The NERRI project organises participative activities around Europe to inform and increase society’s understanding of neuro-enhancement and to guarantee that neuro-enhancement techniques are developed in accordance with the values and expectations of society.
To obtain a diverse group of participants in NERRI events, the activities are advertised broadly through different channels. Past promotional videos included people of different ages, genders and socio-economic classes. Diversity in research topics, portfolios and perspectives is obtained naturally through the broad group of partners that make up the consortium: 18 partners (representing universities, companies, science centres, and such) from 11 European countries.
All information is communicated in a clear manner, since the intention is to make the project easy to understand and to foster everyone’s interest in it. In all NERRI public communications (e.g., blog posts, website news, press releases, Twitter messages), the goals and aims of the project are transparently explained. Event evaluations are communicated in NERRI articles.
The project aims to inform stakeholders and citizens about neuro-enhancement: what it is; its uses, benefits and risks; and legal issues regarding its regulation. NERRI aims to foster global debate and obtain people’s opinions to later shape recommendations for the European Community. Activities are designed to anticipate the future of neuro-enhancement and to challenge existing beliefs and traditional ways of thinking.
The project explicitly anticipates possible futures that may or may not be brought to existence by current research and innovation. It confronts the public with scenarios both to grasp relevant “definitions of the problem(s) at issue, commitments, practices, and individual and institutional values, assumptions and routines” and to consider adequate actions (including governance and regulation) before neuro-enhancement becomes widespread and established.
Emerging knowledge and different perspectives are shared in public debates, ‘SuperMI’, in which stakeholders from different fields take turns presenting their own expertise. In this way, neuro-enhancement professionals get to know one another while learning about and discussing each other’s ideas.
Event organisation, including content and presentation, is modified based on external factors. Activities are modified to include new technological developments. Similarly, presentation styles are adapted to the social perceptions and current knowledge of neuro-enhancements in a given area. Finally, as national economic situations may change citizens’ views on how public money is spent, the project’s framework takes this aspect into account.
Several activities have taken place around Europe. For example, in Spain, NERRI conducted two SuperMI public debates (in Coruna and Barcelona), two focus groups (with MIR students and with parents of high school students) and one PlayDecide activity.
This project shows how RRI standards can be used to increase society’s understanding of a particular topic. Collaboration with different groups, close relationships with stakeholders, and dynamic and participatory activities that encourage discussion and make people feel heard are all important to the success of such projects.