There is increasing pressure for neuroscientists to communicate their research and the societal implications of their findings to the public. Communicating science is challenging, and the transformation of communication by digital and interactive media increases the complexity of the challenge. To facilitate dialogue with the public in this new media landscape, we suggest three courses of action for the neuroscience community: a cultural shift that explicitly recognizes and rewards public outreach, the identification and development of neuroscience communication experts, and ongoing empirical research on the public communication of neuroscience.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $4.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Hayes, D. P. The growing inaccessibility of science. Nature 356, 739–740 (1992).
Caplan, A. Bioethics for the brain. The Scientist 16, 12 (2002).
Illes, J. & Bird, S. J. Neuroethics: a modern context for ethics in neuroscience. Trends Neurosci. 29, 511–517 (2006).
Racine, E., Amaram, R., Seidler, M., Karczewska, M. & Illes, J. Media coverage of the persistent vegetative state and end-of-life decision-making. Neurology 71, 1027–1032 (2008).
Dumit, J. Objective brains, prejudicial images. Sci. Context 12, 173–201 (1999).
Illes, J., Racine, E. & Kirschen, M. P. in Neuroethics: Defining the Issues in Theory, Practice and Policy (ed. Illes, J.) 149–168 (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2006).
McCabe, D. P. & Castel, A. D. Seeing is believing: the effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning. Cognition 107, 343–352 (2008).
Racine, E., Bar-Ilan, O. & Illes, J. fMRI in the public eye. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 6, 159–164 (2005).
Office of Economic Co-operation and Development. Understanding the Brain: Toward a New Learning Science (OECD Publications, Paris, 2002).
Weisberg, D. S., Keil, F. C., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E. & Gray, J. R. The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 20, 470–477 (2008).
Blanke, O. & Metzinger, T. Full-body illusions and minimal phenomenal selfhood. Trends Cogn. Sci. 13, 7–13 (2009).
Leshner, A. I. It's time to go public with neuroethics. Am. J. Bioethics 5, 1–2 (2005).
Nisbet, M. C. Framing science: the future of public engagement. The Scientist 21, 38–49 (2009).
Russell, C. When science journalism goes global. Science 324, 1491 (2009).
Leshner, A. I. Editorial: Outreach training needed. Science 315, 161 (2007).
Friedman, D. Public outreach: a scientific imperative. J. Neurosci. 28, 11743–11745 (2008).
Bubela, T. et al. Science communication reconsidered. Nature Biotech. 27, 514–518 (2009).
Illes, J. & Chin, V. Trust and reciprocity: foundational principles in human subjects imaging research. Can. J. Neurol. Sci. 34, 3–4 (2007).
McDonald, M., Townsend, A., Cox, S. M., Paterson, N. D. & Lafrenière, D. Trust in health research relationships: accounts of human subjects. J. Empir. Res. Hum. Res. Ethics 3, 35–47 (2008).
Crawford, M. B. The limits of neuro-talk. New Atlantis 19, 65–78 (2008).
Illes, J., Kirschen, M. P. & Gabrieli, J. D. E. From neuroimaging to neuroethics. Nature Neurosci. 6, 205 (2003).
Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE). Many experts, many audiences: public engagement with science and informal science education. The CAISE website [online] (2009).
Peters, H. P. et al. Science–media interface: it's time to reconsider. Sci. Commun. 30, 266–277 (2008).
Chandrashekaran, M. K. Editorial: Popularizing science. Resonance 1, 1 (2003).
[No authors listed]. Editorial: Filling the void. Nature 458, 260 (2009).
Poliakoff, E. & Webb, T. L. What factors predict scientists' intentions to participate in public engagement of science activities? Sci. Commun. 29, 242–263 (2007).
Horrigan, J. B. The internet as a resource for news and information about science. The Pew Internet and American Life Project website [online] (2006).
The Society for Neuroscience. Neuroscience core concepts. The Society for Neuroscience website [online].
Golde, C. M. & Walke, G. E. (eds) Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education: Preparing Stewards of the Discipline (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2006).
Ward, V. L., House, O. & Hamer, S. Knowledge brokering: exploring the process of transferring knowledge into action. BMC Health Serv. Res. 9, 1–6 (2009).
Eaton, M. L. & Illes, J. Commercializing cognitive neurotechnology: the ethical terrain. Nature Biotech. 25, 1–5 (2007).
Tairyan, K., Federico, C. & Illes, J. Internal and external ethics motivators in neuroscience: a large scale survey. (Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Chicago, 2009).
Herculano-Houzel, S. What does the public want to know about the brain? Nature Neurosci. 6, 325 (2003).
Cooperrider, D. & Whitney, D. Collaborating for Change: Appreciative Inquiry (Brett-Kohler, San Francisco, 2000).
Racine, E. Pragmatic Neuroethics: Improving Treatment and Understanding of the Mind-Brain (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2010).
Shapiro, H. T. Reflections on the interface of bioethics, public policy, and science. Kennedy Inst. Ethics J. 9, 209–224 (1999).
Thompson, L. A. et al. The intersection of online social networking with medical professionalism. J. Gen. Intern. Med. 23, 954–957 (2008).
Farmer, A. D., Bruckner Holt, C. E., Cook, M. J. & Hearing, S. D. Social networking sites: a novel portal for communication. Postgrad. Med. J. 85, 455–459 (2009).
O'Doherty, K. C. & Burgess, M. M. Engaging the public on biobanks: outcomes of the BC biobank deliberation. Public Health Genomics 12, 203–215 (2009).
Milewa, T. Health technology adoption and the politics of governance in the UK. Soc. Sci. Med. 63, 3102–3112 (2006).
Lombera, S. & Illes, J. International dimensions of neuroethics. Dev. World Bioeth. 9, 57–64 (2008).
Abi-Rached, J. M. The implications of the new brain sciences. The 'Decade of the Brain' is over but its effects are now becoming visible as neuropolitics and neuroethics, and in the emergence of neuroeconomies. EMBO Rep. 9, 1158–1162 (2008).
Wolf, S. M. Neurolaw: the big question. Am. J. Bioeth. 8, 21–22 (2008).
Illes, J. et al. International perspectives on engaging the public. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 6, 977–982 (2005).
Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P. & Pashler, H. Reply to comments on 'Puzzlingly high correlations in fMRI studies of emotion, personality and social cognition'. Persp. Psychol. Sci. 4, 319–324 (2009).
Jabbi, M., Keysers, C., Singer, T. & Stephan, K. E. Rebuttal of “voodoo correlations in social neuroscience” by Vul. et al. NeuroImaging Center Groningen website [online] (2009).
Iacoboni, M. et al. This is your brain on politics. The New York Times (New York, 11 Nov 2007).
Aron, A. et al. Politics and the Brain. The New York Times (New York, 14 Nov 2007).
Grosse, S. D. et al. Population screening for genetic disorders in the 21st century: evidence, economics, and ethics. Public Health Genomics 29 Jun 2009 [Epub ahead of print].
Adair, A., Hyde-Lay, R., Einsiedel, E. & Caulfield, T. Technology assessment and resource allocation for predictive genetic testing: a study of the perspectives of Canadian genetic health care providers. BMC Med. Ethics 10, 6 (2009).
This paper is based on NeuroTalk: Communication for Senior Scientists, a workshop held at The Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada, 19–22 March, 2009 (co-chairs J. Ingram and J. Illes.). The support of Imperial Oil (to J. Ingram and M.A.M), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) CNE #85117 (to J. Illes), NIH/NIMH 9R01MH84282-04A1 (to J. Illes), CIHR and Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (to E.R.), and CIHR, CTV and a Globemedia Fellowship (to K.D.S.) is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank S. Lombera for research assistance.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Illes, J., Moser, M., McCormick, J. et al. Neurotalk: improving the communication of neuroscience research. Nat Rev Neurosci 11, 61–69 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2773
“It’s all about delivery”: researchers and health professionals’ views on the moral challenges of accessing neurobiological information in the context of psychosis
BMC Medical Ethics (2021)
Science, Technology, & Human Values (2020)
Conversion disorder and/or functional neurological disorder: How neurological explanations affect ideas of self, agency, and accountability
History of the Human Sciences (2020)
Piloting of the Just Say Know prevention program: a psychoeducational approach to translating the neuroscience of addiction to youth
The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (2020)