Anticipating what is happening in the science and technology communities worldwide is therefore essential. The 2021 GESDA Science Breakthrough Radar is intended as a tool that helps the global community to monitor, analyse and steer the unprecedented pace of scientific advancement towards positive outcomes. Imprinted in its DNA by its founders, the governments of the Swiss Confederation and the Canton of Geneva, the Radar is set up to function as a neutral broker and interpreter between the different disciplines, sectors, communities, regions and world views.
With this objective in mind, GESDA has developed its Science Breakthrough Radar as a neutral, science- and expert-based platform. In that sense, the Radar is neither predicting the future nor projecting a compass for a desirable society. It is simply scouting what is already happening in the laboratories in Switzerland and throughout the world, and mapping, as a best guess by experts, the possible advances and breakthroughs in a broad range of scientific areas within a 5-, 10- and 25-year time horizon.
The anticipated science and technology breakthroughs described in this report are not happening in a vacuum. They a part of broader societal and political contexts. They are discussed and debated by citizens worldwide as they deal with fundamental aspects of what is means to be human, our relation to each other and to the planet. The GESDA Science Breakthrough Radar is intended to help initiate an interaction with people from all horizons and backgrounds by listening to what it is being said on scientific emerging topics. It also opens up a space where conversations about science trends and their impact can happen without implying that they are being endorsed.
This provides the opportunity to genuinely and rigorously look at potential policy options and future initiatives. The Radar thus is serving as an initial tool which has the goal of creating a joint language and starting the broader societal and political debate around these emerging topics in relation to fundamental and existential questions. This will ultimately lead to identifying collective pathways for action.
As will be shown in this report — and further extended in future editions — it is equally important to consider cutting-edge thinking and to anticipate developments in social science and the humanities. Charting issues such as future social innovations and social structures, advances in international relations theory or innovation in economic thought alongside more “technological” breakthroughs, will create a comprehensive vision of a future and provide the information needed to anticipate and design positive solutions for humankind.
The present inaugural rolling yearly mapping of the science trends represents the views of a part of the Swiss and global science community. Our intention is to turn it into a continuous effort about how science might evolve and which additional emerging topics the Radar should consider.
It is a live document, not a closed list. It will be continuously updated and expanded through interactions with scientists of all regions and of all backgrounds, from the public and the private sector, in a spirit of true open science.