Learning to deal with genes and learning

Strategies for implementing a broadly supported agenda on neurogenomics research in the domain of learning and education


1. Mapping the dynamics of the neurogenomics field 

  • a. T o what extent can we identify –in the academic literature - an emerging scientific field of neurogenomics?
  • b. What visions are currently being articulated within this field and within society, and what are the characteristics of these visions?
  • c. What constitutes the current neurogenomics research agenda?
  • d. What indicators of societal susceptibility can we find in this research agenda? 

2. Toward desirable designs for neurogenomics 

  • a. Which stakeholders should be included in the network that is engaged in research agenda setting?
  • b. What are the technological, economics, ethical, legal and social aspects of neurogenomics applications?
  • c. To what extent do innovations in neurogenomics address societal needs?
  • d. What are the shared future visions, quick wins, and contested visions between researchers and societal groups?
  • e. Which actions should be undertaken in neurogenomics research to contribute to an appropriate embedding of its applications in the healthcare, education and judicial sector?
  • f. What is the additional value of a science-society dialogue and the specific methodology?

Duration: March 2010 - present

The combined use of genomics and neuroimaging is enabling us to increasingly understand the link between DNA, brains and behaviour. This yields entirely new possibilities in the fields of healthcare, law enforcement and education. 

This project focuses primarily on education. What would the effect be if genomics and neuroimaging were to enable us in the future to establish a person’s mental capabilities, or if we were able to predict the areas in which a person would encounter learning difficulties? The ability to determine such matters would open the way to personalised learning, although it would also entail the risk of exclusion and stigmatisation. And how might teaching staff handle such sensitive student data?

The researchers involved in this project closer examine the predictive properties of such tests. When will they be good enough to be put into practice? And what would the repercussions be if they were to be used before they had been perfected to such levels?

The researchers are to seek answers to such questions by organising interviews between experts and focus groups on the one hand and teachers, parents and students on the other. They also aim to establish the extent to which neurogenomics scientists take the wishes and concerns of society in general into consideration. Are they performing the type of research that stakeholders such as educational institutions and teachers consider worthwhile? The ultimate objective of this study is to establish and perpetuate dialogue between the parties involved, in addition to a view to promoting adequate exchange of both knowledge and expectations in the future.