Morven Chisholm and Marie Montondo: Looking forward to addressing issues affecting Scotland and further afield

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the YAS also organised, with the RSE, a successful event on nursing during the conflict, combined with a public exhibition
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the YAS also organised, with the RSE, a successful event on nursing during the conflict, combined with a public exhibition
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We have reached the end of another busy year for the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS). YAS was established by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, in 2011, and is an impartial, non-politically affiliated organisation, which provides a platform for innovative young entrepreneurs, professionals and academics to come together and address the most challenging issues facing society in Scotland and beyond.

During the past year we were delighted to recruit a new cohort of members, with 53 members (from 125 applicants) joining us from across a wide range of disciplines, and from academia, industry, the third sector and the professions. We also said goodbye to our second cohort of members, who reached the end of their very productive five-year membership.

Brexit has of course been a key topic this year, and YAS members have been keen to use their expertise to inform government policy. In September this year YAS members published a Brexit Impact Report focusing on the potential impacts of Brexit on the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s people. The topics covered ranged from the nursing workforce in the NHS to food security and water quality, and concluded with 19 recommendations for politicians and policy makers. YAS members have also been actively involved in the Brexit-related policy advice provided by the RSE on topics as diverse as research funding, the environment and the economy.

YAS members also sat on the RSE’s Tapping All Our Talents working group, which undertook a large-scale inquiry into women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Building on the RSE’s report of 2012 of the same name, this 2018 report comprehensively reviewed the progress that has been made at increasing the proportion of women working and studying in STEM in Scotland, including the number who rise to senior positions in academia and industry. The report concluded that progress has been made in tackling gender inequality, but much more needs to be done to ensure that men and women can enjoy equal prospects in the STEM sectors, and to ensure Scotland utilises the talents of all its citizens to maximise our economic prospects.

The ‘Our Future Scotland’ film premiered at the Scottish Parliament in May. The film, produced by YAS members and supported by YAS, Scotland’s Futures Forum and Edinburgh Napier University, featured contributions from leading figures from politics, business, education and the arts on their aspirations for Scotland in 2030. The film can be viewed online at https://ourfuturescotland.com/. Work has now begun on a follow-on film asking children what their aspirations are for the future of Scotland.

As well as engaging with policy makers, YAS is committed to engaging with the public. We participated in the RSE’s successful Doors Open Day this year, where over 1,000 members of the public came through the doors of our home in the RSE, to hear about our work. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, we also organised, with the RSE, a successful event on nursing during the First World War, combined with a public exhibition, supported by the Royal College of Nursing Scotland.

As we head into 2019, we consider what new and continuing projects YAS will take forward for societal good.

YAS work focuses not just on Scotland. As an example of this, YAS members will continue to support the Mosul Bookbridge project, which is working to rebuild and restock the Mosul University Library, destroyed by conflict in 2014. YAS will continue to work to garner support from publishers and universities to share resources and knowledge for this important project.

We look forward to seeing how the YAS refugee pairing scheme develops, with YAS members working with refugees based on the Isle of Bute to support their career progression and allow them to meaningfully contribute to society.

More than ever we need meaningful and respectful debate, so YAS members are organising an event on responsible debate, bringing 
together politicians, media and campaigners to discuss the issues, and to work to produce a responsible debate charter which we can disseminate widely.

We are grateful to all the RSE Fellows, universities, politicians, policy makers, organisations and members of the public who have engaged with us and supported us over the last year, and we look forward to a productive and positive 2019.

Morven Chisholm, YAS Manager and Marie Montondo, YAS Officer