The British Science Association (BSA) have today announced the full list of Scientific Section Presidents for 2021. Since the foundation of the British Science Festival, the BSA’s Sections have played a crucial role in both developing Festival content and advising on the most relevant topics in their subject areas - shaping our Festival programme each year.

Comprised of science professionals, the 17 Scientific Sections contribute to the Festival’s events and arrange activities such as talks, installations and debates, encompassing all topics: from the physical, natural and social sciences to history and science & the arts.

Each year, the Sections nominate an individual who has made a significant contribution to their scientific field for Presidency of the Section. They are also invited to give their Presidential Address at the British Science Festival in September to mark the start of this role. The Scientific Section Presidents for 2021 are:

Presidential Address - Energy, power and empowerment

What does your energy have to do with justice and democracy?

  • Science and The Arts: Katy Barrett from the Science Museum

Presidential Address - Art at the heart of science

Delve into what impact, throughout history, painting, sculpture, drawing and photography have had in public conversations around changing ideas.

Presidential Address - Overcoming the digital divide

Explore how and why, globally, connectivity is becoming an essential utility and the technology that is being developed to overcome society’s digital divide.

Presidential Address - Stopping the AI-pocalypse

How do you prevent Artificial Intelligence (AI) from taking over the world?

Presidential Address - The dark side of the Universe               

The majority of the Universe is shrouded in mystery. Discover how Einstein’s theory of general relativity allows us to see the invisible and explore the true nature of the dark side of our Universe.

  • Psychology: Elena Lieven from the University of Manchester

Presidential Address - Baby talk

We are told that the easiest time to learn a language is when we’re young. But why is this the case, and can our upbringing influence our ability to become a master linguist?

Presidential Address - Climate change on ice

Discover what studying climate change at the poles can tell us about our near future.

  • Biological Sciences: Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia

Presidential Address - Getting the most from food

For thousands of years, humans have bred crops to our preferred shape, size and flavour. But to what degree can we alter our foods to maximise their health benefits?

  • Agriculture and Food: Lisa Collins from the University of Leeds

Presidential Address - 2051: A food odyssey

Take a journey through time, from the windswept marshes of the past to the technology-filled skies of the future, to consider what shape our agricultural landscape might take in 2051.

  • Archaeology and Anthropology: Joy Hendry from Oxford Brookes University

Presidential Address - Indigenous wisdom

Examine science through the lens of Indigenous knowledge and challenge the long-held idea that ‘Western’ science is the only legitimate type.

Presidential Address - The Brexit surprise

Find out about the spike in hate crimes directly after the Brexit referendum, why this increase was more extreme in Remain-voting areas, and how this trend is relevant to the global rise in right-wing extremism.

Presidential Address – British Science and the Empire

Take a trip into the 1800s and explore the role that the British Empire has had on science, and how we can use these learnings to improve the field today.

Presidential Address – NHS: Up for sale?

Delve into the intersection of health and social justice to learn more about issues surrounding the recent history, and future, of British people’s ability to access public healthcare.

Presidential Address - Chemistry of curry

Take a spicy and aromatic journey across the periodic table to explore the science behind the nation’s favourite food dish, curry. You’ll leave fragrant, warm and just a little full.

Presidential Address – What is Britishness?

Why is Britain’s multicultural imperial past so often left out of conversations around what it means to be ‘British’?

Presidential Address - The Lady with the Maths

Explore Florence Nightingale’s work in statistics, how she pioneered data visualisation techniques such as infographics, and the long-lasting contributions she has made to modern-day medicine.

When the BSA was founded, there were only four sections: physics, chemistry, geology and natural history. Now, with 17 sections covering every corner of science and its intersection with society, the British Science Festival programme remains current and relevant for modern audiences.

For more information, visit our Scientific Sections webpage.

If you’re interested in being involved in one of our Scientific Sections, please contact [email protected]

If you're already a Section member, you can download the 
Section's Handbook.