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ethics in science and technology

Edinethics Ltd
View Hill
1 Peinsoraig
Isle of Skye IV51 9YD
Scotland, UK
Tel: +44 (0)8456 444937
Tel: +44 (0)7786 260235
Email: info@edinethics.co.uk
Web: www.edinethics.co.uk


Who are we? : About the Director and Secretary and their work

What are we doing? : Current activities

Democs Card Games

I am currently rebuilding this website in stages; while I am doing this some links may not work temporarily. Please bear with me!

Some Current Ethical Issues:

Genome editing  Rapid developments in a set of techniques collectively known as genome or gene editing have the capacity to revolutionise the field of genetic modification. Genome editing has emerged as a set of powerful scientific tools, which are potentially capable of achieving a range of genetic modifications in plants, animals, micro-organims and even human embryos. In particular the relative ease precision, low cost and wide applicability of CRISPR-Cas9 techniques mean that many of the unfulfilled claims made in the 1990s about genetic modification and gene therapies might now be delivered, and new applications made possible - such as gene editing in food animal production, and 'gene drives' to re-programme the genetic development of an entire variety of living organisms.

But what are the ethical implications? Would it re-open the debate on genetic modification in food crops, and alter its current European perception of ethical and socialunacceptability? In our book Engineering Genesis (Earthscan, 1998) we were among the first to examine the potential of genetic modification and its ethical and social implications. We have also done long-term public engagement work using a Democs card game on the subject.  More on genome editing in animals, crops and humans ...

Cattle Breeding and Genetics

While molecular genetics seeks to open new horizons, developments in traditional selective breeding of cattle and other livestock are also undergoing a slower but far-reaching revolution. Over the last 20 years or so, the increasing understanding of the genome of cattle in particular is leading to new ways of working our how to breed dairy, beef and mixed breeds of cattle, not only for improved yields of milk or beef products, but much wider aspects of animal health and welfare, adaptability to the environment, and increasingly ways to mitigate the natural methane emissions which are a small but significant contributor to climate change. These developments have normally been the work of breeding companies, genetic scientists and farmers, but they also have ethical and social dimensions which are not often discussed.

Edinethics is a partner in the European Commission's BovReg research programme on advanced cattle genomics, our role is in engaging European publics to consider these 'genomic' developments in cattle breeding - what should be its priorities, how can we farm livestock more sustainably and with better animal health, how do we retain and develop local breeds, and so on. To enable this, we are developing a Democs card game on Cattle Breeding for small groups which you can download and play to explored the issues yourself. When the game is ready, we will make it available on this website in the coming months. Watch this space.

Nanomedicine The scope of medicine is being widened by advances made in Nanotechnologies, the capability which scientists are developing to handle matter at ultra-small scales, right down to the level of atoms and molecules, like the constituents living cells. Nano-sized particleshave the potential to show up where cancerous or diseased cells are, and to carry a drug to those affected cells a suitable pharmaceutic drug, with a lot less risk of side effects. It could be used to show the first signs of a disease long before physical symptoms are normally seen. But it also raises ethical and social questions, which need to be addressed alongside the technologies.

Edinethics provided ethical support to medical researchers in the European Commission FP7 NanoAthero project, which is using nanoparticles as the basis to develop clinical methods to detect, and hopefully treat, atherosclerosis, which is a major cause of heart attacks and strokes worldwide. In this project Edinethics created a Democs card game for small groups which you can download and play to explored the issues yourself.

Stem Cells Should we use embryonic stem cells to research therapies for degenerative diseases and treatments for serious injuries? Should we also use them to test future pharmaceutical drugs for toxicity instead of using animals? Do we even need to continue with embryonic stem cells if we can use induced pluripotent cells (iPS) instead? Should we derive sperm from stem cells? Explore some of these complex issues in our Stem Cells pages .

We have also created 2 Democs card games to help people explore the issues in small groups.

Cloning :Although cloning is not the hot issue it was in the 1990's applications from Roslin's ground-breaking research continue.

Human Enhancement : Should humans be made stronger, smarter, longer-lived, etc....? For more, see our Human Enhancement pages. In the EC ETHENTECH Project Edinethics explored one of the most challenging issues of our times, and we invite you to explore the issues yourself with the aid of two specially created tools : A Democs card game for small groups, and an OpenUp! argument map for individual use.

Synthetic Biology is a relatively new field of technology which raises important ethical issues. For more see our Synthetic Biology pages Do you want to know what people are thinking about synthetic biology? Download the report of the first results Playing Games Democs to Explore Synthetic Biology (pdf file)

Democs Card Games : Involving you

Do you want to explore these issues for yourself? Edinethics has worked with Perry Walker, formerly of the New Economics Foundation, for many years, to create Democs card games to help people understand what these new areas of technology are about, and to think about their wider implications. See our pages on Democs Card Games. Send off for a game or download it (it's free) and play it with your friends. On this website you can download games on 

Nanomedicine for Atherosclerosis (EC NanoAthero project)

Stem Cells to Test Medicines for Toxicity (EC ESNATS Project),

Human Enhancement (EC ETHENTECH Project),

Synthetic Biology : a Democs game was created for Edinburgh University's Genomics Forum, but the website is now unavailable - we are trying to relocate this Democs Game on the Edinethics website. Download the report of the results Playing Games Democs to Explore Synthetic Biology

Bioenergy (for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council): Download the Game and the Instructions You may also download this from the BBSRC website

We also hope to have a newly updated game on genetically modified crops soon.

Edinethics Ltd., Scottish Registered Company 323601   
Managing Director : Dr Donald Bruce PhD (Chem), PhD (Theol), BSc, DipTh, FRSA
Company Secretary : Dr Ann Bruce PhD, MSc, BSc

    Edinethics Ltd is an independent consultancy set up in May 2007 to provide technically informed and balanced assessments of ethical and social issues in current and future technologies.

    Edinethics offers a unique expertise in an extensive range of subjects in human and non-human biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy and environment. Its Managing Director, Dr Donald Bruce, is a recognised expert in many of these fields, and was formerly director of the Society, Religion and Technology Project SRT of the Church of Scotland from 1992-2007.

    Edinethics seeks to be a respected voice in relevant areas of policy making, regulation and opinion forming, nationally, in Europe and the wider global context. This website not only tells you about our current work but we invite you to explore useful briefing material giving informed opinion and on a wide range issues, which we will be adding to this site.