We used public and stakeholder engagement, foresight and inclusive community building to help lay the ground for a research infrastructure based on the principles of responsible research and innovation. 

One of Human Brain Project’s major innovations was to develop the new digital research infrastructure EBRAINS to help advance neuroscience, medicine, and computing. Our public engagement activities support public acceptance and the Human Brain Project’s commitment to Responsible Research and Innovation: a wide umbrella term connecting different aspects of the relationships between research, innovation, and society.  

We worked to engage citizens and stakeholders in the discussion of ethical and societal dilemmas that may arise from research within the Human Brain Project, providing an opportunity for society to influence how research is carried out in accordance with the principles of responsible research and innovation. Public engagement also actively informs citizens and stakeholders on the potentials within brain research and sheds light on some of the dilemmas that may arise. 'Foresight', on the other hand, is the practice of making 'forward looks', of anticipating change, and studying future possibilities. We have developed scenarios that serve as frameworks and stimuli for evaluating the possible consequences of the Human Brain Project on society. These have then been discussed with key informants from a range of communities to generate a series of best practice recommendations for researchers and Human Brain Project managers. This simultaneously enables adopting strategies that optimise scientific and social benefits while enhancing preparedness for possible ethical concerns and dilemmas. 

To inform the work with RRI, we organised and facilitated public engagement on potentially controversial issues of relevance to the Human Brain Project. Public engagement gave the society outside of the Project a chance to influence how research is being made in accordance with the principles of responsible research and innovation. Furthermore, public engagement also actively informs citizens and stakeholders on the potential within brain research and sheds light on potential ethical dilemmas and future societal benefits. 

Engagement methods are central to our Community Building activities. Broad stakeholder dialogues and involvement support a thriving community, which can make use of EBRAINS and ensure its further development.

Public Engagement & Foresight in the HBP

Engaging citizens and stakeholders, making 'forward looks', and building a community of neuroscientists and EBRAINS users. 

Citizen & Stakeholder Engagement

Responding to ethical and societal issues can be challenging, particularly in a research setting. We helped researchers understand how they may utilise and implement public insight and opinions while planning and carrying out their research, helping them to heighten the positive impact and benefit for society.

The Human Brain Project’s public engagement activities addressed concerns and opinions of EU citizens about social, ethical, cultural, and legal issues that are related to the Project’s activities. With a stronger understanding of the perspectives of citizens, we can communicate better and promote more responsible research that takes the publics’ perspectives into account.

To understand the views and opinions of the public, we have designed and carried out a series of citizen engagement processes, facilitating an informed discussion on neuroethical subjects of interest, identified by researchers in the Project and the International Brain Initiative (IBI).

Large-scale public engagement has previously been conducted on the neuroethics of Artificial Intelligence, in Dual Use and in Data Governance. The next large-scale public engagement will be on the topic of Disease Signatures and will be held under the title Mixing of Minds (MoM). This series of public engagement workshops takes place in six countries across Europe.

Long-Term Implications & Foresight

Our work focused on finding ways to design and embed responsible research practices into EBRAINS. A key objective is to develop 'foresight', which is the practice of looking ahead, to envision potential future developments and changes. The foresight activities cover both the short and long-term ethical and societal issues that may form roadblocks for the Human Brain Project and EBRAINS. We are developing a toolkit for EBRAINS to support responsible research and innovation in practice. This approach is both anticipatory and reflective by design. The toolkit makes approaches accessible and easy for researchers to use. Researchers across the Project are involved in the design of this toolkit through a series of workshops. The intention of this toolkit is to provide the best possible framework for foresight through public engagement activities. The toolkit enhances preparedness for possible ethical concerns and empowers researchers and stakeholders to reflect on their work, their role in their work, and the work’s justification and broader implications.

Community Building

Another important building block in the groundwork for the EBRAINS infrastructure is Inclusive Community Building: creating the foundation for a growing and self-sustaining community around the EBRAINS research infrastructure. The goal of community building has been to create increase societal benefit, ensuring that a broad range of stakeholders are engaged in the infrastructure, its development and research.

The community was built across the scientific disciplines represented in the Human Brain Project, including both users of the scientific tools and data of EBRAINS, and of a wider circle of relevant stakeholders, for example industry partners, clinicians, patient associations, relevant networks, and research funders. Allowing for novel collaborations and support for end-user directed research.

Key contact

Lise Bitsch

WP Leader

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

Register an Ethical Concern

Ethics & Society Training Resources

We have developed training resources that cover a wide range of issues in data governance, responsible research and innovation, and neuroethics.

Our training modules provide tools and methods for foresight, as well as critical and philosophical reflection.

Introduction to Responsible Research & Innovation in HBP Human & Animal Data in EBRAINS Gender, Diversity & Inclusion Researcher Awareness & Integrity Dual Use of Concern & Misuse Knowledge Transfer & Commercialization Neuroethics, Consciousness & AI Ethics Foresight & Public Engagement Science Communication

More Ethics & RRI 

The Human Brain Project will have an impact on both science and society.

We promote RRI practices within the HBP, and help to shape the direction of its research in ethically sound ways that serve the public interest. 

Learn about Ethics & RRI in the HBP!