A busy year — despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the RSE continued to deliver on its mission of ‘Knowledge Made Useful’.

Looking back over the last 12 extraordinary months to reflect on what has been achieved at the RSE.

We would like to thank everyone who has engaged, collaborated and supported us over the last twelve months as we welcomed 87 new Fellows into our Fellowship, held over 70 events, published the findings from our Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission, launched our new website, granted over £3 million funding for research, and much more.

Watch our 2021 round-up video or see below for more details about 2021 at the RSE.

We wish you all a pleasant and safe Winter break and our best wishes for 2022.

2021 in words and numbers

Public engagement

A mainly online programme though there was a move to more in-person events towards the end of the year. Highlights include:

  • Curious 2021, the RSE’s summer festival comprised 40 individual events with 130 speakers, 45 of whom were Fellows. There was an 86% increase in bookings and 92% increase in attendees compared to 2020.
  • Over 4000 attendees at RSE events in 2021.
  • Over 30 videos from public engagement activity were made available on the RSE YouTube channel.
  • 15 separate events were held for the Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission.
  • 17 individual events including a successful joint event with the Royal Academy of Engineering on the climate emergency and events on conspiracies, fake news and false scientific information during the Edinburgh Science Festival, and a human rights and climate change symposium in the run up to COP26.


We welcomed 84 new Fellows to join our 1600-plus leading thinkers and experts from Scotland and around the world. Two-thirds of new Fellows came from groups underrepresented in the Fellowship (under-50s, BAME, from an underrepresented university, those outside of academia, women). 10 new Fellows are, or previously were, members of the Young Academy of Scotland.

A new style of Ordinary Meetings was launched to provide more opportunities for Fellows to meet and discuss topics of interest, including climate change; inclusive and healthy design of the built environment; welcoming refugees and data, evidence and science.

A new President, Sir John Ball and new Office Bearers were elected.


We recognised excellence and supported leading research through funding.

We launched two new Awards Programmes, the RSE Research Awards and Saltire Awards in addition to the Ireland/Scotland Bilateral Network Grants, the RSE COP26 International Climate change Network Grants 2021, SAPHIRE (Scotland Asia Partnerships Higher Education Research Fund) and the RSE research re-boot (Covid-19 impact) research grants for those whose work was impacted adversely by Covid. All received a significant number of applications.

In addition to existing RSE awards, there was also funding for international joint projects with the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Research Council in Italy.

676 applications were reviewed and a total of 199 awards were made, amounting to a total of £3,370,355.

Lead awardees represented 12 of the 15 Scottish universities. Through the awards, collaborations were made with 26 countries.

An infographic illustrating the RSE's 2021 in words and numbers
Click the image to view the full-size infographic.

Expert advice

We provided independent evidence and advice to inform public policy decisions and legislative direction, including:

  • Facing up to Climate Change: 10 Years On — an in-person event on climate change in Scotland.
  • In partnership with SCDI, BT Scotland and ScotlandIS, we published Innovation Critical outlining Scotland’s potential to be a leading innovator and exporter of technological solutions to climate change.
  • Together with the Learned Society of Wales and the Royal Irish Academy, we launched the Celtic Academies Alliance, with a focus on informating higher education and research policy.
  • We published 22 advice papers and policy responses throughout the year.
  • We held online fringe events at party political conferences on the key learnings from the RSE Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission.
  • We held a joint online conference with the Scottish Centre of the Royal Meteorological Society on Climate Science in Scotland with more than 170 attendees.
  • In partnership with the Scottish Science Advisory Committee, we produced 22 Face the Facts videos, showcasing Scotland’s leading climate researchers in the run-up to COP26.

Enterprise Fellowships

We supported graduates and researchers to turn their ideas into business successes.

Eight new Enterprise Fellows were awarded, each receiving £100,000 in funding and tailored business support.

Awardees came from the universities of Aberdeen, Leeds, Cambridge, Strathclyde, Portsmouth, Warwick, Heriot-Watt and Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Two virtual Enterprise Fellowships presentations were held with a total of 146 attendees.

11 paid jobs were created, with four company officer/directorships and six board members appointed.

Young Academy of Scotland (YAS)

YAS launched its Charter for Responsible Debate which proposes nine general principles for responsible public debate, based on the belief that joint decision-making should be informed, respectful and inclusive.

Several projects were undertaken, including a coastal knowledge exhibition, videos and blog posts, and the Sustainable Business Travel Pledge in the run-up to COP26 to show the world what members are doing on climate change.

A Children’s Voice competition was run for 8-14 year olds to share their vision for the future.


The new RSE website was successfully launched, offering greater accessibility and better navigation.

11 Tea and Talk Podcasts were recorded and issued on the themes of equality and climate change.

Three editions of the RSE’s ReSourcE Magazine themed around equality and diversity, climate change and health were published.

110 pieces of media coverage were secured across print, radio and TV.


We promoted Scotland’s reputation in research, innovation and culture through collaborations.

We held four high-profile international roundtables, including:

  • Creating Connections: a collaboration with the Royal Society on the challenges of a post-Brexit collaboration landscape.
  • PCFC International Evidence: two international roundtables with 12 countries were held to gather evidence on Covid-19 communication and public engagement.

Two policy responses were published to inform the UK Government International Development Strategy and Scottish Government International Work inquiries.

A major international human rights and climate change symposium was held in partnership with the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina involving the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and Former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment with participants from 31 countries.

In partnership with the African Academy of Sciences, we developed mutually beneficial partnership activity focused on building pan-African collaborations.

Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission

We published 41 blogs and 15 podcasts with a focus on Covid-19. We also released 31 videos, featuring a mix of talking-head interviews, event recordings, community films, presentations and creative explorations of the Commission’s themes.

46 Fellows and 6 YAS members were involved in Commission activities and outputs; alongside 175 contributors, including 31 young people.

We collaborated with 12 project partners, including the National Theatre of Scotland, Support in Mind Scotland and the Democratic Society.

We received 21.76 million social media impressions across the Commission’s activities.

The RSE logo against a snowy background
Seasons greetings from the RSE.