BRAIN Initiative Challenge: Considering Ethics During Brain Technology Development
This challenge is seeking creative essays or videos from currently enrolled U.S. high school students that describe a teen’s perspective on the ethics, limitations, and implications of emerging technology to study and treat disorders of the human brain.
Department of Health and Human Services - National Institutes of Health
Type of Challenge: Ideas
Submission Start: 10/01/2020 08:00 AM ET
Submission End: 10/31/2020 11:59 PM ET
Science seeks to answer questions about ourselves and the world around us. Many times, the most important discoveries are completely unexpected – like when a moldy dish left out during vacation leads to the discovery of a vital medicine, penicillin! But, if something is unexpected, how can we prepare for positive and/or negative outcomes? When it comes to understanding the brain, enter: Neuroethics! Careful scientists must consider ethics during their research, including preparing for unanticipated consequences of exciting scientific advances. This challenge is seeking creative essays or videos from currently enrolled U.S. high school students that describe a teen’s perspective on the ethics, limitations, and implications of emerging technology to study and treat disorders of the human brain.
At the National Institutes of Health, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative is funding researchers to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Currently, BRAIN Initiative researchers are developing a variety of devices to study the human brain and to treat brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, etc. Some of these devices are implanted directly into the brain, while others can operate without needing to physically access the brain. Some of these devices can be used to stimulate activity in specific brain regions for treatment purposes, while others are used to record brain activity. While these devices are opening the doors to new discoveries, they also raise potentially new ethical questions.
The field that studies the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience is called neuroethics. Below are some neuroethics topics and questions to consider:
Brain data gathered to answer a research question and/or provide clinical benefit:
- Who owns the data and who should be able to access it?
- What information should be shared and what should remain private?
- How should the data be stored?
- How should the data be used and for what purposes?
- Brain data could lead to predictions about human nature. Who is responsible for these predictions and how they are used? For example, how do algorithms consider or use data on age, gender, race or ethnicity to make predictions on human behavior?
- As brain data is collected, who is it collected from? How does the sampled data generalize to broader populations, and how does that impact the predictions and conclusions inferred from the data?
Special considerations associated with novel brain devices that alter or record brain activity, either implanted or from outside the head:
- Who is responsible for the maintenance of brain devices?
- When data is remotely collected from a brain device, how should we make sure it is collected securely? Is there a security risk?
- How could brain devices that adjust themselves using artificial intelligence affect a person’s agency or the capacity to act independently and to make their own free choices?
- What is the appropriate action when an implanted device improves disease symptoms but dramatically changes the individual’s personality?
Informed consent issues, specifically pertaining to studies using novel brain technologies:
- Should the informed consent forms be the same for all studies?
- What is the participant perspective on informed consent? How do participants view the informed consent process and the information they are given?
- How should informed consent differ for vulnerable populations, like children, pregnant women, and/or those with disabilities or cognitive impairment?
Translation of new tools and technologies for neuroscience research to contexts beyond the original treatment or research purpose or goals:
- Should technologies be used for purposes outside of the original research and/or treatment of health conditions? Where should the limitations be drawn?
- Should brain technologies be marketed and commercialized like other products? Who should decide what can or cannot be marketed, and by whom?
- What are the conflicts of interest that should be considered if commercializing brain technologies, particularly for alternate uses?
Submissions to this challenge are essays and/or videos, submitted via the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com, that include creative ideas to start a conversation about a neuroethical topic using:
- Two-page/1000-word essay (max length, excluding references), 11 or 12 point font; Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri preferred.
- Essays must be written in English, by a single individual and submitted in.doc, .txt, or .pdf file format.
Videos must be no longer than 5 minutes. Videos must be submitted via an unlisted YouTube link to a streaming-optimized .MP4 in 649X448 resolution, no larger than 100MB.
- Any individuals videotaped must provide, or have a legal parent or guardian provide, consent by signing a Media Release Form. The Media Release form can be found on the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com. Signed files must be provided at submission.
- A transcript of the video should be provided (.doc, .txt, or .pdf) at submission.
- Videos may include audio in languages other than English but must have English subtitles.
- All entrants must upload their video to YouTube and provide the unlisted link on the submission form. See “How to Enter” for more details.
Videos may be submitted by a “Primary Video Producer” on behalf of a single individual or a team (no more than 5 individuals). While filmmaking may be a group effort, the development of different components (e.g. writing, editing, even filming) is strongly encouraged to be done remotely, using virtual collaboration methods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals who chose to work together should practice appropriate social distancing and follow the public health guidance from the CDC (for more information, go to https://www.coronavirus.gov/).
Additional information on the rules of the Challenge, how to participate, and how to win a prize is below.
Background The BRAIN Initiative is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. The United States BRAIN Initiative includes multiple federal and non-federal groups working together to coordinate these research efforts (https://www.braininitiative.org/). By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain in action. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables us to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.
The National Institutes of Health is the largest funder of biomedical research in the United States (https://www.nih.gov/). It is made up of 27 different components called Institutes and Centers. Each has its own with specific research mission, often focusing on a particular disease or body system. The NIH BRAIN Initiative is a group effort by NIH, managed by the 10 Institutes and Centers whose missions include the study of vision, hearing, neurological disorders, mental health, child health, aging, drug and alcohol abuse, bioengineering, and complementary health.
- Challenge Launch: Sept 15, 2020
- Submission Start/End: Oct 1, 2020-Oct 31, 2020
- Judging Start/End: Nov 2020-Feb 2021
- Winner Announced: March 2021
Total Cash Prize Pool
The total prize amount is $3,500.
Cash Prize Distribution - Essays and videos will be assessed and awarded separately, with 3 cash awards for essay submissions and 3 cash awards for video submissions. Total cash prize purse: $3,500
- 1 First Place winner: $1000
- 1 Second Place winner: $500
- 1 Third Place winner: $250
Award Approving Official: The Award Approving Official will be the Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Dr. Walter Koroshetz
Payment of the Prize: NIH prizes awarded under this Challenge will be paid by electronic funds transfer (EFT) and may be subject to Federal income taxes. Winners will be required to provide financial institution information to NIH to facilitate the EFT process. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/NIH will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable. In the case of minors, if the winner is an individual, prizes will be paid to the parent or legal guardian on behalf of the individual winner; or if the winner is a team, to the parent or legal guardian on behalf of the Primary Video Producer of the winning team.
Prizes will be awarded to the sole essay author or Primary Video Producer of the winning essays or videos. If two (2) or more individuals collaborate to submit a winning video, division of the cash prize is at the discretion of the Primary Video Producer.
NIH reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend or modify the Challenge, or any part of it, for any reason, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no submissions are deemed worthy.
Non-monetary Prize Distribution - Essays and videos will be assessed and awarded separately, with non-monetary awards for essay submissions and non-monetary awards for video submissions, paired with cash prize for the top three winners in each category.
- 1 First Place winner: certificate, publication on NIH BRAIN Initiative website, invitation to participate and be recognized at the annual BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting with 1 parent/guardian
- 1 Second Place winner: certificate, publication on NIH BRAIN Initiative website
- 1 Third Place winner: certificate, publication on NIH BRAIN Initiative website
- Finalists will be recognized with a certificate and honorable mention on the NIH BRAIN Initiative website. The number of finalists will be determined based on the number of entries received for each category (essay and video).
Award Approving Official: The Award Approving Official will be the Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Dr. Walter Koroshetz
Eligibility Rules for the Challenge
To be eligible to win a prize under this Challenge, a Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals):
- At the time of submission, the participant or team of participants must be enrolled in a high school within the U.S. or its territories, including validated home-schools;
- Shall have registered to participate in the Challenge under the rules promulgated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as published in this announcement;
- Shall have complied with all the requirements set forth in this Announcement;
- Shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, for purposes of winning an NIH cash prize. However, non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents can participate as a member of a team that otherwise satisfies the eligibility criteria. Non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents are not eligible to win a monetary prize (in whole or in part). Their participation as part of a winning team, if applicable, may be recognized when the results are announced;
- Shall not be a federal entity or federal employee acting within the scope of their employment;
- Shall not be an employee of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (or any other component of HHS) acting in their personal capacity;
- A person employed by a federal agency or entity other than HHS (or any component of HHS), should consult with an agency Ethics Official to determine whether the federal ethics rules will limit or prohibit the acceptance of a prize under this Challenge;
- Shall not be a judge of the Challenge, or any other party involved with the design, production, execution, or distribution of the Challenge or the immediate family of such a party (i.e., spouse, parent, step-parent, child, or step-child).
- If participating as a Student Team, each team agrees to enter only one submission into this Challenge through one student member of the Student Team that is appointed as the “Primary Video Producer” by that Student Team. The Primary Video Producer will carry out all correspondence with the NINDS regarding the Student Team’s submission and will submit all required documentation to NINDS on behalf of the Student Team.
- Participants under age 18 are required to submit a signed copy of the parent/legal guardian consent form, whether submitting an individual essay or video or participating in a Student Team video. All members of the video team under age 18 must submit a consent form signed by a parent/legal guardian. The consent form can be found on the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com. We encourage all students to work with a sponsoring adult. The sponsoring adult should be in a position to advise the essay author or video producer as necessary to facilitate the submission of their essay or video. Examples of a sponsoring adult are a parent or other family member, community leader, teacher, school counselor, principal, other school official, minister, priest, or other religious leader, or person with a similar standing in the community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is strongly encouraged that individuals who choose to work together on a video submission use virtual collaboration, practice appropriate social distancing and follow other public health guidelines provided by the CDC (for more information, see https://www.coronavirus.gov/).
- Participants are allowed to submit only one (1) essay or video. If multiple submissions are received from one student, only the first file (essay or video) will be considered, as identified by submission timestamp.
- Federal grantees may not use federal funds from a grant award to develop their Challenge submissions or to fund efforts in support of their Challenge submissions.
- Federal contractors may not use federal funds from a contract to develop their Challenge submissions or to fund efforts in support of a Challenge submission.
By participating in this Challenge, each Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) warrants that they are sole author or owner of, or have the right to use, any copyrightable works that the submission comprises, that the works are wholly original with the Participant (or is an improved version of an existing work that the Participant has sufficient rights to use and improve), and that the submission does not infringe on any copyright or any other rights of any third party of which the Participant is aware.
- Each Participant warrants that they are the sole author of the submitted essay, and that the works are wholly original with the Participant. Essays must not infringe upon any copyright or any other rights of any third party. Essays will be screened, using a plagiarism software package, to validate originality of the work.
- Each Participant(s) warrants that any submitted video is the product of no more than five (5) individuals who contributed to the production of the video, and that this work is wholly original with the Participant(s). Videos must not infringe upon any copyright or any other rights of any third party. Videos will be screened to validate originality of the work. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is strongly encouraged that individuals who choose to work together to submit a video use virtual collaboration, practice appropriate social distancing and follow other public health guidelines provided by the CDC (for more information, see https://www.coronavirus.gov/).
- Each Participant must ensure that any individuals photographed, videotaped, or recorded must provide, or have a legal parent or guardian provide, consent to being photographed, videotaped, or recorded and consent to public posting of the photograph, video, or sound recording, by signing a Media Release Form, available on the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com. The Primary Video Producer must include the signed Media Release Forms with the submission.
- By participating in this Challenge, each Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) agrees to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the federal government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from participation in this Challenge, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.
- Based on the subject matter of the Challenge, the type of work that it will possibly require, as well as an analysis of the likelihood of any claims for death, bodily injury, property damage, or loss potentially resulting from Challenge participation, no Participant (whether an individual, or group of individuals) in the Challenge is required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in order to participate in this Challenge.
- By participating in this Challenge, each Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) agrees to indemnify the federal government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to Challenge activities.
- A Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) shall not be deemed ineligible because the Participant used federal facilities or consulted with federal employees during the Challenge if the facilities and employees are made available to all Participants in the Challenge on an equitable basis.
- NIH reserves the right, in their sole discretion, to (a) cancel, suspend, or modify the Challenge through amendment to this notice on Challenge.gov, and/or (b) not award any prizes if no entries are deemed worthy.
- Each Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) agrees to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and policies.
- Each Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) in this Challenge must comply with all terms and conditions of these rules, and participation in this Challenge constitutes each such Participant’s full and unconditional agreement to abide by these rules. Winning is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements herein.
- All prize winners and finalists will agree to allow their submissions (essays and videos), along with their first name and state of residence, to be posted on the NIH BRAIN Initiative website. Additionally, NIH may publish, post, link to, share, and display publicly the submission on the web or elsewhere. By participating in this Challenge, each Participant (whether an individual or group of individuals) grants to the NIH an irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free nonexclusive worldwide license to reproduce, publish, post, link to, analyze, share, and display publicly the submission on the web or elsewhere, and a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice, or have practiced for or on its behalf, the solution throughout the world. Each Participant will retain all other intellectual property rights in their submissions, as applicable. To participate in the Challenge, each Participant must warrant that there are no legal obstacles to providing the above-referenced nonexclusive licenses of the Participant’s rights to the federal government. Participants will not be required to transfer their intellectual property rights to NIH, but Participants must grant to the federal government the nonexclusive licenses recited herein.
- As a condition for winning a cash prize in this Challenge, each Participant (whether an individual, group of individuals, or entity) that has been selected as a winner must complete and submit all requested winner verification and payment documents to NIH within ten business days of formal notification. Failure to return all required verification documents by the date specified in the notification may be a basis for disqualification of a cash prize winning submission.
The judging panel will be comprised of 3 individuals hired as Directors of institutes, centers, offices, and/or trans-agency initiatives at NIH. The Judges will identify the winners.
The reviewers will be members of the BRAIN Initiative Community and Partners who have programmatic expertise will evaluate eligible submissions based on the evaluation criteria identified below.
The submissions will be evaluated on the extent to which they 1) identify/introduce a neuroethics topic 2) express a point of view 3) convey original thinking and creativity 4) strength of writing or media production. All works will be screened to ensure they meet the rules and submission requirements stated in the announcement. The submissions will NOT be evaluated if they do not meet the guidelines.
Submissions will be evaluated in a tier process:
- All submissions will be pre-screened for eligibility with respect to compliance with the rules of the Challenge, including the submission guidelines and signed parent/legal guardian consent form(s) as applicable.
- The reviewers will be members of the BRAIN Initiative Community and Partners who have programmatic expertise will evaluate eligible submissions based on the evaluation criteria identified below. Each essay will be evaluated by a minimum of 2 reviewers and the average score will be the final score on the submission.
- Finalists from the review stage will be presented to the judging panel for selection of winners. For determining winners, the judges will consider the specific scoring and overall score, grade level, geographic distribution, and inclusion of diverse perspectives.
- The judges will submit their selection of winners to the award approving official for a final decision on prize payments.
Basis Upon Which a Winner will be Selected The submissions will be evaluated and given a score based on the following:
- Identification/introduction of neuroethics topic (25%): To what extent did the essay or video provide details on the key concepts related to the neuroethics question/topic. (5 – 25 points possible)
- Effectiveness in expressing a point-of-view (30%): To what extent does the essay or video integrate the submitter’s experience(s) and/or belief(s) and is supported by published evidence. (6 – 30 points possible)
- Original thinking and creativity relative to the topic (30%): To what extent original thinking and creativity are used to frame the conversation and capture audience’s attention. (6 – 30 points possible)
- Strength of writing or media production (15%): For essays, literary style, grammar, and spelling will be evaluated. For videos, storytelling, cohesiveness, use of visual and sound elements will be evaluated (3 – 15 points possible)
A total of 100 points is possible.
How to Enter
Registration Process: The BRAIN Challenge information can be found on Challenge.gov and the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com. Participants must submit an entry through the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com following the submission requirements described below. Submission Requirements:
- Full name, email, grade level, and state of primary residence
Submit an essay or video using the following guidelines:
- Essay Instructions: Two-page/1000-word essay (max length, excluding references), 11- or 12-point font; Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri preferred. Essays must be written in English, by a single individual and submitted in.doc, .txt, or .pdf file format. The essay must be submitted via the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com.
Video Instructions: Videos must be no longer than 5 minutes. Videos must be submitted via an unlisted YouTube link to a streaming-optimized .MP4 in 649X448 resolution, no larger than 100MB. A transcript of the video must be provided (.doc, .txt, or .pdf). Signed Media Release forms must be completed by any individuals captured in the video footage and included with the submission. The Media Release form can be found on the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com. Videos may include audio in languages other than English but must have English subtitles. All entrants can submit their video link, transcript, and media release forms via the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com.
All entrants must upload their .MP4 (649x448 resolution <100MB) to YouTube and provide the unlisted link on the submission form. “Unlisted” means that only people who know the link to the video can view it (such as individuals to whom you send the link). An unlisted video will not appear in any of YouTube’s public spaces (such as search results, your channel, or the Browse page).
Follow the instructions below when uploading your video to YouTube:
- Sign-in or create an account with YouTube and upload video
When uploading be sure to set the following: Under “Details”,
- Unclick “publish to subscription feed and notify subscribers” in the “License and Distribution” section,
- Disable comments and
- Unclick “Show how many viewers like and dislike this video” in “Comments and Ratings” section, and Under “Visibility”,
- Set your video’s privacy to “Unlisted”
- Copy and paste the unlisted link into the submission form
- Submitters must indicate if they are 18 years of age or older. All submitters under the age of 18 must download and submit a completed consent form, which will require the signature of a legal parent or guardian for any entrants (whether individuals or Student Team members), found on the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com.
- Identify/Introduce a Neuroethics Topic – Any aspect of neuroscience that can be tied to ethical, legal, or societal implications in 2020 will be considered responsive.
- Express a Point of View – Neuroethics discussions draw on facts, such as scientific findings or laws, and also personal experiences and belief systems. Make sure to include - and explain - YOUR point of view from both evidence-based and personal perspectives when presenting your idea. Be sure to properly cite any published work you reference.
- Use Original Thinking and Creativity – Countless experts have puzzled over neuroethics topics already, but this gives you a great starting point! Whatever you propose should be YOUR own idea. If you’re incorporating work from others, make sure to cite them appropriately! Remember to think outside the box! We’re looking for creative approaches across the board – in your concept or idea, as well as how you present it!
- Have Strength of Writing or Media Production – When writing, double check your spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph composition. Don’t forget the importance of introductions, conclusions, and topic sentences! When producing a video, remember to provide a clear storyline or message and be creative, using visual metaphors, music and/or graphical elements to highlight key points. Don’t forget the importance of lighting, transitions and good sound quality!
Submit via the BRAIN Initiative Challenge campaign of https://ninds.ideascalegov.com.
Point of Contact
Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email