RRI & philosophy in the Human Brain Project


Scientific endeavors raise many ethical, legal and social questions. Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has become an important ethical and political theme for the European Commission. A recent publication from researchers in the Human Brain Project suggests that philosophical reflection could complement the RRI approach by providing ontological and epistemological perspectives on science.  

Arleen Salles, Senior Researcher
Arleen Salles, Senior Researcher

The RRI concept typically includes anticipation, reflexivity, public engagement, and responsiveness. Within the Human Brain Project (HBP) such reflexivity incorporates philosophical reflection and plays an important role in unveiling ethical, societal, and political implications of the project. In a recent paper published in Neuroethics, the Neuroethics and Philosophy group in the HBP Ethics and Society subproject explains how the RRI framework that requires integrating anticipatory, inclusive and responsive dimensions is enriched by nurturing philosophical reflexivity among stakeholders, from the scientists doing the work, to the funding agencies that make it possible.

In the paper, they focus on how the conceptual analysis that the philosophical approach provides can broaden research and innovation within the HBP both theoretically and practically. Arleen Salles, one of the authors, describes that philosophical reflection on the language used to portray science and its products is crucial. Otherwise, there is a risk of reinforcing problematic assumptions about science and its role in society.  

The addition of philosophical reflection opens up possibilities to examine relevant issues, for self-critical analysis and for a better understanding of the science itself. Thus, it should be seen as a possible tool for promoting the aims and objectives of RRI: Engagement of social actors, researchers and innovators, working towards the ethical permissibility of research and outputs.

By Anna Holm

Full article: Salles, A. Evers, K. Farisco, M. (2018) Neuroethics and Philosophy in Responsible Research and Innovation: The Case of the Human Brain Project. Neuroethics.

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