Roundtables Help Humanize Research Goals in Neurotechnology

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The Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Washington (UW), has been reaching out to the people who stand to directly benefit from their research. CNT’s Practitioner and End-User Roundtable program is a vital forum for users of neurotechnology and their healthcare providers to interact intimately with CNT students and researchers.


Much research done in neurotechnology is in the pursuit of tangible technical objectives to solve problems, but the downstream effects on end-users and those around them are not always fully understood by the researchers. CNT holds these roundtables to engage neurotechnology end-users in meaningful discussion on topics like unmet needs of the field and barriers to technology adoption.


Researchers in many fields can find themselves conducting research in a vacuum of scientific achievements alone. The Center’s unique roundtable sessions are held monthly and serve to expand the perspectives of its members by inviting guest speakers to speak about themselves then participate in conversations and brainstorming.

Guest speakers at roundtables rotate between a diverse set of health-care practitioners and technology end-users, helping to expose students to a wide range of perspectives. Feedback from the more than seventy students participating in this program indicates that meaningful interactions with disabled individuals can be rare, as are the opportunities to hear firsthand accounts of the challenges in their everyday lives.

As a research intern at a previous roundtable commented, "Seeing the end-user and hearing the other side of the story makes you think how you can contribute to it...and advance it in some sort of way. It was nice to hear his perspectives and hear what his daily challenges are and anyone who is paralyzed—what their challenges are—so when you have a research project it is geared to what they want and not what you think they want."