Bioethics Blogs

Towards Neuro-Social Science: The Politics and Pragmatics of Collaboration by Tara Mahfoud

Workshop Report: King’s College London, 11 December 2014


Different forms of exchange between neuroscientists, social scientists, and humanities scholars have been emerging, and these have led to experimentation with concepts of nature and culture, biology and society, and affect and cognition, amongst others. There are, however, few accounts of how such collaborations can or have been done, or of what it is like to experience them. [i] The Neuroscience and Society Network symposium, organized by the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King’s College London on 11 December 2014, invited researchers invested and engaged in these interdisciplinary exchanges to explore the ‘politics and pragmatics’ of collaboration between the social sciences, humanities and neurosciences.

This is a summary of the workshop. It outlines three related lines of discussion that came through in the presentations and conversations. The first is the importance of thinking through what neurosocial science could be, and its conceptual and experimental potential. The second is the need to negotiate the challenges of collaboration between neuroscientists, social scientists and humanities scholars – particularly the sometimes awkward and difficult emotional work that guides them. The third is a reflection on the social context and implications of the neurosciences. In what follows, we highlight only some of the more prominent points and areas of debate explored in the workshop.

What is a neurosocial science?

Different models of neurosocial science were discussed in the workshop. As Andreas Roepstorff put it in the final debate: “We do not need a normative approach outlining what neurosocial science should look like.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.