Throughout 2005 126 EU citizens participated in something called the “Meeting of Minds”, learning about neuroscience and debating what to do with our ever increasing knowledge about the brain. Here is how the project is described on its web-page www.meetingmindseurope.org:
Meeting of Minds. European Citizens’ Deliberation on Brain Science is a two-year pilot project led by a European panel of 126 citizens. A partner consortium of technology assessment bodies, science museums, academic institutions and public foundations from nine European countries launched this initiative in 2004 with the support of the European Commission.
The initiative will give European citizens a unique opportunity to learn more about the impact of brain research on their daily lives and society as a whole, to discuss their questions and ideas with leading European researchers, experts and policy-makers, put them in touch with fellow citizens from other European countries and make a personal contribution to a report detailing what the people of Europe believe to be possible and desirable in the area of brain science and what they recommend policy-makers and researchers to be aware of for future developments in this field.
Through this approach, the Meeting of Minds initiative wishes to meet EU calls for greater public involvement in the debate on future research, technological decision-making and governance.
The results of their deliberation is now out in the form of a report which can be downloaded here. The 126, now neuro-wize, citizens recommend 36 policy initiatives concerning the practical use of our knowledge about the brain. The majority of these suggestions are pretty dissapointing, merely reflecting various general medical concerns. They do, however, raise two brain-specific issues. (1) First, they suggest that it should be illegal for police, courts, and other official institutions, to use brain scans as information about citizens. (2) Second, they argue for a more public discussion as to what exactly constitutes normal behaviour, and what counts as a mental decease. Both excellent problems that we will certainly return to here at Brainethics in coming posts.
But why, oh why, hasn’t this report received more press, at least in the European media?