Joseph Lewis
1 December 2022

The Future of the Environmental Sciences

sunrise with aesthetic pile of stones, with overlaid text: "Future of ES23: horizon scanning & foresight project"

Update: Find out more about the latest progress on the project with our theme-by-theme wrap-up articles:

Last night, the 2022 Burntwood Lecture successfully brought together environmental scientists across disciplines to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IES and to hear Caroline Lucas MP’s lecture on energy. The evening was as successful as ever with a winning combination of contentious discussion, interdisciplinary networking, and joint reflection on the legacy of 50 years of scientific endeavour.

Watch the recording

At the lecture, IES Chair Julie Hill also launched a new horizon scanning and foresight project set to run throughout 2023:

"Tonight marks a book end for our 50th year anniversary, and the beginning of a new chapter; which is why I'm delighted to announce the beginning of our 'Future of ES23' horizon scanning and foresight project.

Throughout 2023, we will be using our platform to unite perspectives across the environment for collective horizon scanning on the future of the environmental sciences. By this time next year, the IES will have created a vision statement which will support the sector to plan ahead, manage risk, and collectively secure a better future for the environment.

It's an exciting piece of work and I am optimistic that we will be able to help kick off the next 50 years of environmental science with the best possible vision for what we can achieve together."

Future of ES23 horizon scanning & foresight project

At the end of 2023, the IES will create a thought-leading vision statement on the future of the environmental sciences, bringing together interdisciplinary perspectives on horizon scanning from across the environment. This work will support the sector to manage risk, plan ahead, and work towards a better future for the environment achieved through transformative change.

The work will be coordinated across six themes, which we will use as a nexus for discussion and as an opportunity to facilitate collaboration:

  • Megatrends
  • The Science
  • The Regulatory Landscape
  • The Workforce
  • The Job
  • The Future

Each theme will be supported by events, webinars, and written content, informing IES members and partners as we collectively consider what the future holds. At the conclusion of each theme, a horizon scanning discussion will bring those voices together in one conversation. 

How to get involved

As we consider the future, we must reflect on perspectives across the complex systems underpinning environmental science. To maximise the value of the project, the IES is looking for partners and stakeholders to join in a series of themed horizon scanning conversations throughout the year, examining future trends and expectations of change for the sector. 

This will help us to envisage what the future of the environmental sciences might look like, engaging in a rich horizon scanning process. It will also give IES members and partners the opportunity to be on the front lines of this visionary thought leadership process, directly shaping the future of the environmental sciences.

What next?

The first theme of Future of ES23, 'Megatrends', has now begun and the IES will spend the next two months reflecting on the global trends that are influencing environmental science now and which will continue to be influential in the future.

Our first horizon scanning discussion meeting will be held in January, with details set to be published on the IES website over the next couple of weeks. We will also be releasing information about the webinars, articles, and other content that we will be creating to help members reflect on megatrends and their consequences for the future of the environmental sciences.

For now, make sure that you are part of the conversation by becoming a member of the IES, of if you support environmental science but don’t work in the environment sector, considering joining as an affiliate