Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Debating Science Issues Competition (DSI) at RCSI

DSI 2015 winners, judges & co-ordinaters 

The 2015 DSI competition winners from St Vincent's Secondary School, Dundalk with DSI co-ordinaters and judges

Debating Science Issues is a dynamic debating competition which invites young people to engage in debate on the cultural, societal and ethical implications of advances in biomedical science. 


RCSI is one of nine research, medical and science centres coordinating the project on the island of Ireland. The programme is coordinated in RCSI by Dr. Maria Morgan, Molecular & Cellular Therapeutics (MCT) and Maria Kelly, REACH RCSI Programme Manager. DSI Competition is open to senior cycle secondary school students in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and participating schools have the opportunity to avail of a 3-hour interactive student workshop on biomedical science before the debating competition begins. 

Short highlight video 


Objectives of the DSI competition  

  • Encourage young people to take an active interest in biomedical science and to engage with contemporary research;
  • Facilitate discussion amongst young people on the advances in the biomedical field and the societal and ethical impact of this research;
  • Stimulate young people to think differently about biomedical science, as they discover the immense impact it has on society and to consider a career or education in this field;
  • Expose students and teachers not normally involved in the traditional sciences to the area of biomedical science;
  • Generate awareness of biomedical research within the broader school community

Debates cover the following biomedical topics:

  • Stem cell research
  • Health and self-testing
  • Vaccinations against seasonal and pandemic flu
  • Genetically modified food
  • Nanotechnology
  • Rare diseases
  • Organ transplantation
  • Treatment of lifestyle disease

Feedback from participating teachers:

"The competition provided a great opportunity for students to expand their communication and scientific skills. The fact that the students can link it to everyday societal changes gives it an edge:" 


DSI 2014/2015 competition

 RCSI mentored four schools in 2014/2015:

  • Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount, Dublin 8
  • CBS Westland Row, Dublin 2
  • Drimnagh Castle, Dublin 12
  • Marian College, Dublin 4
To prepare for the Round 1 debates, RCSI visited each school and facilitated an interactive workshop on Vaccinations against Seasonal and Pandemic Flu.


RCSI Round 1: November 13th 2014

The Motion: This house proposes that the entire population should be immunised against seasonal flu and potentially pandemic animal influenzas such as swine flu.

  • Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount (for) vs. CBS Westland Row (against)
  • Drimnagh Castle (for) vs. Marian College (against)

After Round 1, Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount and Marian College progressed to Round 2.


RCSI Final: December 5th 2014

The Motion: This house proposes that Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs) are a significant benefit to human health. 

  • Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount (for) vs. Marian College (against)

 Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount defeated Marian College and won the RCSI rounds overall. They progressed to the DSI Leinster Semi-Finals where they met the victors of the DCU rounds.


Leinster Semi-Final: March 4th 2015

The Motion: This house proposes that the potential benefits of using embryonic stem cells to develop new medical treatments mean we have a moral obligation to support this type of research.

  • Avondale Community College, Rathdrum (for)(BDI/DCU) vs Presentation Secondary School, Warrenmount (against)(RCSI)

RCSI champions Warrenmount faced Avondale Community College from Rathdrum, Wicklow who were representing BDI (DCU). After a well-fought round with strong arguments from both sides, Avondale were declared the winners of the first Leinster semi-final. Avondale went on to face the winners of AMBER (TCD) vs. Insight (UCD) in the DSI Leinster final.

DSI Leinster Final 2015

Staff and students from Warrenmount Presentation Secondary School and Avondale Community College with REACH RCSI Programme Manager Maria Kelly (far left) and Dr Maria Morgan, Molecular & Cellular Therapeutics (MCT) (far right) with the Leinster Semi-Final judges.


All Ireland Semi-Finals and Final: April 29th 2015

The 2015 All-Ireland Debating Science Issues (DSI) Competition Final was once again hosted by RCSI. The event was sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), through its education and outreach programme SFI Discover.

All corners of the country were represented at the competition with St. Vincent's Secondary School, Dundalk, Co. Louth, Our Lady & St Patrick's College, Belfast, Co Antrim, Ballinrobe Community School, Co. Mayo and Clonakilty Community School, Co. Cork all competing to become the All-Ireland champions.

Judges on the day were Prof. Fergal O'Brien, RCSI; Alicia O' Rourke, ECRI; Prof. Anne Marie Healy, TCD; Dr. Jill McMahon, NUI Galway; Dr Padraig Murphy, DCU; Dr Garry Duffy, RCSI; Brian Cummins, Health Research Board; Margie McCarthy, Science Foundation Ireland; Mr Lars Nolke (RCSI graduate), Cardiothoracic Surgeon specialising in Heart Lung Transplant Surgery & Grown Up Congenital heart disease; Prof. Cormac Taylor, University College Dublin.

DSI 2015 finals in the Albert Lecture Theatre, RCSI

The 2015 DSI All-Ireland Semi-Finals and Finals taking place in the Albert Lecture Theatre, RCSI. 


Semi-Finals motion: This house proposes that the potential benefits of using embryonic stem cells to develop new medical treatments mean we have a moral obligation to support this type of research.

Connaught champions Ballinrobe Community School took on Munster champions Clonakilty Community College in the first semi-final, with the latter opposing the motion. This was followed by the second semi-final which saw St. Vincent's Secondary School proposing the motion and facing Our Lady's & St. Patrick's College (Leinster vs. Ulster). After the closely fought semi-finals, St. Vincent's Secondary School and Clonakilty Community College progressed to the All-Ireland Final.


All-Ireland Final motion: An organ transplantation allocation system that considers only factors associated with individual medical need is a more ethically acceptable method for distributing a scarce resource than a system that also considers factors associated with the patients' contribution to society.

St Vincent's Secondary School debated with Clonakilty Community College on the issues involved with transplant systems, particularly in Ireland. St Vincent's debated in favour of the motion, asserting that waiting lists should be based on medical need only, while Clonakilty CC argued that other issues should also influence a place on a waiting list. After both teams listed their well-researched opinions and engaged with questions from the judges and the audience, the team representing St. Vincent's was declared the overall winner of the Debating Science Issues 2015 competition.

DSI 2015 winners St. Vincent's Secondary School, Dundalk

DSI 2015 winners from St Vincent's Secondary School, Dundalk.


The overview of all the motions, debate rounds and participating schools of the 2014/2015 DSI competition can be found here on the DSI website.