2020 "Neuroethics (ELSA)"

Preliminary Announcement


Call for Proposals for

Multinational Research Projects on

Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects (ELSA) of Neuroscience



The ERA-Net 'Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research' (NEURON) has been established to coordinate the research efforts and funding programmes of European countries, Israel, and Canada in the field of disease-related neuroscience. In acknowledgement of the high societal relevance of neuroscientific research, the following funding organizations intend to open a joint transnational call under the umbrella of NEURON for funding multilateral research projects in the field of ethical, legal, and social aspects (ELSA) of Neuroscience:

The following funding organizations intend to fund the present joint call for multinational research projects. Participating funding organizations will be published in the call text.


  • Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique -FNRS (F.R.S.-FNRS), Belgium
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA), Canada
  • Fonds de Recherche du Quebec – Sante (FRQS), Canada
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany
  • State Education Development Agency (VIAA), Latvia
  • Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), Portugal*
  • National Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCIII), Spain
  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Switzerland
* decision on participation pending

1. Aim of the call

The aim of the call is to facilitate multinational, collaborative research projects that will address important questions regarding ethical, philosophical, legal and socio-cultural aspects related to the neurosciences and their recent advances.

Subjects under this general heading include but are not limited to:

a)     the consequences of the development of neuroscientific diagnostic methods (e.g. handling of incidental findings; the “right not to know”; very early disease prediction before symptoms occur; diagnosis in absence of treatment options; interactions between socio-culturally diverse patients and health personnel; availability of novel expensive methods)

b)    clinical research with patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric diseases (e.g. developing tools to improve the assessment of decision-making capacity of patients, analysis of legal measures to protect those who do not have the capacity to consent)

c)     intelligent technologies and close human-machine interaction (e.g. Ambient Assisted Living, Brain-Computer Interfaces, machine learning); personality changes as side effects of neurological or psychiatric therapies (e.g. Deep Brain Stimulation; brain implants)

d)    use of brain data; biobanking of neural tissue (e.g. tissue donation, deceased donor, data protection, possible consequences for relatives)

e)     brain interventions in legal contexts (e.g. “brain reading” for the detection of deception; brain intervention of offenders; psychosurgery; insurance law)

f)     the impact of modern neuroscience on traditional philosophical questions, concepts and theories regarding fundamental aspects of human nature (e.g. the relationship between mind and brain, the nature of consciousness, self- and personal identity, free will)

g)    neuroenhancement such as alteration of mental states (cognitive, affective) and abilities (e.g. cognition, sleep, appetite, sexual behaviour) in healthy subjects by pharmacological or by electrical/magnetic brain stimulation

h)     abnormal behaviour reduced to deviant brain states (e.g. expansion of the concept of neurotypical brain and  illness; seeing psychiatric symptoms merely as specific neurochemical imbalances)

i)      societal and cultural changes induced by neuroscientific knowledge and its application

The individual components of joint applications should be complementary and should contain novel, ambitious ideas to answer key questions or lead to a step-wise change in understanding. There should be clear added value in funding the collaboration over the individual projects.

All scientific disciplines and stakeholders, which are relevant for the specific ELSA-research question, should be integrated. This could be for instance experts from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, medicine, informatics, engineering, philosophy, theology, law, social sciences, cultural studies or healthcare economy. Depending on the research question, it may also be necessary to integrate (pharmaceutical) industry, health insurances, patients, relatives, patient representatives or other groups of persons who are directly affected.

Projects should go beyond purely analytical or descriptive levels related to the past or present. Based on their analyses, the applicants should aim at giving prospects for the future and developing proposals for socio-compatible use of neuroscientific advances. Additionally, the applicants should develop and implement concepts for effective public communication of their results. Communication of the results on an international level is desirable.

The ERA-NET NEURON seeks to strengthen public and patient engagement in research and thereby empowerment. Applicants are expected to engage citizens and/or patients, where appropriate, in their research process. Meaningful public and patient engagement can occur at the level of research planning, conducting research or research result dissemination.

No empirical neuroscientific or biomedical research can be funded in this call.


2. General conditions for application

Joint transnational research proposals may be submitted by research teams working in universities (or other higher education institutions), non-university public research institutes, hospitals and other health care settings, as well as in commercial companies, particularly small and medium-size enterprises. The eligibility of the afore-mentioned institutions, together with details of eligible costs (e.g., personnel, material, consumables, travel money, investments), are subject to the administrative requirements of individual funding organizations and will therefore differ. Please note that, for some funding organizations, commercial companies are not eligible or are only eligible under certain conditions (e.g., only in partnership with academic institutions in the consortium). Clarification should be obtained from the individual funding agencies (see contact details below). It is advised to read carefully all national annexes regarding eligibility and funding by the respective funding agencies. Compliance with the national/regional regulations specified in the country specific information is mandatory.

Only transnational projects will be funded. Each consortium submitting a proposal must be comprised of a minimum of two research groups from two different countries eligible for funding by organizations listed in this call text (see above). The total number of research groups in a consortium must not exceed five. Not more than two research groups can be from the same country. Therefore, the maximum number of countries involved in one consortium is five.

Research groups not eligible to their national funding organizations or from countries which are not involved in this call may participate in projects only if their participation clearly provides an added value to the consortium and if they present evidence on secured budget for their part in the project. Such potential partners are not considered in the minimum number of two research groups mentioned above. In any case, the total number of research groups in one consortium must not exceed five. 

Each consortium should have the critical mass to achieve ambitious scientific goals and should clearly demonstrate added value from working together. Each project must nominate a project coordinator who represents the consortium externally and is responsible for its internal management (e.g. application, consortium agreement, reporting, etc.). The consortium coordinator must be eligible for funding by one of the organizations listed in this call text. 

A single application must be submitted by the consortium coordinator to ELSA Neurosciences Joint Call Secretariat. The individual research groups will be funded by the NEURON funding organization(s) of their respective countries. Eligibility criteria are the matter of individual partner funding organizations.

Inclusion of a partner in a proposal who is not eligible for funding according to the specific regulations of their respective funding organization may result in the rejection of the entire proposal without further review. Therefore, applicants are strongly advised to follow the instructions contained in the country-specific eligibility tables which are published on the NEURON website and to contact their national/regional funding organization to confirm eligibility before submitting an application. 

There will be a one-stage procedure for joint applications. One joint proposal document (in English) shall be prepared by the partners of a joint transnational proposal, and must be submitted to the ELSA Joint Call Secretariat by one spokesperson, the coordinator, through the electronic submitting system exclusively. A link to access to submission system as well as the proposal template will be published together with the call text.


3. Timetable

The call is scheduled to open on January 8, 2020.

The deadline for submitting the proposals is scheduled for April 28, 2020, 14:00 CET.

An international Peer Review Panel will evaluate the proposals and establish a ranking list of the fundable proposals by scientific assessment. Based on this ranking list the Call Steering Committee will determine the projects to be funded. Based on these recommendations, final decisions will be made by the funding agencies and will be subject to budgetary considerations.

Funding is expected to start early in 2021.