Transformative agents of change and investigative neurotechnologies: A qualitative study of psychedelic technology identities

Michaela Barber, John Gardner, Adrian Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Clinical and basic science research with psychedelics is a nascent but rapidly growing field. Historically, psychedelics research has faced setbacks due to overenthusiasm, methodological challenges, and conflicting worldviews. This can in part be attributed to the dual heritages of spiritualism and science that ground western psychedelic use. Through semi-structured interviews with Australian researchers, we explore how issues of ontological conflict are playing out in contemporary research, using the analytical frame of promissory technology identities. We illustrate two identities currently at play that are invoked and negotiated by researchers: psychedelics as transformative agents of change and as investigational neurotechnologies. We argue that these identities represent differing ontological heritages in psychedelics research and may affect the design, interpretation and translation of clinical and neuroscientific psychedelics research. These identities exist in compromise, though not without tensions that may rupture or resolve as the field matures, such as priorisation of clinical research versus basic or preclinical research, Researchers appear sensitive to a need to pragmatically deploy both identities in order to engage the diverse stakeholders required for research and translation. This paper both provides a case study of promissory technology identities, and demonstraties the concept's usefulness as a framework for understanding the social factors that affect the production, communication and reception of evidence in the development of novel technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100202
Number of pages9
JournalSSM - Qualitative Research in Health
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Innovation
  • Mental health treatment
  • Psychedelics
  • Qualitative methodology

Cite this