The blog of the 2009 – 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Discussion Highlights on Neuroscience and Related Ethical Issues

In a roundtable discussion to conclude day one of Meeting 16, Members of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) and today’s invited speakers further deliberated ways to integrate ethics early into neuroscience research, as part of the Commission’s charge from President Obama

“Just as you wouldn’t want students to be taught genetics by somebody who is not an expert in the science of genetics, so too you shouldn’t want scientists to be taught ethics from somebody who is not expertly trained in ethics.” — Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., President of the University of Pennsylvania; Chair of the Bioethics Commission

“We probably need to have many different models to accomplish the goals that we need to accomplish … There is a body like ours that can deliberate on that and make deliberations at the highest levels and hopefully that will [spread] down. That’s one type of model. Another type of model is at any of our institutions, there are five or six investigators who want to think about a new research program. They need to consult with somebody there about that particular program. So these are completely different models, and we need to have space for new kinds of models.” — Raju Kucherlapati, Ph.D., Paul C. Cabot Professor, Harvard Medical School Department of Genetics; Bioethics Commission Member

“This is a conversation about teaching something broadly about the nature of ethics. There is a distinction between primary evidence and derived evidence and the integrity of information — something that can be taught not just to folks who are in neuroscience, but presumably of value to historians and lawyers and just about everyone else.” — James W. Wagner, Ph.D., President of Emory University; Bioethics Commission Vice Chair

“I’m a big believer in [massively open online courses]. I think that’s a fantastic way to interact with the public. There is this ridiculous attitude of looking down at people who want to communicate, it’s [a critique of] the Carl Sagan attitude writ large — people looking down on this because he deigned to communicate with the public … to me one way or another we all basically work with the taxpayer, so we owe them. So MOOCs are one way to pay them back. — Peggy Mason, Ph.D., Chair of the Society for Neuroscience’s Ethics Committee

“I don’t think we can downplay some of the incentives that are creating this hype. Changing behavior is incredibly difficult … At least we need to change some of the incentive structures around publication funding, translational pressure, and career pressure.” — Timothy Caulfield, LL.M., F.R.S.C., F.C.A.H.S., Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, University of Alberta

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This is a space for the members and staff of the 2009 -2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

As of January 15th, 2017 this blog will no longer be updated but continues to be available as an archive of the work of the 2009-2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Learn more about the 2009 - 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.