A new initiative addressing major societal and policy questions from a science perspective.

Science, Society and Policy a new initiative in Royal Society Open Science

We’re delighted to announce the launch of a new initiative in Royal Society Open Science that we’ve opted to call ‘Science, Society and Policy’. This has largely been the brainchild of our Editor-in-Chief, Prof Jeremy KM Sanders CBE FRS, and has been a project bubbling away for the last year. The importance of the relationships between science, society and policy has been known for a long time, but the challenges and needs of the last 12 months have crystallised the need for a vehicle for researchers and policymakers to share ideas and constructively engage with societal problems that, to be solved, require the engagement of the sciences.

Our new initiative has been inspired, in part, by the COVID-19 and climate crises, as well as the journal’s publication of several manuscripts that may be described as falling under a broad umbrella of science, society and policy – indeed, we have written about a number of these on this blog previously (see this example), and the editorial accompanying this blog provides other examples. 

We have tried to provide some examples on the journal’s website of broad areas of research we think we might see submitted to the section, but this is far from exhaustive. As the section evolves, we will be excited to see the unexpected directions that researchers and policymakers may take us. This last aspect, and the journal’s reputation for publishing innovation, have largely contributed to the decision to launch in Royal Society Open Science: we have precedent on our side and an open invitation to interested researchers to submit to the journal.

In preparing for the launch of Science, Society and Policy, we have worked closely with the Royal Society’s Policy team, who have provided advice and – in the person of Dr Rupert Lewis – the Chair of our eminent International Advisory Board. The collaboration between the Publishing team and Policy team at the Royal Society is, therefore, a microcosm of the wider collaborations we hope Science, Society and Policy will encourage among researchers and policymakers. That such collaborations, when published in Royal Society Open Science, will be available on an open access basis, can only be to the benefit of readers. 

We’ve asked the Editor-in-Chief and the Science, Society and Policy Subject Editor, Prof Nick Pearce, for their thoughts on why Royal Society Open Science is the right vehicle for this initiative, and what they’re most excited to see happen as we launch:

Jeremy Sanders: “In early 2020, the journal editorial team and I realised that we were receiving interesting submissions which addressed major societal and policy questions from a science perspective but which did not easily fit into our conventional disciplinary sections. As we’re flexible and always keen to solve such puzzles, we usually found a way through, but slowly the idea of a separate Science, Society and Policy section evolved. We approached a dozen key individuals to test whether the idea made sense and whether there was indeed a publishing gap in this area, and their responses were overwhelmingly enthusiastic. So, over the past few months we have been delighted to be able to assemble a distinguished International Advisory Board chaired by Rupert Lewis and a diverse and enthusiastic world-wide Editorial Board led by Nick Pearce. All we need now are your submissions.”

Nick Pearce: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made the relationship between scientific expertise and public policymaking much more visible, right around the world. It is a complex relationship, with many different dimensions, but the pandemic has undoubtedly led to a much wider public and political appreciation of the importance of harnessing scientific advances to the challenges humanity faces. It is therefore opportune that Royal Society Open Science has launched this new subject section. It provides a vehicle for scientists to publish new research on major social and public policy issues, as well as an interdisciplinary forum for dialogue between scholars and a reference point for policy debates. I hope that it becomes known for ground-breaking work that is of sustained interest, not just to academic scientists, but to a wider global readership”.

We hope you’ll agree this is an interesting venture with plenty of promise. We hope you will enjoy reading contributions as much as we do, and we encourage you to submit your research to Science, Society and Policy today.



  • Andrew Dunn

    Andrew Dunn

    Royal Society Open Science