The HBP has launched an Ethics and Society Programme, whose goals are to explore the project's social, ethical and philosophical implications, promote engagement with decision-makers and the general public, foster responsible research and innovation by raising social and ethical awareness among project participants, and ensure that the project complies with relevant legal and ethical norms.

Research and technology development in the HBP has numerous social, ethical and philosophical implications, many of which are long-term. The project has an interest in recognising concerns early and in addressing them in an open and transparent manner. In particular, early engagement can provide scientists with opportunities to gauge public reaction to their work, and to hone their research objectives and processes in the light of these reactions.

The programme will draw on the methods developed during empirical investigations of emerging technologies in genomics, neuroscience, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and information and communication technologies as well as on the biomedical tradition of engaging with ethical issues through the application of formal principles – now usually implemented through ethical review processes.

During the HBP's Ramp-Up Phase, the Ethics and Society Programme has five main goals:

  1. Set up and begin to operate the organisational structures that will provide ethical governance within the project: the HBP Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects Committee (ELSA) will monitor and provide guidance on the project's long-term ethical and social implications, and the Research Ethics Committee (REC) will manage and provide advice on issues related to research ethics (studies using human volunteers, animal research, use of clinical data collected for other purposes, applications to ethics committees, etc.).
  2. Set up and operate the project's Foresight Lab, which will be responsible for monitoring HBP research and exploring its social and ethical implications for European citizens, European industry, the European economy and European society.
  3. Begin the project's investigations into the conceptual and philosophical implications of brain simulation and the relationship between brain and mind; publish the first results before the end of the Ramp-Up Phase.
  4. Launch the HBP online deliberation, a European Citizens' Convention and a stakeholders' forum – all part of the HBP's broader programme of public dialogue and engagement.
  5. Launch a survey of ethical awareness among HBP researchers. This will form the basis for a broader programme during the Operational Phase.

What People are Saying

  • Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. This is our opportunity.

    Prof. Karlheinz Meier, University of Heidelberg,
    Co-leader of the Neuromorphic Computing Subproject

  • A key goal of the Human Brain Project is to construct realistic simulations of the human brain – this will require molecular and cellular information and from that we will be able to model and understand biological and medical processes. In addition, we will be able to use that information to design and implement new kinds of computers and robotics.

    Prof. Seth Grant, University of Edinburgh,
    Co-leader of the Strategic Mouse Brain data subproject

  • The Human Brain is the most complex system that we know of. We would like to develop some kind of ‘google' brain where we can zoom in and out, see it from different perspectives and understand how brain structure and function is related. The ultimate aim of the Human Brain Project is to understand the human brain. This is only possible when we understand the structural organization of the human brain.

    Prof. Katrin Amunts, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine,
    Forschungszentrum Jülich

  • The Human Brain Project will become a major driver of ICT in Europe.

    Prof. Thomas Lippert, Institute for Advanced Simulation, Jülich Supercomputing Centre,
    leader of the High Peformance Computing subproject