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Deadline for proposals was July 6, 2022
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The Dana Foundation is seeking US-based strategic partners to design and host a Center for Neuroscience & Society, one that is deeply committed to rigorous interdisciplinary training in neuroscience, that engages in research with an eye towards addressing practical issues raised by advancing neuroscience, and that grows a new generation of interdisciplinary experts who are empowered to embed neuroscience and its implications in a societal context.
The Foundation is requesting proposals for 5-month planning grants designed to assist grantees in developing a detailed plan for a potential Dana Center for Neuroscience & Society. Grantees will receive up to $150,000 to create a vision for a center, organize and gather expertise, outline potential programs, and pilot-test a potential model for training and/or education. Proposals for planning grants are due July 6, 2022, with a start date as early as October 1, 2022.
The planning grant is the first step in a two-step process. Recipients of planning grants will have the opportunity to submit a proposal to be considered as a candidate to host a Dana Center. Proposals for a Dana Center will be due in mid-2023. We anticipate a Dana Center will be announced in late 2023. Dana Centers will be funded at approximately $1M annually for 5 years.
Successful applicants will have a clear vision and ability to execute according to the criteria outlined below. In addition, applicants must demonstrate strong institutional commitment to the center through an institutional matching contribution that is materially significant to the host college or university, at least a 50% match of the funds provided by Dana to the Center. This may include in-kind contributions.
Over the past 30 years, neuroscience has shifted from an emerging field of inquiry into a major funding priority for large scale national programs like the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN Initiative. At the heart of these investments is both a desire to understand the brain – and, fundamentally, ourselves – and to turn the tide on the devastating impact of the hundreds of brain-based conditions that afflict humankind. Neuroscience, however, cannot be separated from the broader societies in which it is conducted: “[n]euroscientific activities and outputs are value-laden, they reflect the cultural, ethical, and political values that are prioritized in different societies at a given time and impact a variety of publics beyond the laboratory.” We believe that neuroscience would benefit greatly from increased input from diverse stakeholders and potential end users. Bidirectional exchange between neuroscientists and different publics can democratize scientific discovery, enabling participation and building trust. Nevertheless, the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscientific discovery remain underexplored and underfunded. Insufficient attention to these questions may create a neuroscience that reveals marvels about the brain but may have limited connections with people beyond academia, representing a lost opportunity to harness the resources, creativity, and wisdom of lived experience that exist across all communities. This is relevant for all areas of science, but perhaps especially so for neuroscience given the brain’s centrality to our understanding of ourselves, our relationships with others, and our broader world.
Neuroscientists, working with scholars in fields such as neuroethics, science and technology studies, and the law, have conducted important work identifying and critiquing various issues raised by advances in neurosciences. A consistent theme that has emerged from this literature is the need for integrating other disciplines, like ethics, with neuroscience: “without ethics integration, neuroscience and neuroscientists might overlook fundamental ethical and social dimensions of the complex phenomena they seek to understand.” Nevertheless, there is insufficient evidence of successful transdisciplinary collaboration outside of a few anecdotal examples. Furthermore, much of the early work considering societal implications has focused on speculative technologies rather than questions around how neuroscience is impacting people in the here and now. Finally, despite carefully developed ethical guidelines and recommendations, few have been widely adopted by researchers and innovators. Taken together, there is both a need for and opportunity in reimagining how neuroscience is conducted.
Neuroscience & Society
The Dana Foundation’s new vision is brain science for a better future. To accomplish this goal, the Foundation is funding programs under the banner of Neuroscience & Society, or how neuroscience both informs and reflects society. Neuroscience informing society means that science discovery and technology can create new knowledge, generate solutions to societal issues, improve education, and increase the quality of life. Neuroscience reflecting society means that there is public deliberation on what knowledge is being sought and how it is used to create new technologies. This deliberation includes an assessment of the promise and risks associated with adoption and use of neurotechnology and invites public audiences into the process of envisioning and creating new knowledge in neuroscience and new neurotechnologies.
Neuroscience & Society includes fields where neuroscience interfaces with the world beyond biology and medicine, such as ethics, law, humanities, arts, and public engagement. We aim to advance new neuroscience discoveries and technologies in consideration of societal goals and human values. Our goal is to strengthen neuroscience’s positive role in the world by advancing people and programs at the intersection of fields, and by advancing public engagement on emerging neuroscience and neurotechnology.
We aim to grow a new generation of interdisciplinary experts who shepherd neuroscience and neurotechnology uses for a better world. We anticipate supporting training programs and cross-disciplinary collaborative work, and aim to develop a new cadre of future leaders who deeply consider the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience and neurotechnology.
The Dana Centers for Neuroscience & Society will act as catalytic hubs, spaces where multidisciplinary scholars gather to learn, exchange ideas, and forge collaborations. Interactions should be consistent, organic, and mutually beneficial. The Centers should establish a community where members invite critique but commit to principles such as humility, collaboration, and trust. Center faculty and fellows should engage in multidisciplinary research that furthers the goals of the Foundation.
The Foundation aims to launch a Dana Center in 2023. Each Center will receive a minimum of $1 million per year, with additional funding considered based on expertise, size, and scope. The Foundation will commit to funding the Center for five years, with an option to renew dependent upon outcomes and metrics.
There is no specific requirement for how a Dana Center should be structured. Though we anticipate proposals that envision a traditional academic model, with a Center housed at one institution, we eagerly invite alternative models that can be impactful. This can include, but is not limited to, a central hub with several spokes, multi-institution collaborations, virtual networks, and decentralized partnerships.
See potential program ideas, planning grant details and guidelines in the PDF version of this proposal.
Download all application materials as a .zip file.
 Das J, Forlini C, Porcello D, Rommelfanger K, Salles A, IBI GN. Neuroscience is Ready for Neuroethics Engagement. Available at SSRN 4052730. 2022 Mar 8.
 Moss AU, Li ZR, Rommelfanger KS. Assessing the Perceived Value of Neuroethics Questions and Policy to Neuro-Entrepreneurs. Frontiers in neuroscience. 2021:1303.
 Chiong W. Insiders and outsiders: Lessons for neuroethics from the history of bioethics. AJOB neuroscience. 2020 Jul 2;11(3):155-66.
 Emerging Issues Task Force, International Neuroethics Society. Neuroethics at 15: The current and future environment for neuroethics. AJOB Neuroscience. 2019 Jul 3;10(3):104-10.
 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Gray matters: Integrative approaches for neuroscience, ethics, and society. 2014. Available from: https://repository.library.georgetown.edu/bitstream/handle/10822/709231/Gray%20Matters%20Vol%201.pdf?sequence=1
 Wexler A, Specker Sullivan L. Translational Neuroethics: A Vision for a More Integrated, Inclusive, and Impactful Field. AJOB neuroscience. 2021 Nov 30:1-2.