2019 Annual Meeting
Chicago, IL, USA
October 17-18

Interview With Program Committee Co-Chairs

The INS annual meeting brings together people from around the world with shared goals in neuroethics

Ilina Singh and Arleen Salles are co-chairs of the Program Committee for the 2019 INS Annual Meeting. Their task is to put together a dynamic program of panel discussions, lectures, and opportunities for networking. Some ideas may challenge conventional thinking on neuroethics issues. Ilina, Arleen, and their committee members have put a major emphasis on inclusion, diversity, and culture to create an INS meeting that truly represents the 'international' nature of our Society.

Image of Ilina Singh

Ilina Singh

Image of Arleen Salles

Arleen Salles

Ilina Singh is professor of neuroscience and society in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, UK, is co-director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, and is a distinguished research fellow with the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

Arleen Salles is a senior researcher in the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics at Uppsala University in Sweden. She is the director of the Neuroethics Program at the Centro de Investigaciones Filosóficas in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a task leader in the Ethics and Society subproject of the EU Human Brain Project.

What is your field of research?

Ilina Singh – I am investigating the social and ethical implications of novel neurotechnologies. I am particularly interested in neurotechnologies that directly affect children and families, and those that challenge traditional conceptions of human agency, identity and relationship.

Arleen Salles – I am working on the issue of how to understand neuroethics, and in particular the development of a culturally aware neuroethics, on one hand, and on the other, on conceptual issues in human identity and the self. 

What got you interested in neuroethics?

Singh – Some years ago I was working on the ethics of giving Ritalin to children diagnosed with ADHD. That led to discussions about 'smart drugs,' which were being used by university students allegedly to enhance their cognitive capabilities. That was my introduction to neuroethics. Since then, we've discovered that smart drugs don't make you smarter, but other neurotechnologies, such as brain implants and brain–computer interfaces, could enhance cognitive performance in particular domains.

Salles – Trained in philosophy, I was always interested in ethical theory, in particular moral reasoning, the emotions, and what their proper role should be in the discussion of applied issues. This led to further reading and research not only in philosophy but also on the potential contribution of neuroscience in enriching our understanding of morality. Initially this is what got me interested in this discipline.

Why are you involved with the International Neuroethics Society?

Singh – The INS provides a wonderful community of people with an increasingly global interest in neuroethics. We have bioethics programs [at universities] but few specific to neuroethics. It's good to have a growing community for those with neuroethics interests.

Salles – The INS makes it possible for members to be in contact with people with shared interests. Importantly, it is trying to give a voice to neuroethicists from countries who are typically under-represented, which I am committed to.

Describe the challenge for you as co-chairs of the Program Committee for the INS annual meeting.

Singh – I was delighted to be able to partner with Arleen because both of us represent non-U.S. perspectives. We've been trying to internationalize neuroethics for some years. I'm also keen to get the neuroethics community to focus more on young people and mental health — the ethics is still underplayed. We have been able to bring that into the annual meeting by focusing on early intervention and predictive technologies.

Salles – Ilina and I were involved in all aspects of the meeting. We agreed in what we wanted to emphasize in the program and we discussed each panel and the extent to which it was compatible with our vision of the meeting. We wanted inclusiveness and this is what I think the program achieved. We also have a fantastic team in the Program Committee who have been very active in the planning. Co-chairing with Ilina and joining efforts with the Program Committee has been a very productive and enriching experience.

What do you envision with the theme 'Mapping Neuroethics: An Expanded Vision'?

Singh – With 'Mapping Neuroethics' we wanted to bring more international substance and content into the meeting. For example, how does an African bioethics perspective conceive of neuroethics challenges? Getting a better handle on international perspectives might lead us to reframe some challenges, or even to rethink neuroethics strategic priorities. Should we think differently about autonomy concerns, or about the moral status of animals? Dialogue among diverse perspectives should be mutually disruptive and stimulating, and will hopefully create fresh thinking in our field.

Salles – As stated before, one of my main concerns was including people from different cultures who have not so far been part of the neuroethics discussion, or who have not been heard. This is our 'expanded vision.' However, culturally-aware neuroethics is not a one-way street. It's about dialogue and it's important to listen and to solve problems together.

What parts of the annual meeting are you excited about?

Singh – All of it! But particularly we have tried to build up the time we give to early career researchers. They are the future of neuroethics and we need to hear more from them. The program gives opportunities for early career researchers to give big, long talks, to speak on panels, and — for those who are selected — to talk about their posters.

Salles – I want to see how the cultural aspect plays out, interacting with people with other insights. We have also put a lot of emphasis on giving a voice to early career researchers. I am very excited about their contribution to the different panels.

What are the dilemmas in global ethics?

Salles – I am one of the speakers in the session on 'Solving Dilemmas in Global Neuroethics.' We have invited representatives from the different brain initiatives — active or being formed — in South Korea, Japan, China, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and Europe who will be discussing different hot topics and how they address them in their respective brain initiative. Collectively, we want to promote interaction on diverse ethical approaches to some of the important issues in global neuroethics.

Why should people attend the INS annual meeting?

Singh – This is your community. The annual meeting is your chance to meet people working on similar questions and common goals. It is interdisciplinary, increasingly attracting people from law, engineering and psychology. And it's fun — we are still a small community and we have a good time together!

Salles – You will meet people who have reflected on a number of issues. It seems to me that one good reason is that as human beings — academics as well as the public — we ought to be interested in where neuroscience is taking us, and its social, legal, and ethical implications so that we can figure out what to do next.

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Mapping Neuroethics: An Expanded Vision

The 2019 Annual Meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS) will gather a diverse group of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and professionals dedicated to the responsible use of advances in brain science. Attendees will participate in intellectually stimulating and dynamic sessions that will explore neuroethics in a global context.

Discounted registration rates are available until September 10.

Meeting Program