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Democs Card Game or Ethics Summary
During our project we had a meeting with Dr Donald Bruce from Edinethics. He was a great guy because we... played a game with him, which was amazing.

The game we played was DEMOCS Card Game developed by Donald and others. The main aim of this game is to introduce public issues to people not very knowledgeable in the concepts and ideas of science. For example, this game is meant to be played in the pub by a group of people from different backgrounds, ages, and education level. They try to get a group of people together who all know each other, for example members of a volleyball club. By playing this game players gain knowledge about previously unknown things and scientific areas, for example synthetic biology, and exchange opinions with each other concerning ethical issues related to the game topic.

The game consists of set of cards. Each card represents a fictional story which describes a very common and real situation in the topic discussed (see flash object for better understanding). The text is read aloud to the group, the players begin their discussion, where players can actively exchange their opinions about possible outcomes and/or underlying reasons of the situation described in the card. After all cards have been read and discussed, players fill in a small survey, which shows their current attitude to the topic discussed during the game. Further to this the stories could be divided between the group and they could be asked to do some research into the topic and then present a short talk.

Our Team and DEMOCS

We were beta testing a set of DEMOCS concerning Synthetic Biology. The card texts were very good because they represented the actual ethic problems around the field of Synthetic Biology. It was clear that we all have very different opinions about the ethical underlying issues concerning each card even though we are one team.

After we played the game, the team decided that if we implemented an online version of the DEMOCS card game it could be shown to a wider audience. The idea is great because such a simple but effective concept, as presented to the world by DEMOCS card game, is the perfect foundation for an online interactive visual application. We started to develop this idea, but it turned out that this idea is much more global then we could expect and we didn't have enough programming resources to implement even 5% of the project in 10 weeks. We decided to stop with small flash element which represents one of lots possible implementations of cards concept.

This is a very buggy version but it shows the concepts of the cards implemented online. After you click the card you will see the story text and two opinions written by our team members. Division of opinions as Pro and Contra are very relative. To the each opinion we added one point, namely "Question", which shows that this opinion is not the absolute truth and there are things to think about. In the proper implementation all the opinions should be loaded dynamically depending on the choice of the user. For example, I might want to see thoughts of people about ethical side of patenting new scientific discoveries which might have a huge impact on the community. I doubt whether I am doing things in the best possible way and why not to listen to other people's opinions?

Before you interact with this flash object, click FULLSCREEN button or use this flash object through direct link.
We think that in future, this project might turn out as a very huge achievement for the iGEM community when it is properly implemented. Edinburgh University iGEM Team 2009 has already discussed with their supervisors about this project idea and implementation of this project might become a big part of Edinburgh University iGEM Team 2010 entry. Moreover because of the huge amount of work required to implement this idea, it could be split between several teams, very much in the spirit of iGEM.

How do we see DEMOCS implementation?

The main strength of this game is in the discussion of the players, so implementation mainly should concern ways of users' interactions. Users' interactions should be divided at least into two layers:

* moment-interaction, something that is close to live chat, where small groups of people (say, up to 10 people) can chat with each other and discuss topics
* forum interaction, which might be a simple conventional forum that gives to users opportunity to prepare some research about given topics.

Discussion is great but the second main strength which would become obvious after some time when the project gets enough material to work with, will be conclusions and results which could be done based on users' information and opinions left during their discussions. By applying machine learning algorithms and other approaches, users such as scientists would be able to make important conclusions about the ethical sides of their work.

Our team feels very sad that we didn't have enough time to start working properly on such a great idea, but at least we are able to give a direction to future generations of iGEMers.
Edinburgh University iGEM Team 2009