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The Dynamics of Constructive Deliberation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DYCODE (The Dynamics of Constructive Deliberation)

Reporting period: 2018-08-15 to 2020-08-14

Collective decisions are pervasive in every aspect of our society. As shown by Brexit and other recent episodes in European national politics, the way we shape our collective decisions can have far-reaching implications. However, even though there is a vast literature on the aggregation and revision of preferences in and by groups, there are no exact mathematical models of the way groups construct and revise a given decision problem – a process I call constructive deliberation. Getting grip on this political “logic of discovery” is a necessary step towards a suitable combination of information technology with various forms of direct democracy.

The aim of the project DYCODE – The Dynamics of Constructive Deliberation – was to develop a formal theory of constructive deliberation. This way, the project was expected to complement existing work on collective decision-making, which is in turn necessary for the improvement of democratic processes. In combination with specific training, dissemination, and communication actions, the project was also expected to contribute to my personal development, serving my long-term aim to obtain a permanent position as a researcher.

The project was subdivided into five work packages. Three of these concerned original, novel research related to constructive deliberation. In particular, they focus on:
• Logical specifications of individual constructive deliberation based on static information (WP1)
• The role of information dynamics in constructive deliberation (WP2)
• Multi-agent and agent-based models of strategic, cooperative, and interactive constructive deliberation (WP3)

The fourth work package dealt with training and career development, and the fifth with outreach, dissemination, and communication activities. These two WP's were both relevant for the scientific research of the project, and for enhancing my personal career possibilities as a researcher.
"I first give a sketch of the work carried out in terms of *scientific research* (WP1-WP3). This can be roughly spelled out in terms of three research lines:

(i) Work on reasoning about multiple attitudes and their aggregation. Together with Dominik Klein, I developed and studied logical systems in which one can express claims about goals, norms, preferences, etc. of agents, and study the way those attitudes can be combined by so-called ""information pooling"". This work resulted in two joint journal articles of which I am first author. One of these two articles has been accepted for publication in Studia Logica, one of the best journals in philosophical logic. A second article is currently under revision. In this research line, we studied both the static aspects of pooling modalities (cf. WP1) and the dynamic aspects (cf. WP2).

(ii) Work on deontic logic, in particular, conflict-tolerant deontic logics and multi-agent deontic logic. Conflict-tolerant deontic logics are relatively new, non-standard systems that can accomodate conflicting information concerning norms. They are relevant to the DYCODE project in the sense that constructive deliberation often consists in reasoning about and with conflicting constraints on the decision. In this context, I worked on conflict-tolerant adaptive deontic logics together with Joke Meheus and Mathieu Beirlaen. We published a survey article on this in the Ifcolog Journal of Logics and their Applications (open access). Multi-agent deontic logics allow us to consider constraints that are imposed on the decision by multiple agents, and to study how the proposals, options, or actions of distinct agents can be combined to form proposals, options, or actions at the group level. With Thijs De Coninck, a joint paper was accepted for publication in the DEON2020/2021 proceedings. This paper covers both static aspects of Multi-agent deontic logic (cf. WP1) and dynamic aspects due to changing perspectives on preferences (cf. WP2). We are currently working on a journal version of this paper.

(iii) In joint work with Allard Tamminga (University of Greifswald) and Hein Duijf (Free University of Amsterdam) I studied logics of individual and collective admissibility. This work relates to the DYCODE project in that it concerns the way options (actions) for a group can be defined from options (actions) for individuals, and the way a generally agreed upon normative code applies to group vs. individual options (actions). We wrote two journal articles falling within this research line. The first has meanwhile been published online (open access) with Synthese (a top journal in analytic philosophy). The second article is still under review.

For the third work package, I was not able to achieve the central objective of developing agent-based models of constructive deliberation (due to various circumstances). I did do preparatory work on such agent-based models (literature survey and in-depth study of existing models), work which I am sure will be useful in future work and provided inspiration for two grant applications.

For the fourth work package I was involved in a broad range of training activities, beside training-through research: a gender debiasing training; intensive German language course; training on presentation skills; advanced coursework in Game Theory; self-study of Dynamic Epistemic Logic.

Finally, for the fifth work package I did a number of things: (i) I created a ResearchGate page and a personal website in which I advertise my research and outreach activities; (ii) I gave invited lectures and contributed talks on my research and my experience as an MSCA-IF applicant; (iii) I created course material for high school teachers on social choice theory, deliberation, and democracy; (iv) I co-organized a lecture series on collective decision-making, co-chaired two international conferences (the DEON2020/2021 conference and Formal Ethics 2019), and two workshops. I was also co-chair of an outreach event ""Democratie van de Toekomst"" (""Democracy of the Future"") which was supposed to take place in April 2020, but got postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
The project's main impact can be summarized as follows:

- it contributed to the development of philosophical logic and the theory of collective decision-making, by developing and studying new formal systems according to state of the art methodology. This resulted in various publications in international, peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.

- By training-through-research, specific training activities, and co-organizing various events I vastly expanded my international network, broadened my background, and strengthened my CV in multiple ways.

- My outreach activities contribute to a better integration of scientific (theoretical) work on collective decision-making and democracy on the one hand, and the broad public on the other. Moreover, the lecture series I organized made for fruitful interaction between scholars in computer science, philosophy, and economics.

As a witness of the third point, I attach a picture that shows Philip Pettit (on of today's most well-known analytic philosophers) discussing with two students of the University of Bayreuth, after he gave a lecture in the DYCODE lecture series. This is but one example of the way DYCODE has managed to connect experts and lay persons, across different domains and internationally, in a joint endeavour to learn more about the dynamics of constructive deliberation.