• BNCI systems as a potential assistive technology: ethical issues and participatory research in the BrainAble project

      Carmichael, Patrick; Carmichael, Clare; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Bedfordshire (Taylor & Francis, 2013-12-06)
      This paper highlights aspects related to current research and thinking about ethical issues in relation to Brain Computer Interface (BCI) and Brain-Neuronal Computer Interfaces (BNCI) research through the experience of one particular project, BrainAble, which is exploring and developing the potential of these technologies to enable people with complex disabilities to control computers. It describes how ethical practice has been developed both within the multidisciplinary research team and with participants. Results: The paper presents findings in which participants shared their views of the project prototypes, of the potential of BCI/BNCI systems as an assistive technology, and of their other possible applications. This draws attention to the importance of ethical practice in projects where high expectations of technologies, and representations of “ideal types” of disabled users may reinforce stereotypes or drown out participant “voices”. Conclusions: Ethical frameworks for research and development in emergent areas such as BCI/BNCI systems should be based on broad notions of a “duty of care” while being sufficiently flexible that researchers can adapt project procedures according to participant needs. They need to be frequently revisited, not only in the light of experience, but also to ensure they reflect new research findings and ever more complex and powerful technologies.