Neurotechnology has great potential for improving societal health and well-being. Yet, just as with many other emerging technologies, it faces ethical, legal, and social challenges (ELSI). In the absence of international instruments in this field, the OECD Council adopted a Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology in December 2019.
A virtual event hosted by the Korean Delegation in Seoul in September 2020 was the first in a series of workshops that set out to support adherents to implement the Recommendation. The Seoul event explored a number of themes and potential modes - including options for monitoring the implementation and use of the Recommendation, mapping institutions and actors in Korea, discussing options for institutional capacity building and fostering dialogue and dissemination of the Recommendation. A key finding was a strong desire for more interdisciplinary collaboration between neuroscientists, neuroethicists and experts in other fields. In addition, the convergence of neurotechnology with other emerging technologies as well as resulting ELSI concerns on the use of brain data were reoccurring themes.
This two-day virtual workshop on 19-20 May 2021 was hosted by the Swiss Delegation in Zurich. The Zurich event built on the discussions at the Seoul event and focused on issues of societal deliberation, stewardship and trust that are vital in the notion of neurotechnology in and for society. Unlike the broad aim of the Seoul workshop at building capacity to implement the Recommendation, it took a narrower approach by focussing on Principle 5 (Enable societal deliberation on neurotechnology) and Principle 8 (Promote cultures of stewardship and trust in neurotechnology across the public and private sector) in the Recommendation.
Zurich event objectives
Delegates of the OECD Working Party on Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Converging Technologies (BNCT) met with stakeholders from communities relevant to the Recommendation, including actors from the public and private sector, academia, as well as non-governmental, non-profit and patient organisations. Invited experts from science communication and professional associations enriched the discussion with their perspective on the Recommendation and next steps in its implementation.
Workshop discussion highlights
OECD RECOMMENDATION ON RESPONSIBLE INNOVATION IN NEUROTECHNOLOGY:
PRINCIPLES IN FOCUS AT THE ZURICH EVENT
Principle 5: Enable societal deliberation on neurotechnology
In order to enable such deliberation, relevant actors should:
a) Promote open communication across expert communities and with the public to promote neurotechnology literacy and the exchange of information and knowledge.
b) Engage in multi-stakeholder dialogues and deliberation to ensure diverse inputs into decision making processes, public policy and governance.
c) Ensure that the results of formal dialogues are considered and taken into account in decision- making wherever possible.
d) Ensure processes for engaging stakeholders are fair, transparent, and predictable.
e) Encourage transparent processes of technology appraisal to deepen and inform public debate about the longer-term trajectory of neurotechnology.
Discussion highlights on Principle 5
Principle 8: Promote cultures of stewardship and trust in neurotechnology across the public and private sector
To this end, relevant actors should:
a) Encourage development of best practices and business conduct that promote accountability, transparency, integrity, trustworthiness, responsiveness, and safety.
b) Support innovative approaches to social responsibility through the development of accountability mechanisms.
c) Foster communication in the public sphere that avoids hype, overstatement, and unfounded conclusions, both positive and negative, and that discloses interests in a transparent manner.
d) Identify any issues, gaps, and challenges within systems of governance and explore possible solutions through dialogue among regulators, the private sector, and the public.
e) Promote trust and trustworthiness through norms, and practices of responsible business conduct.
Discussion highlights on Principle 8
DAY 1: Wednesday, 19 May 2021 (13:00-16:30 CEST)
13h00-13h15: Opening by the chair and welcome messages
13h15-14h00: Economic stakes and potential health impacts of neurotechnologies
14h00-15h00: Building institutional capacity to implement the Recommendation – the Swiss experience
In the first panel, stakeholders from Switzerland discuss the relevance of the Recommendation for different communities and their respective implementation and dissemination plans. Presentations by speakers from academia, industry, the non-profit sector and policy share best practices, challenges and key learnings with the audience.
Moderator: Marcello Ienca, Senior Researcher, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
15h10-16h30: Enabling societal deliberation on neurotechnology
The second panel focuses on practical considerations around societal deliberation, notably promoting open communication, engaging multi-stakeholder dialogues and deliberation, using the results of formal dialogues and transparent processes of technology appraisal. In doing so, the panel aims to enable exchanges and discussion on the implementation of principle 5 of the Recommendation.
Moderator: Claudia Chwalisz, Policy Analyst, Open and Innovative Government Division, OECD
Day 2: Thursday, 20 May 2021 (13:00-16:45 CEST)
13h00-13h05: Welcome and summary of day 1
13h05-13h35: Convergence of neurotechnology with other emerging technologies
13h35-14h55: Promoting stewardship and trust across the public and private sector
The third panel aims to explore the perspectives of actors in the public and the private sector on how to promote stewardship and trust of neurotechnologies as they move across and through the public and private sectors. Presentations will cover examples on the development of best practices and business conduct that promote accountability, transparency, integrity, trustworthiness, responsiveness, and safety. In doing so, the panel aims to enable exchanges and discussion on the implementation of principle 8 of the Recommendation.
Moderator: Lyric Jorgenson, Deputy Director for the Office of Science Policy, National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States
15h05-15h25: Monitoring implementation activities - towards the development of indicators
15h25-16h35: Next steps in the implementation of the Recommendation
The roundtable brings together stakeholders from international initiatives and institutions to discuss "What are potential pathways for putting the Recommendation in use?". After short opening remarks by each speaker in response to this key question, they will exchange on next steps to implement the OECD Recommendation.
Moderator: David Winickoff, Senior Policy Analyst, Secretary, Working Party on Bio-, Nano- and Converging Technologies (BNCT), Science and Technology Policy Division, OECD, Paris, France
16h35-16h45: Closing remarks and next steps
For further information please contact the OECD BNCT Secretariat.