Human Brain Project: Ethics and society

Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If we can rise to the challenge, we can gain profound insights into what makes us human, develop new treatments for brain disease and build revolutionary new computing technologies. Today, for the first time, modern ICT has brought these goals within sight.

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Ethics and Society

The Human Brain Project has 12 subprojects, the Ethics and Society being  subproject 12.

The Ethics and Society subproject's goals of the Human Brain (HBP) project are to recognise the ethical, social and philosophical concerns arising from HBP research early, and to help addressing them in an open and transparent manner.

There are six work packages in the Ethics and Society subprojects:

  • Foresight: Industrial, economic and social consequences
  • Conceptual and Philosophical Issues
  • The Public, Dialogue and Engagement
  • Researcher Awareness
  • Governance and Regulation
  • Ethics and Society: Scientific coordination

The Governance and Regulation WorkPackage (WP 12.5) is led from Linnaeus University at the Secretariat managed by Peter Gierow with support from Shamim Patel.

The Work Package will support the two independent committees: ELSA (Ethical Legal and Social Aspects Committee) and REC (Research Ethics Committee). ELSA will provide strategic oversight over ethical, legal and social issues arising from HBP research. REC will help the partners to ensure that HBP research meets the highest possible ethical standards and that it complies with all relevant European, national and regional law. The participating Institutions in the Work Package are Linnaeus University, Karolinska Institutet, University of Cambridge and Harvard Medical School.


Peter Gierow, Professor at the Department of Medicine and Optometry, Linnaeus University.

Professor J Peter Gierow obtained his PhD in biochemistry at Lund University, Sweden in 1988. He was then a post-doctoral fellow at Department of Physiology & Biophysics and at Department of Ophthalmology, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine (USC), Los Angeles, USA 1988-1993, followed by a position as Assistant Professor at Department of Cell & Neurobiology, USC 1993-1994. He was a Senior Lecturer at University of Kalmar; Kalmar, Sweden 1995-2008, before becoming Professor of Biochemistry at the same university, now renamed as Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden.

He has been the Director of the optometry programme since its start in 2002 until 2016, and was since Jan 2013 through Dec 2018 also Head of the Department of Medicine and Optometry at the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, Linnaeus University. He is also Adjunct Faculty at the University of Houston, College of Optometry since 2006. He has served as a member of the Lacrimal Gland Study Group, 1996-2000, of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, 2002-present, of the ARVO International Members Committee 1998-2001.

He became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in 2002, and is currently the President of the AAO European Chapter. He served as a member of the Education Committee of the European Academy of Optometry and Optics 2012-2018. He became a Silver Fellow of ARVO in 2019. His research interests are in the field of tear film and lacrimal gland physiology, as well as dry eye syndromes. Prof Gierow joined the Human Brain Project, a Horizon 2020 project, in 2019.

Christine Mitchell, Associate Director of Clinical Ethics in the Division of Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School.

She developed and runs an annual Harvard Bioethics Course, leads the monthly Harvard Ethics Consortium, teaches in the ethics fellowship program, and organized and co-chairs the Ethics Leadership Council for the Harvard teaching hospitals and affiliated health care facilities.

Christine is also Director of the Office of Ethics at Children's Hospital, where she works with the hospital's Ethics Advisory Committee and directs the ethics consultation service. She is a nurse who received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing at Boston University and a Master's degree in ethics at Harvard.

As a founding Board member of the Society for Bioethics Consultation and past President of the American Society for Law, Medicine and Ethics, she has been involved with ethics committees nationally and locally since the 1980s, including the development of a Community Ethics Committee which she organized in 2007 to bring public voices into discussion of ethical issues health care. She also serves on the Clinical Ethics Consultation Committee of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities.

Christine has made documentary films related to clinical ethics, including one which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1984, and a video for which she and film-maker Ben Achtenberg won a Freddie award in 2004. She has written a number of articles on ethics which have been published in the American Journal of Nursing, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Newsweek.

Barbara J Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine.

She directs a laboratory of psychopharmacology at the University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry, and the Medical Research Council/Wellcome Trust Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI). She has an international reputation in the fields of cognitive psychopharmacology, neuroethics, neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry and neuroimaging.

She is the President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, a member of the CINP Council and a member of the ECNP Review Board. She is co-inventor of CANTAB computerized neuropsychological tests which are used world-wide. She is a Founder Member and on the Executive Board of the International Neuroethics Society, co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics (2011) and co-author of 'Bad Moves. How decision making goes wrong, and the ethics of smart drugs' (Oxford University Press, 2013).

She has a keen interest in engagement of the public in neuroscience and ethical issues which affect society and frequently participates in newspaper, radio and TV interviews. She is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and is co-investigator with Professor Julian Savulescu, Oxford University, on a Wellcome Trust funded neuroethics grant.

Dr. Kevin Grimes, Research Coordinator for the Human Brain Project Ethics Governance and Regulation, employed by Karolinska Institutet.

He is the Task Leader for Ethics, Legal and Social Aspects Committee (ELSA) and a collaborator on the Research Ethics Committee (REC) task. In this role, he organized and collaborated with a special selection committee to recruit and nominate internationally known experts and leaders in science and technology to comprise management-level, independent ethics committees in the Human Brain Project, and is responsible for establishing and coordinating ELSA committee activities.

He trained at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in the early 1980s and was a clinical-academic member of its faculty until 2001. A clinical and forensic psychologist, licensed in the USA and chartered in the UK, he has consulted on practical and procedural ethics in clinical, legal and academic settings. In the USA he served several years on the Tewksbury Hospital Medical Ethics Committee while Psychologist and Manager of the Behavioral Health Service there. He attended training programs at the Harvard Division on Ethics, including the Harvard Ethics Course, Harvard Ethics Leadership Group, Ethics consultation in Healthcare, and Ethics and the Law. He participated in program activities including the Ethics Leadership Council for the Harvard teaching hospitals and affiliated health care facilities.

Dr. Grimes also founded Science Writing English Editing, an online editing service, and has helped writers publish work on ethics, law and philosophy.

Shamin Patel, secretariat service.

Shamim Patel provides the secretariat services for the work related to Ethics Governance and Regulation under Subproject 12.5, which is headed by Professor Abdul Mohammed. Shamim works at LNU as part of the Office of International Relations. She graduated from Lancaster University (UK) in 1987 with a degree in Accounting & Finance and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Deloittes in 1990. She has been living in Sweden since 1997 and was Project Manager of the large EC FP6 flagship project CHRISGAS which was coordinated by LNU. The project ran for 5.5 years, had 20 partners and a total budget of approx. €17 million.


Human Brain Project