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British Science Association is already fighting the next pandemic

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As the world continues to fight coronavirus and its mutations, the BSA’s new thought leadership series, For Thought, is hoping to find answers to questions to avoid the next one.

March 10, London: How can we create resilient leaders, organisations and nations for future global shocks? How can we learn from innovating in a crisis to stimulate growth in technologies that do not yet exist? And how can we focus on a green recovery after COVID-19 when medical plastic used to prevent the virus has already spiked plastic pollution? Questions like these, and more, is what For Thought, the upcoming event series by the British Science Association (BSA) will answer.

Between March and April, a series of four thought leadership events will bring together experts and influencers from across different industries such as policy, research, business and media to discuss and debate the biggest challenges facing society today, and to establish concrete calls to action. These reflections and call to actions will be published in April to spark inspiration for future business leaders, scientists and governments.

Each event will be held virtually and will focus on a different topic. Starting on March 10 and coinciding with the long standing British Science Week (another BSA programme), the first event will explore “Building resilience”. COVID-19 has already demonstrated how precarious some human-made systems and infrastructures are to the unexpected. So, how can we create resilient leaders, organisations and nations for future global shocks?

Speakers include journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed, who will also be the moderator; Gillian Tett, Chair, Editorial Board and Editor-at-Large (US) The Financial Times; Ann Cairns, Executive Vice-Chair, Mastercard; Professor Sir David Omand, Visiting Professor, KCL and former Director of GCHQ; Samah Khalil, Youth Mayor of Oldham; Professor Tolullah Oni, Public health doctor, urban epidemiologist (University of Cambridge) and Kate Bamford, Partner at EY. There will also be a keynote interview with Lord David Willetts, Chair of For Thought.

The next event in the series will be on March 17 and will look into “Innovating for the future”. It will bring together leaders, academics, policy makers to draw out concrete recommendations for creating ecosystems to nurture and drive innovations. Its big question: how can we build back better and share the benefits of new technology, products and systems to create a more balanced and resilient economy?

Confirmed speakers for this event are Muhammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize; Amanda Solloway MP, Science Minister, Ben Osborn, Managing Director (UK) at Pfizer; Ksenia Zheltoukhova, Acting Chief Scientist at Nesta, and journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed who will also be the moderator for this event. Some more members will be confirmed in due course.

On March 24, a third event will shine a spotlight on “Creating environmental prosperity”. It aims to set realistic plans for a green recovery from the pandemic in the lead-up to COP26 and answer big questions such as, whether the focus on achieving net zero, whilst sidelining issues such as biodiversity, is enough to create environmental prosperity? Confirmed speakers will be announced in due course.

The events will be followed by a final live streamed summit on April 21, which will tie up the calls to action from the previous events into a published report. More information about the event programme can be found at www.forthought.uk.

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

“It’s never been more important for science to work in harmony with wider society. The global pandemic has highlighted issues in systems we have in place but has also demonstrated that when faced with adversity, communities – from local residents’ groups to those in scientific research – can solve these swiftly and successfully.

“For Thought (and also when it was called the Huxley Summit) aims and achieves just that: collaboration. By bringing together experts from a range of backgrounds, we gain a wealth of perspectives but also a more holistic view of the challenge, and the actions we can take to address these.

“Our previous events have established recommendations such as calling on Government to take note of early signs from the scientific community, concerted efforts from leaders to invest in the UK’s future, and assessing the impact of the pandemic on organisations’ minority groups to build a future framework that minimises harmful effects on people. In April 2021 we will be publishing our recommendations in a report – for the attention of Government, policymakers, businesses and society – determining calls to action which can be universally implemented.

“The platform For Thought provides is essential to convening diverse perspectives, representative of today’s society, to debate and establish ways to address the challenges we face now and in the future.”

Lord David Willetts, Chair of For Thought’s advisory board says:

“For Thought’s collaborative, cross-sector ethos facilitates thinking, problem-solving and debate from a range of industries. This unique series of events allows leaders with decades of experience to share ideas with early career entrepreneurs and young activists – a melting pot of creativity and expertise.

“Conversations between policymakers, consumer-facing businesses, scientific and social researchers, and international corporations amongst others, drills into pressing challenges facing modern societies.

“This year’s programme comes at a pivotal time – the seeming end of the pandemic and revisiting the climate emergency in the lead up to COP26 – I’m looking forward to rich discussions and insightful proposals from an excellent set of speakers.”



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