Our strategic plan defines Smarter as: ‘promote informed decision-making among individuals, groups and government.’ YAS members often sits on policy advice committees for the RSE and contribute to its papers and consultations. However, we have also produced several of our own reports and position papers; some of these may be found below. In all our work, we promote evidence-based decision-making. YAS regularly runs education-focused projects both at primary / secondary and at higher education level.  We also work with other bodies around Scotland to debate future educational priorities.

A Charter for Responsible Debate

Democracies pride themselves in allowing space for free political discussion as a way of peacefully working out compromises for how to live together in the context of opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and competition over scarce resources. Because of this, we need ways of disagreeing with each other and yet achieving common ground. Politics has always been a place of disagreement and debate, but recent politics – especially in the age of social media – seems to be increasingly polarised.

To begin to do so, the Young Academy of Scotland organised a 1-day event in May 2019 with politicians, media personalities, campaigners, activists and academics to share experience and propose possible principles for a draft Responsible Public Debate Charter for Scotland. The event was hosted by Matthew Chrisman, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, with the help of fellow YAS members Alice Konig, Peter McColl, and John O’Connor.

A draft charter was produced and is available to view here.

Tomorrow... Reimaging Our World

The world is going through very challenging times! Climate change, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, racism and the refugee crisis are just a few of the issues we hear about every day. But there are also lots of exciting innovations and opportunities which make it possible to imagine a brighter future.

Every couple of years, the Young Academy of Scotland sets out five Grand Challenges to help us focus the work we do, building a future for everyone that is healthier, smarter, more equal and sustainable. Following up on YAS’s film Our Future Scotland (2018), we held a competition to encourage children to share their vision for the future. We want young people to help us decide what our next Grand Challenge will be!

We invited children aged 8 – 14 to capture their vision digitally by using any technique and media (drawing, writing, collage, photography, etc). Judged by a panel of Young Academy members, some of the outstanding entries are presented in this online exhibition featuring the stimulating creativity and fantastic problem-solving minds of young people.

The Purpose and Future of Higher Education

This project aims to open up new conversations about the future of Higher Education (HE) in Scotland and beyond. It feeds into a wider YAS/RSE project on this topic.

One of YAS’s main goals is to amplify the voices of those who deliver Higher Education on a daily basis: the tutors, lecturers, researchers and technicians whose first-hand experience gives them unique insights into the opportunities and barriers ahead of us. We seek to provide a constructive, collaborative space for everyone to share ideas about their aspirations for the future of Scottish Higher Education.

To deliver this, we have held 3 interactive debates on different aspects of higher education, and have produced some blogs reflecting on the outcomes of these debates.  We are also planning future events on this topic.

A full summary of this project’s aims, details of the events we’ve held so far, and links to our blog series about Higher Education may be found here.

YAS - MSP Pairing Scheme

We run a pairing scheme which brings together Scotland’s policymakers and young leaders from YAS.

Launched in 2019, the scheme pairs MSPs with young leaders drawn from. Over the course of several meetings, the pairs learn about each other’s work and build bridges to work together on evidence-based policy in the future.  Read more.

Nursing stories from the First World War

At this event in November 2018 to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, Dr Diane Atkinson, a well-known author of women’s history read excerpts from and answered questions about her book Elsie and Mairi Go To War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front, which focusses on nursing heroes during the First World War. This event was accompanied by a small public exhibit.  Both the event and the exhibition were joint projects between YAS and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Further videos of this event are available on the RSE YouTube page.

Our Future Scotland

As part of the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland 2030 Programme, we collaborated with Scotland’s Futures Forum and Edinburgh Napier University to create Our Future Scotland.  Our Future Scotland is a public engagement project, which aims to encourage national discussion and debate on four key societal themes: 1) Education, 2) Wellbeing, 3) Environment, and 4) Technology.

A major output of this project was a 15-minute documentary film, featuring well-know figures from Scottish Society discussing these four themes and their visions for the future of Scottish society.  Interviewees for the documentary included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, actor Brian Cox, author Christopher Brookmyre and wildlife photographer Peter Cairns.

BREXIT: The Impact on Scotland

In September 2017, we released a report on Brexit and its impact on Scotland. The report contains ten articles, each focusing on the impact of Brexit on a different area of society in Scotland, written by a YAS member who is an expert in that field. Read and download the report here.

We followed this report with a second report on the impact of Brexit on health and wellbeing.  This report can be accessed here here.

Brexit Observatory

YAS began collecting case studies in Summer 2017 from those affected by the Brexit vote in Scotland in the research, innovation and further/higher education sectors.

The the preliminary findings from the case studies were published in Autumn 2017, they can be read here.

Research the Headlines

Research the Headlines is a blog that addresses the way in which research is discussed and represented in the media. Launched by YAS in 2013 each article takes a piece of research with recent media coverage and seeks to investigate and research this to give readers a better understanding from an expert and independent position. The group of members that delivers Research the Headlines have also held workshops for schools with an aim to equipping children with the tools and skills to independently and critically evaluate the media.


In collaboration with our partner Lambda Jam, for several years YAS coordinated FIRST LEGO League (FLL) in Scotland.

FLL is an international robotics competition for children aged 9-16.  By challenging participants to build and programme LEGO robots to complete a set of tasks, FLL helps children develop maths, engineering and technical skills.  It also encourages students and their parents and teachers to consider these areas as potential careers, which is an important step towards closing the huge skills gap in these areas.

  • Ran 3 tournaments across Scotland, in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.
  • Saw almost 500 children participating in 50 teams.
  • Included one refugee team led by a YAS member from our At-Risk Academic and Refugee recruitment scheme.
  • Sent 4 Scottish teams to the UK finals, 3 winning cups and 2 going on to further competitions.
  • Increased engagement with robotics to 1000 children in Scotland, as a result of the commitment of our teams on full bursaries to provide full class teaching, and the CPD and support we give them to do that.
  • Increased our Engineer Mentor Network, sending volunteer engineers into most teams to support their work and to enthuse them about a career in engineering.

YAS is pleased to see the Institute of Engineering and Technology continue these activities.

Numeracy Counts

Numeracy Counts is a resource working within the numeracy area of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. Utilising the YAS membership’s diverse and multi-disciplinary nature, YAS produced a series of videos and resources to show how numeracy matters in a variety of different careers as well as its importance in everyday life. To view at some of the videos visit our YouTube channel here.

Interdisciplinary Learning in Scottish Schools

In 2014 , we published a policy advice paper examining Interdisciplinary Learning in Scotland, which made several recommendations to enhance the scope and impact of Interdisciplinary Learning at all stages of a learner’s learning from Early Level to National Qualifications.  The report may be read in full here.

Since the publication of this report, the RSE has further explored this topic, and in 2019 held a conference on Interdisciplinary Learning.  The outcomes of this conference may be accessed on the RSE website here.

Open Data

The YAS Working Group on Open Data delivered several advice papers and responses on Open Data.

In 2011, the group contributed a paper to a Royal Society of London call for evidence on ‘Science as a Public Enterprise.’  Compiled only weeks after the launch YAS, this was our first-ever output!

In 2013, the Working Group submitted this response to an open letter from David Sweeney, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), requesting advice to help shape the consultation on Open Access and submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) post-2014.

YAS contributed to a collaborative position statement on open access with the Young Academies of Europe and the Global Young Academy, which was presented to the  European Commission in April 2016.

The group also organised debates and responded to the European Commission’s consultation on ‘Science 2.0’ (2014)