Today, the British Science Association (BSA) have published a new report aimed at leaders in business, science, policy and civil society.

Build better is the culmination of discussions at For Thought, the BSA’s thought leadership programme, which this year explored the role of science and innovation in enabling a sustainable, equitable post-pandemic recovery. The events focused on three key areas: building resilient societies and systems; future innovation; and environmental prosperity. The series of events and roundtables brought together a range of representatives from various sectors, with the shared belief that collaboration between the science sector and leaders in wider society on these topics are necessary in order to achieve a fairer future society.

The report explores ideas, experiences and learnings from a range of cross-sector experts participating in six roundtables and three panel discussions which took place in February and March 2021. The key recommendations call for leaders to:

  1. Put future generations at the heart of our institutional and systems decision-making
  2. Share benefits of research and innovation across different communities
  3. Create a long-term leadership coalition to deliver the UK’s Net Zero ambition

Within each recommendation are specific actions that can be taken by businesses, science institutions, policymakers and civil society.

Read the full report below or in a new window, here.

It was clear from the discussions that longer-term thinking is crucial in the post-pandemic recovery. The report therefore also includes ‘Calls For Thought’; questions and areas of focus that the BSA believes must be considered by leaders within the next five years. These include:

  • How do we prepare leaders and build capacity for responding to future crises?
  • How do we de-risk innovation?
  • How do we create a citizen- and community-driven environmental agenda?

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the BSA says:

“This year’s For Thought programme has brought to light some thought-provoking insights that we should all consider. Having heard from For Thought participants with expertise in various industries, it was encouraging to find there was so much agreement on creating a more equitable society after the pandemic, with suggestions from across the country and further afield.

“The British Science Association’s work particularly resonates with the first and second recommendations. Over the past year, young people have experienced major disruption to their education, and are now facing difficulties regarding future career prospects, their mental health and wellbeing, as well as the impact of the climate crisis on our society in years to come. As the UK recovers from the pandemic, we must put real emphasis on guaranteeing opportunities for young people to ensure our society is as well-equipped as it can be for the challenges we will face in the years to come.

"Last year, the BSA launched a new grants scheme – The Ideas Fund – that will fund and support research-community partnerships. Through programmes like this, and our community engagement work, we are committed to empowering people who may not typically come across science to have the opportunity to engage with it in a way that is relevant to them. Projects like these are just one of way we can build trust between the scientific community and the public, an issue that was raised numerous times at For Thought as one to be addressed. Embedding communities in research, and vice versa, will ultimately lead to innovation and progress that works for everyone, not just subgroups of the population.

“I hope that those in leadership positions – from small organisations to larger bodies – will read this report and find it helpful when planning ahead for a fairer ‘new normal’.”

Rt. Hon. the Lord David Willetts FRS, Chair of For Thought says:

“COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it is far from the only one. Climate change, resource scarcity and new diseases continue to pose great risks to global societies. This pandemic will not be the last nor the worst crisis we face. Though the pandemic has affected everyone, some have suffered disproportionately.

“A strong theme in Calls for Thought is that the COVID crisis shows the need for more resilient and equitable societies. That requires leaders in Government, institutions, corporations and science to think about whole systems. That in turn means bringing together the different ways of thinking which they represent in the shared endeavour of moving to a more equitable, resilient future society.”

The For Thought 2021 speakers and contributors included:

  • Dr Mona Bitar, UK&I Consumer Leader at EY
  • Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair, Mastercard
  • Spencer Dale, Group Chief Economist, BP
  • Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Welsh Government
  • Professor Sir David Omand, Visiting Professor, KCL and former Director of GCHQ
  • Ben Osborn, Managing Director (UK), Pfizer
  • Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO
  • Nero Ughwujabo, Former Special Adviser to UK Prime Minister: Social Justice, Opportunities, Young People
  • Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank

The report will be launched at a closed, online event on Wednesday 16 June moderated by journalist and broadcaster, Samira Ahmed. The speakers at this event are:

  • Kumsal Bayazit, Chief Executive Officer, Elsevier
  • Arunma Oteh, Former Treasurer and Vice President, World Bank
  • Sheila Rowan, former Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland
  • Steve Varley, Global Vice Chair for Sustainability, EY
  • Hon. the Lord David Willetts FRS, Chair of For Thought

To read the full report, visit the For Thought website.

Thank you to our partners EY, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Institute of Physics (IOP) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for supporting the 2021 programme.