The British Science Association (BSA) has announced For Thought as the new name for the Huxley Summit.

When the BSA established this thought leadership Summit in 2016, we named it after self-taught scientist Thomas Huxley who argued for Darwin’s theory of evolution against the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, at our annual meeting in 1860. This was a pivotal moment in the public’s understanding of, and opinion on, evolution and a significant point in the BSA’s history – and we felt the name captured the spirit of the event we were trying to create: a platform to exchange ideas on emerging topics and pressing issues.

Throughout the course of 2020, we began looking more deeply at Thomas Huxley; his views on race and genetics were brought to light in the book “Superior” by BSA Honorary Fellow, Angela Saini. While not unusual for the time, these views are not just antiquated by today’s standards, they are directly opposed to the views, values, philosophy and focus of our organisation today (a core part of our mission is to transform the diversity of science). Therefore, we believe that the Huxley Summit is no longer a suitable name for an event that has become known for inclusivity in its ethos, speakers and programme.

We also reconsidered the format of the Summit, as in-person events became obsolete due to the coronavirus pandemic. While creating space for high-level discussions between leaders from business, policy, science and the media has never been more important, we felt it was important for the Summit to adapt accordingly.

We believe that the change in name:

  • Underlines the BSA’s organisational strategic focus on improving the equality, diversity and inclusivity of science and science engagement;
  • Mirrors the commitment to highlighting diverse voices and opinions, and attracting a diverse audience, that the Summit has become known for; and
  • Reflects the shift from a one-day Summit to a continuous programme of events and activities.

This year, the theme of For Thought is Building resilience: The role of science and innovation in creating a sustainable future. Four events will be delivered online in March and April:

  • Building resilience – discussing society’s ability to withstand and respond to “shock”;
  • Innovating for the future – exploring progress in, and stimulating, technological and scientific innovation;
  • Creating environmental prosperity – looking more deeply at the role of consumers, governments and industry in achieving net zero; and
  • Global collaboration – a final Summit where the report detailing the calls to actions from each chapter is launched.

We believe that the change in format will bring the following benefits:

  • Create more opportunities for stakeholder involvement;
  • Increase the impact of For Thought, through co-creation and development of calls to actions for institutions, businesses, governments and individual leaders;
  • Extend the reach of the programme – in terms of absolute numbers, geography, accessibility – and facilitate the involvement of more international speakers.

For Thought will continue to build on the success, and deliver on the aims, of previous Summits bringing together senior leaders and influencers from business, policy, science and media to address societal challenges facing the UK and the wider world.

Society’s biggest challenges –pandemics, the environment, artificial intelligence – are all-too-often seen as scientific issues, there to be debated and decided upon by scientists.

In reality, these issues require partnerships between science and the rest of society; whether that’s business leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, civic leaders, medical professionals, farmers, policymakers, or the general public. Global, societal issues need thought, challenge and cross-sector leadership to turn discussion into action.

With a focus on outcomes and affecting long-term change, For Thought will provide a platform for discussion and debate, establishing clear calls to action to address issues such as public health, climate change, cyber-security, the future of cities, food security and the economy.

In what promises to be a pivotal year for science and society For Thought’s programme of events and activities provides numerous opportunities for leaders and influencers to work towards a safer, more equitable and prosperous way forward for people and the planet.

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said:

“The new name, For Thought, really captures the essence of the BSA’s thought leadership programme of events. For Thought will gather senior leaders from across the UK – and beyond – to share their knowledge, experience and ideas to tackle societal challenges. Our focus to affect real change will direct the conversations in each event to establish clear calls to action which participants can implement in their organisations and other day-to-day roles.

“However, the decision to change the name of the event was not taken lightly. Thomas Huxley is an important figure in the history of science and that of the BSA, and we know that changing the name will not be universally supported. We are not seeking to erase our history or deny the fact we initially named the Summit after him; we are proud of all that the Huxley Summit has achieved in the last five years, but we believe a change of name is the right decision for the BSA at this time.

“We have involved our partners and other stakeholders throughout the journey – from taking the decision to the renaming process itself – and I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us, particularly our partners the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Institute of Physics (IOP). Our other partners will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Like many other organisations we aim to uphold inclusive values in our work. This underpins each of our programmes and will be evident in our participants, audiences and content. We wanted to ensure that the new name truly reflected the ethos, aims and purpose of our thought leadership work.

“We specifically introduced the New Voices aspect of the programme in 2019, and our commitment to assembling speakers and attendees who are representative of our society remains stronger than ever. Through For Thought, the BSA will champion leaders and influencers from diverse backgrounds and communities who represent perspectives often missing from national and global debate. Their opinions will be heard alongside those of business leaders, policymakers and scientists.

“The Summit has always been a space for this: a place to interrogate ideas; a forum to hear from diverse voices; and an opportunity for leaders to connect with individuals from outside of their day-to-day networks. It is a platform for thought.”

For more details visit and to register interest in attending, visit the registration page.