What should the science system in the UK look like in 2040?
How would a long-term vision for science benefit society?
Science 2040 is a new Royal Society programme looking at what the UK science system could and should look like in the future.
UK science produces huge value for society. The UK led the world in developing an effective Covid-19 vaccine, building on a strong base in biological science that had been cultivated over decades. British physicists pioneered radar in WWII to keep the country safe. And from the steam engine to machine learning, science has powered economic prosperity.
Science and technology will be essential in delivering the advances that underpin future prosperity, security and resilience. The UK has internationally recognised strengths in a range of areas of science. Yet in a changing world this can no longer be taken for granted, and the system is hampered by short-term thinking and stop-start investment.
A long-term vision for science is needed to help the UK flourish
Today, the UK faces a raft of massive challenges, from mitigating climate change to adapting to an ageing population, and boosting national prosperity. But these challenges are also opportunities. Innovation, growth and skilled jobs will be created by the development of new technologies building on fundamental science. These will deliver low carbon, sustainable futures.
To meet the scale of that ambition, a long-term vision for science is needed. Innovators, researchers and investors need a predictable environment in which to operate.
This is why the Society is seeking to take a long view of the UK’s priorities and opportunities, asking what the UK science system of 2040 should look like, and how it can be achieved. This review will look across the whole of the science system, including industry, non-profits and universities. It will ask questions of the role of education and skills in the supply of future talent. It will look at the infrastructure necessary for top-level scientific research, and consider how the UK science system operates as part of the larger global scientific community.
The programme will articulate the value of science to society, gather the evidence for the value of longer-term thinking, and engages with stakeholders both within and beyond the science system to identify areas of agreed direction and explore areas of tension. It will lay out the principles for a long-term vision that will create the environment needed to produce value for society, tackle global challenges and benefit humanity as a whole.