Royal Society and Scottish Sensory Centre launch BSL webinar series to get new health and environment signs into hands of interpreters

09 May 2024

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences, is hosting a series of webinars for British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters to introduce 400 newly developed signs for common science and environment terms.

From ‘global warming’ and ‘deforestation’ to ‘vaccine’ and ‘type 2 diabetes’, the new signs, and detailed definitions, will help to address the current lack of scientific terms available in British Sign Language.

The webinars, beginning on 29 May, will be led by Dr Audrey Cameron OBE Hon FRSC, Chancellor’s Fellow and BSL Glossary Project Coordinator at the University of Edinburgh, and will be conducted entirely in British Sign Language.

Themed around energy resources and sustainability and environmental impacts on humans, new signs include:

The terms were drawn from the GCSE and A level syllabus and reviewed by scientists before being developed into signs by Dr Cameron and the BSL glossary team at the Scottish Sensory Centre. Each is accompanied with a detailed definition to help understand and explain the concepts they’re based on.

These signs join a previous two hundred released in 2023, bringing the development project to a close. A full glossary and videos demonstrating the terms being signed are available to access online.

Dr Cameron said: “The publication of this final batch of signs is an important moment for this project and for British Sign Language users,”

“We now have a glossary of 400 terms and definitions, rooted in the UK curriculum, that will enable anyone using BSL, whether they’re a deaf student, a lecturer, parent or policy maker, to explain concepts clearly and play a fuller part in the debates shaping our society.

“The work isn’t over, and the next step is to raise awareness of these resources and get them into the hands of interpreters, educators and everyone who needs them.”

Professor Jeremy Sanders CBE FRS, Chair of the Royal Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said: "I’m delighted that the Royal Society has been able to support this important project, the work of Dr Cameron and the team of scientists, sign-language users and others involved with the Scottish Sensory Centre, in producing these 400 signs.

“Science is for everyone, so it is vital that we keep working to remove barriers for people to study, work or engage with scientific issues. This is particularly true for environmental issues that affect all our lives.”

The first webinar will take place 18:00-19:00 BST 29 May. Interpreters can register their interest at