Top Ten FST science discussions

  • 11 March 2024
  • General
  • Charlotte Raynsford, Communication Officer at The Foundation for Science and Technology

British Science Week (8-17th March) is here and over the course of the next week, there will be events and talks on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths  (STEM) celebrating the diversity of people and careers within those fields. Now in its 30th year, this annual event is bigger than ever.

At the Foundation for Science and Technology, one of our core functions is holding monthly discussions centred around the precise point where STEM meets policy and policy meets STEM. We thought it was fitting to share some of our favourite science based discussions for the occasion.

Although we have been holding evening debates and discussions since the mid 80’s, this selection begins in 2020 when the world changed forever under a global pandemic. It was a time of tragedy and suffering, when doctors, nurses and carers emerged as the heroes of the moment and science was thrust into the public consciousness. Since all of our meetings have been possible to watch back since this time, we thought this was a good place to start.

Our top ten science based discussions include:


 ‘Science and politics: how to bring them together and keep them apart’. At the time (2020), this was a very topical debate looking at the vital importance of ensuring that politics is informed by science, to ensure that politicians can make decisions aware of the best available evidence. We also explored the concern that sometimes, the difference between science advice and political decisions might be blurred.


In 2021 we held a discussion entitled: Lessons from the Vaccine Programme for UK Life Sciences exploring how the Government worked with the life sciences industry and academic community during the Covid-19 pandemic. The panel looked at what lessons were learned and implications for future policy, Research and Development (R&D), investment, and collaboration.


Later that year, we looked at Biodiversity: Economics, Science and International Action. Our speakers explored the economics and science of biodiversity, considering national and international action needed and the potential for agreement at the Biodiversity COP which was held in October 2021.


In 2022, we explored racism in the science and technology sphere. In a discussion entitled: Black Scientists - Tackling Racism in UK Science & Technology, the expert panel discussed the scale of the problem and the lived experience of black scientists in the UK.


Later in 2022, we held an event entitled; Health policy implications of climate change. Our panel looked at the implications for health as the climate continues to change - both in the UK and elsewhere and what the health policy response should be.


In the winter of 2022, as the United Nations COP27 Conference in Egypt approached, we explored the contribution that science needed to make at that event and beyond, in a discussion entitled: Science, Climate Policy and COP27.


UK-China research collaboration: This event saw panellists discuss how the UK can and should collaborate with China on R&D. They also looked at whether research collaboration could contribute to wider diplomacy between the two countries, or to tackling global issues such as climate change.


At the end of 2023, the UK and the EU concluded an agreement for the UK to participate in the Horizon Europe and Copernicus programmes as an associate member. In an event entitled: Horizon Europe – making UK participation a success, our panel discussed how to make sure that the UK achieves all it can from this associate membership. 


Ahead of COP28 in the winter of 2023, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) noted that the planet had already warmed to 1.1 degrees above preindustrial levels, and that it is likely warming will exceed 1.5 degrees this century, with current national plans not enough to meet climate goals. In this event, our expert panel looked at Net Zero - UK and global progress.


To kick off 2024, we held one of our most attended events to date: Can Artificial Intelligence be regulated and if so how? This came just after the release of the Government’s white paper on the topic and included a panel of experts who discussed the different challenges of regulating AI and how different jurisdictions were approaching these.