At their meeting in December 2018, Council decided to update the British Science Association’s (BSA) Charter and Statutes in order that they reflect changes to the BSA in the last few years and adopt best practice in charity governance. Initially granted in 1831 with the organisation’s formation, the Statutes were last updated in 2006, and the Charter in 1997. They need to be updated to reflect changes made to the BSA’s structures and activities since then, and to take account of the latest Charity Commission guidance about the role of charity trustees.   

The organisation’s formal name is (and always has been) the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Since January 2009, we have traded as the British Science Association. The BSA is a Royal Charter charity and any changes to royal charters have to be approved by the Privy Council on behalf of the Queen. The UK’s Privy Council is a group of advisors – mainly senior politicians – to the the Queen.  

The BSA’s Treasurer, Kalli Bowyer, and the Vice-President for Engagement, Steve Nuttall, led the re-drafting process on behalf of Council. The changes have been reviewed informally by the Privy Council Office and the Charity Commission, who are content with them. The documents have now been sent to the Privy Council for approval.

The main changes are described below.

  1. Objects

The BSA’s ‘objects’ are our legal goals as laid out in our Charter. The Charity Commission asked for the final clause (struck-through in the text below) to be removed on the basis that it does not have a clear legal meaning. 

“The Objects of the Association shall be to give a stronger impulse and a more systematic direction to scientific inquiry; to promote the intercourse of those who cultivate Science; to obtain more general attention for the objects of Science and the removal of disadvantages of a public kind which impede its progress; and to maintain, develop and extend the social and international relations of science; and, without prejudice to the historical purposes of the Association, to advance education in and to promote understanding and development of natural, social and applied science, engineering, medicine and technology, and to illuminate and enhance their contributions to the cultural, economic and social life of the community.” 

In practice, this will have little effect on the BSA’s work which is typically carried out in a more specific way as directed by our current strategy and business plan at any particular time. 

  1. Role of Council members

The revised wording takes account of the latest Charity Commission guidance about the role of charity trustees. Requirements for specific sub-committees have been removed, enabling Council to convene, direct and close sub-committees as needed.  This includes General Committee, whose members have agreed to use a separate Terms of Reference to enable the committee to be more flexible and responsive in future.

  1. Members

References to members and membership have been removed as the BSA is no longer a membership body.  

  1. Branches

References to Branches have been removed following the move to autonomous Branches which was carried out in 2019.

  1. Payments to Council members

The Charity Commission asked us to add detailed text to cover possible payments to Council members.

  1. Investments policy

The Privy Council asked Council to provide written assurance of the suitability of the Charter/Statutes’ proposed new text about how we manage our Investments is appropriate since it’s much shorter than the previous text. Our Investments policy is now in the Rules, where it can be updated by a majority vote at Council if needed – for example, when charity investments guidance is updated by the regulator.

A full copy of the draft new Charter, Statutes and Rules is available on request by emailing [email protected]