The Ri unconference

Find out more about the Ri's unconference for students run by the L'Oréal Young Scientist Centre.

  • Credit: Karen Hatch
  • Credit: Karen Hatch
  • Credit: Karen Hatch
  • Credit: Karen Hatch


The Ri Unconference is a national event where 300 young people aged 16-18 from around the UK have the opportunity to shape the future of science policy and decision making.


Experts and key influencers in the science industry introduce four key topics centred around a different theme each year. The 2013 Unconference theme was ‘Future technologies and ethical implications’ covering:

  • Energy and the environment
  • Personal data acquisition and security
  • Biosciences
  • Environment and food security

Students then set the agenda for their afternoon breakout sessions and through open, organic discussion, identify recommendations on the issues raised.

Throughout the day, they share their ideas on Twitter, and email, using social media as a way to communicate their ideas and debate with a wider audience about the key issues up for discussion. The Unconference culminates in the presentation of these recommendations to key thought leaders from government, science, business, education and media.

A report capturing the young people’s ideas is produced after the event and presented to ministers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, local councils and schools (tbc).


At a time when we’re struggling to incentivise young people to pursue science above a compulsory level, the Ri Unconference offers an opportunity for them to interact with a different side of science outside of the classroom.

The day will showcase their amazing ideas to scientists, politicians and journalists in the hope of solving the scientific challenges facing the UK.

The ethos behind an Unconference is completely aligned with the L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre; encouraging creative thinking in science and curiosity-driven learning outside the classroom.


Our four keynote speakers for the 2013 unconference were:

Energy and the environment; Professor Sir David King – Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change

Personal data acquisition and security; Dr Susan Wallace - Lecturer of Population & Public Health Sciences at the University of Leicester

Bioscience; Dr Adam Rutherford - Author, broadcaster and science communicator 

Environment and food security; Professor Tim Wheeler - Director of Research and Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department for International Development, and Professor of Crop Science, University of Reading

2015 Unconference

The fourth Ri Unconference will take place on 9 October 2015, aimed at stimulating discussion around science & technology focusing this year on the barriers that might exist to gender equality in science careers. 

Register your school by emailing no later than 2 October 2015.

Open to 16-18 year olds attending as part of a school group. We recommend each group consists of no more than eight people. Please contact us if you would like to bring a bigger group.       

2013 Unconference

On 15 November 2013, 280 14-18 year olds visited the Royal Institution to take part in its third annual science 'unconference' for young people. The topic this year was 'Future technologies and ethical implications’.

Watch highlights

2012 Unconference

On 9 November 2012 almost 150 14-18 year olds visited the Royal Institution to take part in its second annual science 'unconference' for young people. The topic this year was science and the economy.

Read the Ri Unconference 2012 Report.

Watch highlights

2011 Unconference

On 26 September 2011 students from around the country attended the first national science unconference for young people at the Royal Institution. The initial discussion was led by key speakers who introduce four key themes to the students:

  • Science and education: led by Alom Shaha, physics teacher and science show presenter
  • Science and careers: led by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, British space scientist and TV presenter
  • Science in the media: led by Sallie Robbins, science journalist 
  • Science and the Environment: led by Dr Hugh Montgomery, former Ri Christmas Lecturer

Read the Ri Unconference  2011 report.

Watch highlights

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