, many of the activities will continue, finding other ‘homes’ in the new project
structure for the next HBP funding period. Among many future challenges, two
can be mentioned here: responsible dual use and ethics of AI.

At the end of
2018, the Ethics and Society Opinion
on Responsible Dual Use
was published and HBP
Dual Use Working Group
was established. The task
of the Dual Use Working Group is to implement the recommendations of the
Opinion addressed to the HBP, European Union and other international actors.
First steps in starting to implement some of the recommendations have raised
many new questions that require further research and engagement with scientists
within and beyond the HBP, policymakers as well as social and professional
groups. How to ensure responsible use and avoid misuse of neuroscience,
computing technology and brain research infrastructure will be important
research and practical questions for the next years.

Giving a lecture on Responsible AI at the HBP curriculum workshop at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, November 2018. Photo credits: HBP Education

important theme for the next years is about social and ethical aspects of AI.
We are collaborating on this topic with our partners in the Ethics
and Society Subproject
, Ethics
Rapporteur Programme
and across other HBP Subprojects to prepare
relevant research and awareness raising activities.

Q3: Who are the main collaborators of Ethics
Support Outreach and Dissemination within and beyond the HBP?

Our team has many collaborations within and
outside the HBP. Important collaborations within the HBP include interactions
with Researcher Awareness task and HBP Education team. A great example
of our Researcher Awareness collaborations is Ethics and

workshop. This workshop brought together researchers from Ethics and Society
Subproject and Neurorobotics platform to discuss social and ethics issues of
neurorobotics and led to joint follow-up research activities. The Researcher
Awareness team regularly shares these and other experiences with relevant
scientific communities, for example, by organising dedicated panels at recent
Science in Public conferences in 2018 and 2019.

The Ethics Society team members regularly
contribute to the HBP Education activities by delivering lectures at HBP Young Researcher Events and workshops on dual use and
Responsible Research and Innovation
as well as gender and diversity. Among other
interesting links, interactions with the International Brain Initiative and its
Global Neuroethics

can be mentioned. Some of our collaborators have contributed to our Ethics
Dialogues discussions, for example, on gender
and AI

Totally different but nevertheless very
important are our collaborations with local students. We regularly engage
graduate and undergraduate students from different disciplines in our work.
During their internships with us they learn about international research
collaboration, ethical and societal issues of emerging technologies as well as
about outreach and dissemination. Several of them have also contributed to
Ethics Dialogues blog. PhD candidate Toni Leach wrote about her
research on sci-fi and about AI ethics talk. Undergraduate
law student Winter-Gladys Wanjiku contributed to a post about the HBP curriculum ethics
while PhD candidate Juliana Nnadi reflected on her experience of attending HBP curriculum workshop
on diversity
Neuroscience PhD researcher Pelumi Obasaju wrote about the workshop on AI and gender and shared her ideas
on how to engage
scientists in ethics
It is really important that the next generation of researchers and professionals
is exposed to international science and social and ethical aspects of

Q6: Anything else?

My own research
topics include questions about international research collaboration and
European integration in research and innovation. The HBP is an interesting case
as one of the biggest EU research policy experiments ever. This leads to a
number of important scientific and policy questions. From earlier research we
know that scientists often prefer small-scale research projects that allow
space for freedom and creativity and involve as little administration as
possible (Ulnicane 2015a). Can organizational factors that allow scientific
creativity be scaled up? What are researcher experiences with academic freedom
and administration in large-scale projects? Do opportunities
and challenges
encountered in the large-scale research
projects differ from those in smaller-scale collaborations? And how diverse
and inclusive
large-scale international projects are? EU research funding
increasingly come with conditions for supporting researchers and their careers
(Ulnicane 2016a). Are scientists working on EU funded projects aware of these
conditions and do they benefit from them?

The HBP as a FET Flagship
that is now developing to become EBRAINS
research infrastructure raises interesting topics in the context of broader trends
in European science. Is the size of project important for tackling Grand
societal challenges
(Ulnicane 2016b), ensuring paradigm shifts and
delivering on high
impact expectations
that accompanied many of EU research
investment initiatives during the times of austerity (Ulnicane 2016c),
including the idea of FET Flagships? And what are the challenges of turning
fixed-term research projects into sustainable research infrastructures in the
European Research Area (Ulnicane 2015b)?

While the EU has
decided that the FET
Flagship funding scheme will be discontinued
, it is necessary
to analyse what lessons can be learned from these large-scale experiments for
future organization of international science. When earlier this year Airbus
finally decided to end the production of its grand A380
, some aviation experts pointed out that one of the positive
outcomes of the project has been its contribution to the development of the new
A350. What will be the next generation models for facilitating excellent and responsible
science and technology developed thanks to the insights gained from FET Flagships?

Dr. Inga
has more than 10 years
of international and interdisciplinary research, teaching and engagement
experience in the field of science, technology and innovation policy and
governance. She has published on topics such as international research
collaboration, European Research Area and Grand societal challenges concept and
undertaken commissioned studies for European Parliament and European
Commission. She is co-chair of the HBP Dual Use Working Group. Her current
research topics include governance of AI and dual use.


I. (2015a) Why do international research collaborations last? Virtuous circle
of feedback loops, continuity and renewal. Science
and Public Policy
42(4): 433-447. doi: 10.1093/scipol/scu060

I. (2015b) Broadening aims and building support in science, technology and
innovation policy: The case of the European Research Area. Journal of Contemporary European Research 11 (1): 31-49.

I. (2016a) Research Paper on the European Research Area Initiative and Free
Circulation of Knowledge. In C. Salm & T. Zandstra (Eds.), European Research Area. Cost of Non-Europe
(pp. 19-50). Brussels: European Parliament.  doi: 10.2861/895783

Ulnicane, I. (2016b) ‘Grand Challenges’ concept: A Return of the ‘Big Ideas’ in
Science, technology and Innovation Policy? International Journal of
Foresight and Innovation Policy
11(1-3): 5-21. doi: 10.1504/IJFIP.2016.078378

Ulnicane, I. (2016c)
Research and Innovation as Sources of Renewed Growth? EU Policy Responses to
the Crisis. Journal of European
Integration, 38
(3), 327-341. doi: 10.1080/07036337.2016.1140155

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