ethics in science and technology


Science Engaging with Society

Many emerging technologies raise ethical and social issues and it's now widely acknowledged that we need to discuss these together as a society, especially in sensitive areas like food, health, genetics, environment and energy. Part of the business of developing new technologies means engaging with ordinary people, not merely as buyers of products in the supermarket, but as citizens who wish to engage with the process of development. The GM food crisis showed what may happen if public are offered products without considering their ethical views, concerns and choices. But how do we do this when these may involve new and very technical scientific ideas, unfamilar to most people who are not scientists in that field - questions like nanotechnology, genome editing, synthetic biology or human enhancement?

Since 2001 we have been developing Democs card games for engaging groups of citizens to think about new technologies which could impact their lives, about which they might want a say. We've done this in close collaboration with Perry Walker, who first developed Democs concept with the New Economics Foundation. We also worked with Perry to help create the first Open-up Argument maps, designed for individual users, on human enhancement and on animals in medical research.  

Democs Card Games

Democs (DEliberative Meetings Of CitizenS)  which have been made for a wide variety of issues from cloning to climate change, since the original project on stem cells in 2001, on which Edinethics director Donald Bruce was one of the consultants. He has since written or co-authored games on the following subjects, many of which can be downloaded free fromthis or other sites.

.    To find out more about the idea of Democs games see What is Democs? and How does a Democs Game Work?

  • Cattle Breeding - What should we do next? (for the EC Horizon2020 project BovReg) Download the Game.
  • Nanomedicine for Atherosclerosis (for the EC FP7 project NanoAthero). Download the Game.
  • Human enhancement (for the EC FP7 project ETHENTECH). Download the Game.
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells to Test Medicines for Toxicity (for the EC FP7 project ESNATS). Download the Game.
  • Biofuels, funded by the Biotechnology Research Council (BBSRC). Download the Game and the Instructions You may also download this from the BBSRC website
  • The original Democs game on Stem Cells and Cloning for Therapy and Regenerative medicine, now in its 4th revision, will be available in a downloadable version soon.
  • GM food : an updated version of the game created for the 2003 GM Nation? UK public consultation, will be available in a downloadable version soon.
  • Synthetic Biology : a Democs game was created for Edinburgh University's Genomics Forum with funding from the Scottish Government, but the website is now unavailable - we are trying to relocate this Democs Game on the Edinethics website. Download pdf files of the report of the results Playing Games Democs to Explore Synthetic Biology or a Summary report on Playing Games Democs to Explore Synthetic Biology (pdf file)
  • Nanobiotechnologies : a game produced for the EC FP6 NanoBio-Raise programme was revised as the Nanomedicine for Atherosclerosis game in the FP7 NanoAthero project.
  • Download some games designed specially for schools on the New Economics Foundation website - including animal experiments, climate change, GM food, neuroscience  and stem cells
  • A wider selection of games is available for downloading in many European languages on the EC-funded Play Decide website.

Advice on making up the game kit from the download:  We find light white card of 120 - 160 gsm weight is easier for players to handle than ordinary paper. Check what your printer can handle. There's quite a lot of cutting up to do. A guillotine may help.   It will help a lot to read the instruction booklet to get the idea of what's entailed in playing the game. Then go for it!

Play the Game!

We are looking for groups of 6-8 people to play Democs games on human enhancement. Absolutely no expert knowledge is required - indeed that's the whole point! Would you be interested? If so email us at Edinethics.

Open Up!

Open Up! began as a new way of exploring issues in the form of a 'Argument Map'. It's a sheet of A3 paper folded up. As you open it up, you learn about the issue, read some case study stories about it.

Finally you reach a map in which you trace your way through sets of questions which have been written to help you think about the implications of the technology. And you can write your comments, and if you want, vote on a sliding scale : Yes- Maybe-Not sure-Don't think so-No.

  • Download the Open  Up! argument map on human enhancement (pdf file).
  • Download the Open  Up! argument map on animals in medical research (pdf file).
  • Open Up On-line Website : After these initial paper-based argument maps, Perry Walker has developed the concept much further as an on-line tool, which you can explore on the Open Up website on such wide-ranging issues as Immigration Policy, Brexit and Driverless Cars.

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