Unintended Consequences Research Project Unintended Consequences Research Project

More about the Unintended Consequences project

At The Brain Dialogue, we’ve spent time talking with people who use electrical brain stimulation devices at home to improve how their brain works or how they feel, to treat mental health disorders, or as “citizen scientists” interested in how the brain works.

The brain stimulation devices they use are legal, and can be bought online, or even built. However, how well these devices work (and to a lesser extent, how safe they are) is debated.

People who use electrical brain stimulation devices at home have told us that they use scientific research papers for inspiration and guidance on how to use their devices. However, these scientific papers are written for scientists, and it is unclear how useful the information they contain is to non-specialists, or whether it may inadvertently mislead them.

What we do know is that scientific papers are increasingly easy to access online. This is in large part due to the global trend towards “open access” scientific publishing, in which articles are made freely available online.

Open access publishing is usually seen as a societal good, a way to stimulate innovation and discovery. Many science funding organisations — including the Australian Research Council, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, The Wellcome Trust in the UK, and the US National Institutes of Health — ask that the research they support be published open access. Another trend that is making it easier for people to access scientific papers is file-sharing sites such as Research Gate, and pirating sites such as SciHub.

We want to explore the consequences of this partial access in which scientific papers are physically available to a diverse range of readers, but still written in a language and style intended for a highly-trained scientific audience.  As a first case study, we are surveying and interviewing home users of electrical brain stimulation devices. We will follow up with case studies on other groups of non-scientists who use scientific literature.

Our findings will help improve how scientific knowledge is shared.

The Unintended Consequences project is funded by Monash University.

Want to Participate?

If you are someone who has used, or is using, electrical brain stimulation devices at home, and you are interested in participating in this study, please click here.

information for participants