The British Science Association wants to empower many more people – not just scientists – to constructively engage in debates over science’s role in their lives, their local economy, and the UK’s future.

To make sure these conversations are happening at a local level, we are working with our branches and other organisations on our Future Debates series, to run debates across the country. We want to find out what people think of a big issue in science and technology that could potentially have a significant impact on our society. Each year, Future Debates will focus on a particular issue.

The current series of Future Debates (Spring/Summer 2016) are about Genome Data Privacy. You can find out about events happening near you or apply to host an event.

Our topic for winter 2015/16 was Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS).

The flagship Future Debate, was held in London on March 16, and was recorded.

You can view the full debate from our YouTube channel below:

Watch the short animation below to find out more about how robotics and autonomous systems impact our lives.

    Past events

    Robotic and Autonomous Systems

    Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) are technologies that can perform actions without human guidance. These robots can have various degrees of autonomy, from completing a repetitive task in a fixed and predictable environment to gathering information about different situations and deciding on the best course of action.

    Recent developments have thrust a wide range of new technologies and potential applications into the spotlight. These include advances in artificial intelligence, machine vision and physical movement technologies that are being combined to approach a wide variety of issues.

    This topic is explored in more depth in our topic notes, which also contain ideas for debate motions.

    Organise your own debate

    We have produced topic notes on Robotic and Autonomous Systems. These explore the topic in more depth, and provide suggestions for topic angles and debate motions.

    Download the topic notes

    As part of the Policy Networks project we ran last year, we created a downloadable Debate Pack, containing information on how to run debates of different styles. The pack also contains topic sheets from last year's policy debates - please note that your debate topic must relate to RAS in order to qualify for funding.

    Download the Debate Pack

    We have also created a downloadable speaker invitation template that organisers can use to invite experts to speak at their debates.

    Download the speaker invitation template

    Additional resources

    Audience invite template
    Budget spreadsheet template
    BSA logo pack

    Whether you're just considering running a debate or have one planned, please get in touch. We can help you find experts and can help publicise your debate. Please email for more information.

    The British Science Association wants to empower more people to constructively engage in debates over science’s role in their lives and in the UK’s future. We hope that you will join us!

    Thank you to our partners

    We are grateful to the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills and Lloyd's Register Foundation for supporting the current series of Future Debates.