Research performed in the Human Brain Project will have an impact on both science and society. The project has committed to Responsible Research and Innovation (also known as RRI), a wide umbrella term connecting different aspects of the relationship between research and innovation and society.

We enabled responsibility within the HBP by providing the governance structures that were needed. We also conducted social, ethical and reflective research on everything from good RRI practice, data governance, dual use, public engagement, diversity to neuroethics and philosophy. These activities were spread across the Project.

Responsible Research & Innovation in the HBP

We promoted RRI practices within the project, and helped shape the direction of its research in ethically sound ways that continue to serve the public interest. 

Through our social and philosophical research, public engagement and ethics support, we have worked for a broad and comprehensive approach to RRI, ethics and societal impacts of brain research in the HBP since 2013. In the final phase of the Project, our work focused on finding ways to design and embed responsible research practices into EBRAINS, the international research infrastructure that the HBP will leave as its legacy. 

Our research and other activities were intended to increase understanding and implementation of RRI, and to promote the development of RRI capacities within the HBP and EBRAINS, and to further collaboration with other big brain projects in addressing ethical and societal issues, as well as increasing engagement and uptake of societal input for the development of EBRAINS.

We joined forces with external stakeholders, citizens, and other international brain initiatives to:

  • Explore and develop recommendations and strategies for managing short-term and long-term ethical issues raised by brain research (for example human rights, data protection, ethics standards, misuse/dual use, and good clinical practice, including considering diversity dimensions in research).
  • Develop policies, procedures and training modules for the EBRAINS research infrastructure to ensure it can operate in a legal and morally acceptable way, committed to principles of fairness and equal opportunities. 
  • Coordinate and manage ethical issues raised by HBP research, monitor and lead work on diversity aspects in both areas, namely the HBP community and HBP research, and communicate and disseminate our insights and achievements.

Responsibility by Design

We worked to ensure that the Human Brain Project developed responsibly and in accordance with ethical and legal regulations and principles, including human rights, data protection, ethics standards, and good clinical practice by undertaking research and developing advice.

We monitored political, security, intelligence, and military uses/misuses of scientific and technological findings, and responded to current ethical and societal concerns raised from the Human Brain Project. 

Anyone can request to address ethical, regulatory and social issues raised by HBP research.

Register an Ethical Concern

Social, ethical, reflective

Tackling ethical, social, legal, & philosophical issues that are raised by brain research. 

Ethics & Society Training Resources

The Human Brain Project’s Capacity Development Committee provided researchers who are using the EBRAINS research infrastructure or who work within the Human Brain Project with the skills needed to identify and address ethical, legal, and societal issues that arise from brain research. With the purpose of enabling a responsible research and innovation culture within the Human Brain Project, EBRAINS, and the neuroscience community and raise awareness of the need to anticipate and deliberate on issues regarding responsibility through engaging with the public. This included providing tools and methods for foresight, as well as critical and philosophical reflection. We conducted training and compiled training resources that cover a wide range of issues in data governance, responsible research and innovation, and neuroethics.

Ethics & Society Training Resources

Neuroethics & Philosophy

We undertook conceptual and normative reflection on the ethical, social, cultural, and philosophical issues that drive and arise from brain research. This included critical examination of issues arising from the design and implementation of the Human Brain Project research and from EBRAINS and normative discussion of the long-term consequences and implications of brain research. 

Neuroethics & Philosophy

Public Engagement & Foresight

We organised and facilitated dialogues with the public on potentially controversial issues and those of immediate relevance to the Human Brain Project. Our vision was to engage the European society in setting the direction for Human Brain Project research and innovation and broaden the debate on the ethical, legal and societal issues arising from the Project. By taking forward looks, and undertaking so called 'Foresight' activities, we were able to anticipate change and study future possibilities. The scenarios we have developed serve as frameworks and stimuli for evaluating possible consequences of the Human Brain Project on society. By engaging stakeholders, we have developed a series of best practice recommendations for researchers and Human Brain Project managers. 

Public Engagement & Foresight

Gender & Diversity

We addressed issues related to gender, diversity and equal opportunities across the Human Brain Project. Gender mainstreaming and diversity management are cross cutting issues that are relevant to achieving objectives in all Work Packages. We are responsible for fostering equal opportunities in the brain research and Human Brain Project community, for example through activities and measures related to leadership culture and career development. We contributed to the integration of diversity dimensions in Human Brain Project research. Gender and Diversity aspects of collaboration and in research content were reflected and addressed via a dedicated task as well as the Diversity and Equal Opportunities Committee (DEOC). 

Diversity and Gender Equality

Ethics Coordination

We coordinated the management of ethical issues across the Human Brain Project. This includes the interaction with the European Commission and its ethics reviewers for ethics checks, ethics reviews, or ethics audits, as well as coordinating all work on ethics compliance across all Work Packages in the Project. The Task also included the ethics rapporteur programme, and communications activities to promote responsible research and innovation in the Human Brain Project.

Ethics Coordination

Ethics Rapporteur Programme

We worked to deepen the understanding of potential ethical and social implications of research and other work by the academics, scientist and engineers across the Human Brain Project. Find out who was part of this group! 

Ethics Rapporteur Programme

Dual Use Working Group

Current and newly emerging insights and technologies arising from research in brain sciences increase capabilities to access, assess and affect thought, emotion and behaviour. While much of this research and development is directed towards clinical use, it also has applications in other settings, notably in the political, security, intelligence and military domains. This is often referred to in terms of "Dual Use". 

Dual Use Working Group

Data Governance Working Group

Data Governance in the Human Brain Project included multiple groups with responsibility for developing, approving, organising and implementing policies, procedures and standards for the most effective use of the Human Brain Project’s structured and unstructured data. Work on data governance includes questions of data protection as well as broader data management issues. 

Data Governance Working Group

Ethics Advisory Board

The Ethics Advisory Board was an independent body that advised the Human Brain Project’s Science and Infrastructure Board and Directorate on specific ethical, regulatory, social and philosophical issues raised by research that was being undertaken or planned under the auspices of the Human Brain Project.

Ethics Advisory Board (EAB)

Researcher Awareness

We worked to enhance the capacity for ethical and social reflection, and corresponding action, among researchers across the Human Brain Project. This is a core aspect of Responsible Research and Innovation in action. Our aim was to enhance capacity for ethical and social reflection and corresponding action among researchers, at all levels, across the Human Brain Project. 

Researcher Awareness

Ethics & RRI Outputs

Since 2013, we have produced over 100 publications, many reports, three opinions & an RRI Glossary. 

Ethics in Artificial Intelligence

We developed this Opinion in order to clarify lessons the Human Brain Project (HBP) can draw from the current discussion of artificial intelligence, in particular the social and ethical aspects of AI, and outline areas where it could usefully contribute. The EU and numerous other bodies are promoting and implementing a wide range of policies aimed to ensure that AI is beneficial - that it serves society. The HBP as a leading project bringing together neuroscience and ICT is in an excellent position to contribute to and to benefit from these discussions. This Opinion therefore highlights some key aspects of the discussion, shows its relevance to the HBP and develops a list of six recommendations.

Download our AI Opinion

Data Governance Opinion

A fuller understanding of the human brain, better diagnoses and treatment of brain disorders, as well as the development of new brain-like technologies are all goals of the Human Brain Project (HBP). Realising these goals requires the collection, storage, curation, and analysis of data of various sorts over extended periods of time. Securing privacy interests and advancing data protection measures are key concerns of the HBP. The HBP needs to comply with national and European data protection legislation and must go beyond existing legal protections and show ethical sensitivity to privacy concerns, even when such concerns fall outside regulatory frameworks. Recommendations made, in this opinion and action plan, include measures to ensure data protection in data governance structures, adopting a privacy model when anonymising data, privacy by design in systems development, exploring ICO tools for privacy management and data protection and the promotion of trust and transparency. 

Download our Opinion and Action Plan on Data Protection and Privacy

Dual Use Opinion

Current and newly emerging insights and technologies arising from research in brain sciences increase capabilities to access, assess and affect thought, emotion and behaviour. While much of this research and development is directed towards clinical use, it also has applications in other settings, notably in the political, security, intelligence and military (PSIM) domains. This is often referred to in terms of ‘Dual Use’. Many of these potential uses raise important social and ethical questions which demand the attention of all those involved in the research, administration, management and regulation of neuroscience research and related technological developments, including those in information and communication technologies (ICT) and robotics. In this Opinion, we suggest that we can increase our ability to identify which programmes and projects of research, development and innovation are ‘of concern’ by applying the principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to the concept of ‘dual use’ and distinguishing between ‘responsible’ and ‘irresponsible’ systems of research and technological development. We therefore use the term ‘dual use research of concern’ (DURC) to refer to neuroscience research and technological innovations, and brain-inspired developments in information and communication technologies, for use in the political, security, intelligence and military domains, which are either directly of concern because of their potential for use in ways that threaten the peace, health, safety, security and well-being of citizens, or are undertaken without responsible regard to such potential uses. To ensure ongoing attention to these issues, the Opinion proposes recommendations for the Human Brain Project, the European Union and the wider neuroscience and ICT community. 

Download our 'Responsible Dual Use' Opinion

Responsible Research & Innovation Glossary

Expertise from across the scientific spectrum is involved in the Human Brain Project. Having a shared language is important for efficient communication. We have developed a Glossary where we explain a collection of commonly used terms in Ethics, Data Governance and Data Protection compiled by an interdisciplinary group of scientists and researchers within the Human Brain Project to help internal and external scientists interpret the documents we provide on the HBP and EBRAINS websites with greater ease.

RRI Glossary


A Collection of Publications

We have compiled a list of all articles, books, and reports related to social, ethical and reflective work we have produced since the beginning of the Human Brain Project: October 2013. We hope it might be useful for those interested in how social science, ethics and philosophy can become driving forces in scientific and technological development, and that it will ensure responsible research and innovation in both theory and practice. 

Download our publications folder

An anthology on Ethics & Society in Brain Research

Attention to ethical and social issues were part of the Human Brain Project’s work from the very beginning in 2013. Accordingly, a group of HBP researchers from the social sciences and the humanities created several structures and mechanisms and used various conceptual and empirical methods to develop activities and to identify, reflect upon, and manage the ethical and social issues raised by brain research, its outputs, and applications. 

With this collection of essays, we aim to present our work in an accessible format, with the ambition of sharing the research and its outputs with diverse stakeholder communities, including policymakers, civil society -and interest organisations, research, and expert communities outside our peer communities. The collection includes short essays by our HBP colleagues who describe and reflect on their work at different stages of our developmental history. In the process, they offer key findings, reflection points, and lessons learned. 

Download the anthology

Selected Publications

Developing Capabilities for Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Ogoh George, Simisola Akintoye, Damian Eke, Michele Farisco, Josepine Fernow, Karin Grasenick, Manuel Guerrero, Achim Rosemann, Arleen Salles, Inga Ulnicane

Journal of Responsible Technology 2023-08-12
Experimentation, learning, and dialogue: an RRI-inspired approach to dual-use of concern

Inga Ulnicane, Tara Mahfoud, Arleen Salles

Journal of Responsible Innovation 2022-07-18
On the Contribution of Neuroethics to the Ethics and Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

Michele Farisco, Kathinka Evers, Arleen Salles

Neuroethics, Vol. 15, No. 1 2022-02-03
From Responsible Research and Innovation to responsibility by design

Bernd Carsten Stahl, Simisola Akintoye, Lise Bitsch, Berit Bringedal, Damian Eke, Michele Farisco, Karin Grasenick, Manuel Guerrero, William Knight, Tonii Leach, Sven Nyholm, George Ogoh, Achim Rosemann, Arleen Salles, Julia Trattnig, Inga Ulnicane

Journal of Responsible Innovation 2021-08-25