Summary of Source Material
As discussed in our main study text, our findings are tied closely to the context of the study itself. Most rehabilitation professionals reported that they had little or no prior knowledge of brain-computer interfaces. For this reason, the specific wording used to introduce brain-computer interfaces, as well as the wording of subsequent question about ethics and society, are important for the interpretation of our results. In light of this, we provide several important components of the survey as source material:
the overall “briefing” that was presented at the start of the web survey - Figure S1
the wording for several societal “domains of application”, about which respondents reported their “worry” and “enthusiasm” - Table S1
the wording for 26 potential ethical issues, about which respondents reported their level of concern (“not concerning” to “extremely concerning”) - Table S2
Although in principle all data and methodology could be informative, a full set was not prepared for inclusion in time for publication; requests for this material or more information can be directed to the corresponding author (Matthew Sample).
History of Source Material
Given the extent to which survey wording shapes the respondents understanding of brain-computer interfaces, it was crucial for us to craft the survey language deliberately. As described in the study text, this design process was conducted for a prior survey study among broader publics (Sample et al. 2019). More details can be found in that original 2019 article, but we will summarize the important points here and add some updated commentary.
The survey briefing (including pictures) and domains of application were designed to approximate the descriptions of brain-computer interfaces found in the academic research literature and associated press coverage (often originating from university press offices). A more critical briefing could surely be written, but that would not serve the purpose of understanding rehabilitation professionals attitudes towards the technology as it actually exists in dominant discourses. These materials were tested for comprehensibility using cognitive pre-testing interviews.
The 26 ethical issues were chosen to approximate the content of the expert ethics literature, which presents itself as an authority for responsible technology development and regulation. This list was chosen through a carefully guided process, beginning with a scoping literature review of the interdisciplinary neuroethics literature (Burwell et al. 2017). This list was refined through expert consultations, public-facing events, and cognitive pre-testing, with an eye towards not only comprehensibility but also interpretive validity with respect to the expert ethics literature.
Intended Audiences and Lessons
With this background in mind, we invite all readers to look more closely at the survey item wording and reflect on how, in the study itself, these materials enable momentary “co-production” of professional identities and ideas of social order alongside the consideration of new technological possibilities. For those interested in rehabilitation and neural technologies, they can reflect on how this artificial study situation is useful (or not) in understanding the way that brain-computer interfaces are likely to impact society, assuming their development continues to be promoted. For STS scholars interested in method particularly, we welcome further conversation about how any interaction with research participants involving emerging technology is likely to constitute a moment of co-production (i.e. of “new” technoscience and re-arranged ideas of social order). Surveys, interviews, and similar study materials that describe emerging technology or future possibilities, then, must be designed and interpreted accordingly.
Sample, Matthew, Sebastian Sattler, Stefanie Blain-Moraes, David Rodríguez-Arias, et al. 2019. “Do Publics Share Experts’ Concerns about Brain–Computer Interfaces? A Trinational Survey on the Ethics of Neural Technology.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 45(6), 1242–1270. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243919879220.
Burwell, Sasha, Matthew Sample, and Eric Racine. 2017. “Ethical aspects of brain computer interfaces: a scoping review.” BMC Medical Ethics 18(1): 1–11.
Matthew Sample, Wren Boehlen, Sebastian Sattler, Stefanie Blain-Moraes and Eric Racine, 13 September 2022, "Data Availability Statement for "Brain-Computer Interfaces, Inclusive Innovation, and the Promise of Restoration"", contributed by Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society (ESTS) Journal, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 16 September 2022, accessed 8 June 2023. https://stsinfrastructures.org/content/data-availability-statement-brain-computer-interfaces-inclusive-innovation-and-promise
This is a data availability statement for the article "Brain-Computer Interfaces, Inclusive Innovation, and the Promise of Restoration: A Mixed-Methods Study with Rehabilitation Professionals" by Matthew Sample and collaborators, published in the journal Engaging Science, Technology, and Society.
Find the dataset here.
Explore other data published as part of ESTS Issue 8.2.