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Visit to the US: East Coast Anna Pacholczyk, iSEI, University of Manchester.

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Presentation on theme: "Visit to the US: East Coast Anna Pacholczyk, iSEI, University of Manchester."— Presentation transcript:

1 Visit to the US: East Coast Anna Pacholczyk, iSEI, University of Manchester

2  To assess the current state of teaching neuroethics for neuroscientists at different levels of teaching  To learn from other experience  To assess need, potential for development  To be mindful of obstacles  To talk about the methods currently used  To hear a variety of perspectives  To facilitate future collaboration, create lasting links

3  Semi-structured interviews with five different people at different top-tier US universities on the East Coast  Semi-structured interviews chosen as they allow for focused, conversational, two-way communication. They can be used both to give and receive information.  Part I: give information about the network, workshops, emphasise openness to a variety of opinions, give a glimpse of what questions are there to come  Part II: talking about the programmes hosted at the visited centre, the current ethics teaching for neuroscientists  Part III: a more in depth conversation: perceived needs, materials, obstacles, topics, etc.  Prior email contact, interviews between 1 and 2.5 hours, in some cases follow-up.

4  Top tier universities  neuroethics professor, head of a graduate neuroscience course; bioethics faculty member; assistant director of undergraduate studies  Significant differences in perspectives, content of the courses, methods, obstacles emphasised, perceived need for neuroethics teaching


6  Dr Martha Farah, Director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society, Penn. Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Natural Sciences: neuroethics teaching and scholarship  Dr Charles Greer, Professor of Neurosurgery and of Neurobiology; Vice Chair of Research, Neurosurgery; Director of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Graduate Program: neuroscience and clinical practice, neuroscience graduate teaching  Lori Bruce, Assistant Director, Summer Institute in Bioethics, Yale University; Research Associate, Harvard University: bioethics research and teaching  Dr Tom Fox, Harvard Medical School and Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore. Research includes: biochemical genetics and developmental neurobiology, teaching ethics in science and engineering  Dr Ryan W. Draft, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neurobiology; Student Advisor, Lecturer on Molecular & Cellular Biology, Harvard University; undergraduate teaching

7 ‘Survival ethics’The ‘nice to have’  Relatively well covered (how well?)  research and professional ethics - required or directly applicable to solving dilemmas arising in everyday practice  E.g. ethics during the ethical approval of research, responsible conduct of research, publishing (authorship), dealing with conflicts or ambiguities arising when collaborating in research teams  Not that well covered but interesting  public engagement  science communication  philosophical bioethics/neuroethics  ELSI of neuroscience  neuroscience in the social context

8  Contacted 160 graduate programs in neuroscience listed by the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs. 68 responses.  All courses included exposure to research ethics and professional ethics (‘the survival ethics’)  Two of the responding programmes offered content related to broader issues in neuroethics: Princeton and Wisconsin;  since then there is a growing number of neuroethics courses, seminar series, but often offered to social science an humanities students

9 Emphasised obstacles in teaching neuroethics include: There is interest in learning more about ELSI of neurosciences BUT  time constraints: both faculty and students (student burden)  organisational constraints: organisational structure of a given institutions shapes what can be done  economic constraints  The exact form of those obstacles specific to institutions, level of teaching and location of the centers (humanities/medical school and typical amount of teaching)  Lack of expertise also mentioned as an obstacle but after time and organisational constraints

10 Professional identity important Great variability in how organisations function  For students  In implementing change in teaching  How easy it is to co-teach a course  The take on teaching ethics for neuroscientists variable  At the moment, philosophical neuroethics teaching seems to be a domain of individuals not institutions Teaching the students or teaching the teachers?

11 Undergraduate Graduate  Considerable choice in courses: a number of free electives  Compulsory ethics teaching at the undergraduate level beyond what is already done seen as implausible or impractical  Reasons: institutional inertia, the desire to have highly motivated students attending classes, curriculum overload, graduates go on doing a variety of jobs after graduating (no obvious purpose in terms of professional training), difficulty in curriculum change (months of effort and convincing), neuroethics seen as a ‘nice to have’ but not a necessity, sometimes scientists in later stages of their career were perceived (by those interested in teaching neuroethics) to be settled in the status quo which does not include neuroethcis teaching, changing the fossilised structure very difficult and might be not worth the huge effort that would have to go into it  A free elective, an online course, facilitating student organisations proposed as a solution  A requirement for NSF, NIH funded graduate research to include ethics teaching throughout the course (not a one-off) but the content not highly specified  Results in a variability of teaching practices  Openness to teaching neuroethics beyond professional and research ethics partly depends on the institution-specific constraints (lack of expertise, time of the faculty, organisational and economic constraints, e.g. how easy it is to co-teach a course)

12 Undergraduate neuroscience (Harvard)  Online short courses in research ethics available  A number of humanities courses (‘Ethical Reasoning’) available  Human Rights; Political Justice and Political Theories; Self, Freedom and Existence; Issues in Ethics; Theism and Moral Reasoning; Comparative Religious Ethics; The Ethics of Atheism: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud; Bioethics (Daniel I. Wikler), Ethics, Biotechnology and the Future of Human Nature (Douglas A. Melton, Michael J. Sandel)  There is a substantial interest among undergraduates  Harvard Bioethics Society –sponsored by the university but student led; organise seminars and lectures in bioethics with invited speakers and student seminars, the idea is that those who come from other institutions will give the same talk at their institution after going back, supporting extracurricular activities might be a way to consider. Advantages: bottom-up, much of the organisational burden is carried by the organisers of the society, it allows exploration of topics that would not be suitable for basic curriculum, allows for more in-depth exploration. Could the network be of use here?

13 Graduate neuroscience: Yale  Background: an eclectic programme. Some students doing research on single ion channels, while other have research questions like ‘what constitute imagination?’ and use fMRI.  Topics: dual use, freedom of information, scientific integrity, genetic engineering, invasive neurosurgery  Methods: bottom-up generation of topics: national and international press, cases from instructor’s practice; each week 2 faculty members acting as facilitators, 2 senior graduate students leading the discussion; role playing; no lectures; each week a short paper on the topic; assessment: pass/fail, attendance, short papers and participation

14  Although there is considerable interest, the experience of the faculty was identified as a significant barrier to teaching more general and philosophical neuroethics. Lectures based on the practical experience of the faculty (which in no case includes ethics or philosophy training).  Funding structure is an obstacle to inviting external speakers and professional development: 98% of neuroscience faculty is attached to the Medical School, 95% funding for research, no dedicated funding for teaching  Need for materials: e.g. a column in the newspaper, response, counterarguments; easily obtainable updated case studies; a compilation of other 10-15 papers that deals with major problems; a compilation of a number of essays that provide a good synthesis  Training needs: time constraints an issue, additional courses might be seen as a distraction (e.g. required gender discrimination course). An introductory ‘elevator speech’?

15 Penn: Learning collaborative, fellowship, online  Some undergraduate teaching: mainly electives for Behavioural Basis of Behaviour students  Graduate teaching: Neuroethics Learning Collaborative. Set up to address the lack of teaching about issues beyond the ‘survival ethics’; target population: neuroscience students from around the country. [Password protected], offered in 2010 and 2011  Online resources: accessible online without registration. Topics: brain imaging, enhancement, law and neuroscience

16  May 29 th -June 8 th : 12 places for graduate neuroscience students and postdocs from around the country;  7 applications per place – considerable interest among both neuroscience graduates, undergraduates and humanities students  methods: plenty of contact time, including one-to-one contact and lectures with plenty of time for Q&A session, small group presentations on the basis of independent research, discussions, talks by various professionals, visit to the Franklin Institute;  topics: philosophical ethics and bioethics; ELSI issues in brain imaging, research ethics: incidental findings, animal and human subjects, IRB stimulation, brain imaging, neuromarketing, science communication, neuroscience and criminal justice system, psychiatry (DBS, pharmacolofy, decision making in pharma, war and the brain), enhancement (cosmetic neurology, cognitive enhancement and military applications, oxytocin, ADHD, TMS and iDCS lab experiments, teaching neuroethics); focus on developing transferable skills in ethics analysis which then can be applied to other topics;

17  No one was aware of a network that allows sharing experiences about teaching neuroethics. Even those engage in teaching ethics sometimes were not aware of the resources already available – e.g. on Martha Farah’s website – there might be a need for awareness raising activities  Some especially challenging topics: e.g. free will  Dr Tom Fox emphasised research pointing out to the greater effectiveness of discussion-based seminars in diverse student groups. What is the effectiveness, advantages and disadvantages of a web-based learning vis-a-vis seminar-based teaching

18  ‘survival ethics’ teaching abundant, general topics similar although the exact approach varies greatly  broader neuroethics teaching is lead by individuals not institutions, still relatively rare and done in a variety of formats  There is a general interest in developing materials for teaching: such as case studies, reading materials, compilations  Obstacles to teaching ethics include practical issues such as time and organisational constraints  There seem to be a need to collect resources in one place for easy availability, improve information about what already exists and provide a platform for those teaching ethics to exchange resources – easy access  What format would be appropriate? Short workshops, neuroethics bootcamps, one-day training before or after conferences, online resources, an online full course, facilitating teaching in small discussion groups?  Teaching the students or teaching the teachers? Given the issues of professional identity,who should be teaching neuroethics – scientists or ethicists ? What would be an appropriate format for providing methods training? (a booklet for distance learning, training before conferences, short TED-talk style talks)  There is an interest in considering ELSI in neuroscience – plenty of interest from the student side, not enough resources to address it at the moment – BUT LET US REMEMBER TO KEEP THE FUN IN!

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