By Sarah Skerratt

THE definition of “inspire” is to fill someone with an urge or ability which allows them to do or feel something especially creative. Inspiring people help us to seek out more, to explore the truth and to come to our own conclusions about the world around us. We meet inspirational people every day, but they’re not always astrophysicists or molecular biologists. However, in our Fellowship we do have some of them too.

In today’s world when “fake news” causes division, and misinformation spreads, it is vitally important we all ask questions, seek deeper explanations and challenge what we are being told. With access to social media, a 24-hour news cycle and digital platforms full of opinions disguised as facts, we are increasingly navigating a different world from that of previous generations. Instead of catastrophising this, we must harness the energy of those who inspire us.

As an organisation of more than 1,800 of Scotland’s greatest thinkers, The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) has great privilege in its access to inspirational people. Yet, we also have responsibility to ensure we share this knowledge with communities. We must ensure that knowledge is accessible to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they know already and what they want to learn.

Reaching young people is one way of doing this. Earlier this year we hosted the Shetland Space Series, a programme of talks in local primary schools with people like Catherine Heymans, the Astronomer Royal. With Shetland and the Island of Unst becoming a hub for the UK’s space activity, the talks gave Shetland’s school children an opportunity to learn more about space and engage with some of the country’s top astronomy and science experts. Space is likely to become a key part of the island’s economy over the coming years, and introducing children to the people currently leading the way lit a fire in many of them to discover a life working in the space industry.

This month also sees the return of our annual summer events programme, Curious. Taking place online and in person, there will be discussions led by experts in specific fields, from mind travelling to mental health and microsatellites to multilingualism. Those who attend these free events will be encouraged to ask questions, challenge perceptions and start conversations.

The RSE is a national academy full of experts, but we are driven by our desire to make knowledge useful; and it is not a one-way street. Inspiring through sharing research and knowledge is key, but so is listening and collaborating with those from all backgrounds and viewpoints across society to build a better, more inspiring and world.

Curious is taking place from August 1-14, details of events and tickets can be found on the RSE’s dedicated Curious website at

Sarah Skerratt is Chief Executive (Designate) at the Royal Society of Edinburgh