In 2017-18, the Academy undertook a horizon scanning project to identify key areas of scientific research and innovation for the future.Status:
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Since its formation in 1998, the Academy of Medical Sciences has sought to support excellence within a rapidly developing scientific environment. To ensure we can remain at the cutting edge of medical sciences and its related fields, in 2017-18, the Academy undertook a programme of horizon scanning.
We asked our Fellows, grant awardees, and close collaborators to think forward to the year 2048 (50 years after the formation of the Academy) to help us speculate about the most transformative areas of scientific research and innovation, what they will be and what they will do for society.
The horizon scanning project involved a survey of over 600 Fellows and Academy grant awardees, to identify the most promising areas of research and innovation. The second stage of the project was a series of six half day workshops across the UK, where forward-thinking discussions between a range of participants allowed more detailed exploration of transformative areas and their wider impacts for society.
For additional information about this project’s activities please see the tabs at the top of this page.
The Academy’s Horizon Scanning Survey was developed to utilise the knowledge base of our Fellowship and active grant awardees to find the most promising areas of research and innovation. It asked participants to first identify areas of research and innovation that will transform society within 30 years, and then consider the potential wider consequences of the areas.
Around 400 Academy Fellows, grant awardees and participants from wider society completed the survey; these responses have been analysed and used to shape themes for discussions at the workshops.
The responses to the Academy's horizon scanning survey revealed a number of key themes, and these were explored further in the workshops from a wide range of perspectives.
The Academy of Medical sciences hosted a series of half-day workshops for forward thinking and dynamic discussions between Fellows, early career researchers, and collaborators from beyond the medical sciences.
These workshops sought to convene a wide range of perspectives to explore and expand on key themes that emerged from responses to the Academy's horizon scanning survey, seeking the ideas that will transform society by 2048. A core topic was chosed to inform initial discussions at each workshop, but attendees were encouraged to use their range of backgrounds and expertise to bring out new themes, priorities and ideas during the interdisclinary discussions.
The project had a strong focus on regional engagement of our Fellowship and collaborators across the UK. In keeping with this, the six half-day workshops were held throughout the country, with support from our Regional Champions. Participants were not expected to be experts in specific areas of research – instead we welcomed the diversity of opinion people bring by approaching discussions from a range of backgrounds, particularly as we explore wider societal impacts and expectations.
|Edinburgh||Friday 9 February||Genomics and related fields|
|Birmingham||Tuesday 6 March||Genomics and related fields|
|Leeds||Thursday 8 March||Neuroscience and mental health|
|Cambridge||Monday 12 March (two workshops: morning and afternoon )||Neuroscience and mental health|
|Brighton||Thursday 15 March||
Data and artificial intelligence
|Manchester||Thursday 22 March||Data and artificial intelligence|
The workshops explored topics from both basic and clinical research, from both technical and social perspectives, seeking the ideas that will transform society by 2048. The themes that emerged from the survey were used as starting topics to inform discussions at the workshops.
Starting topics: Genomics and related fields, experimental medicine, society and behaviour
In 1998, the Human Genome Project began its second phase: to sequence, for the first time, an entire human genome. Experimental innovation supported the successful delivery of the Human Genome Project ahead of schedule, and in the past twenty years the results have transformed our understanding of ourselves. Gene sequencing is now undertaken quickly and cheaply for medical and research reasons, and has supported the growth of new research fields. Looking to the next twenty years, a new generation of experimental medicine and technology is expected to transform societal health and wellbeing. How can our growing understanding of the genetic basis of health support the development of transformative innovation, and how will this be influenced by our rapidly changing society? This workshop explored these questions and others, to consider the opportunities, challenges and consequences for wider society.
Starting topics: genomics and related fields, personalised medicine, society and behaviour
In 1998, the Human Genome Project began its second phase: to sequence, for the first time, an entire human genome. In the past twenty years the results of this project have transformed our understanding of ourselves and the society we live in. Gene sequencing can now be undertaken quickly and cheaply, making the possibility of personalised medical treatments for specific genetic makeups into a reality. Looking to the next twenty years, a new generation of medicine is needed to transform societal health and wellbeing. How can our growing understanding of the genetic basis of health support the development of transformative innovation, and how will personalised therapies be influenced by our rapidly changing society? This workshop explored these questions and others, and consider the opportunities, challenges and consequences for wider society.
Starting topics: neuroscience and mental health, personalised medicine, environment
Our mental and physical health is strongly influenced by genetic and environmental factors. However, our increasing command of human genetics and rapidly changing social and built environments is changing this relationship. The increase of neurological and mental health problems in the UK and around the world has added further complexity to our understanding of how genetics and environmental factors influence our health and wellbeing. This horizon scanning workshop will look through the lens of mental health to consider research and innovation that could understand and utilise these changing factors for large-scale prevention and personalised treatments of mental health by the year 2030. Discussions explored these areas and others, considering the opportunities, challenges and consequences for wider society.
Starting topics: neuroscience and mental health, experimental medicine, lifestyle
Experimental medicine, powered by innovative research in science and technology, has resulted in remarkable reductions of death and disability from many major physical health conditions. Conversely, progress in neurological and mental health problems has been slow despite increasing awareness of the importance of these issues throughout the UK and around the world. This horizon scanning workshop will consider transformative research and innovation that will push the boundaries of our understanding and treatment of neurological and mental health problems by the year 2030. Discussions also explored other areas, and look more broadly at how these innovations will interact with wider societal trends in health, lifestyle and social care.
Starting topics: data and artificial intelligence, non-communicable diseases, deprivation
Chronic and debilitating diseases such as arthritis and diabetes are increasingly prevalent in the UK and around the world. Treating and managing these diseases is difficult, particularly in deprived populations, but recent advances in technology offers huge potential for this area. Improvement in the collection of data and its uses (such as AI) is transforming our understanding of ourselves but also has significant consequences for society as a whole. Questions remain about the costs and effectiveness of AI-based technology from apps to wearable devices as well as the implications for patient privacy. This workshop explored how AI could support reduction of disease in even the most deprived populations, and how AI and other uses of data will influence, and be influenced by, our rapidly changing society.
Starting topics: data and artificial intelligence, communicable diseases, society and behaviour
Infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and influenza continue to kill millions of people around the world, supported by the rise of antibiotic resistance, changing travel patterns and a lack of innovation resulting in limited new interventions. Recent advances in technology are transforming our understanding of ourselves and the society we live in. Improved collection of data and its uses including AI offers revolutionary potential for health and wellbeing in the next 20 years, but is also likely to have significant consequences for society as a whole. This workshop explored how AI could support the development of transformative innovation to reduce disease, particularly infectious disease, and how AI and other uses of data will influence, and be influenced by, our rapidly changing society.
The Academy worked alongside visual note-taking company Scriberia to produce a visual representations of the discussions at each workshop, and to bring the themes from across the workshops together in a summary video.
The Academy also produced a summary report that seeks to identify areas of scientific research and innovation for the next 30 years that will transform health by 2048.