Cymdeithas Ddysgedig Cymru

In the day-to-day turmoil of politics I've probably not given enough attention to the main purpose of Syniadau. In order to operate as an independent country Wales will need a framework of fundamental structures and institutions; not just political but extending to every facet of society. I want to highlight the need for us to set up these structures, and celebrate each step we take towards building a Wales that is fit to take its place alongside the other countries of Europe and the world.

So the establishment today of a Learned Society for Wales is something to be welcomed not just as something that is good in and of itself, but as another step towards the goal of an independent Wales.

It has been set up with a small grant from the University of Wales and Professor Sir John Cadogan, its first President and one of about sixty Founding Fellows, had this to say about it:

There has long been concern that Wales is alone in not recognising, and providing a focus for, scholarship, learning and research through a national academy of arts and sciences, unlike most countries.

We have the knowledge and the ability in Wales, but until now, there has been no single society able to bring this expertise together. This is our role and now is the opportunity to make a difference. In addition to world class champions in specific fields working in Wales, such as stem cell research, we need also to take advantage of the expertise of Welsh born scholars wherever they are in the world to benefit the country as a whole. This must embrace the arts and social studies as well as science and engineering.

Our aim is to celebrate, recognise, safeguard, protect and encourage excellence in every one of the scholarly disciplines and in the professions, industry and commerce, the arts and public service in Wales. The establishment of The Learned Society of Wales, while long awaited, is certainly a milestone in the history of Wales and a vote of confidence in the ability and future of our nation’s academic potential.

University of Wales, 25 March 2010

We can read more background information by clicking the link above, and he also gave this radio interview this morning:


Now it has to be said that this is a modest beginning, and that the new Learned Society doesn't have any official function. In comparison, the Royal Society in London receives about £45m grant-in-aid from the UK government, most of which it distributes for research. The Scottish equivalent, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, is supported by the Scottish Government and distributes about £2m though with a wider remit than just science.

In both England and Scotland, the Royal Societies are just one part of complicated funding for research and Wales has its own mechanisms for this, so I'm definitely not saying that our Learned Society should exist merely in order to do a similar thing. First and foremost it should be a focus and showcase for the wealth of academic talent and excellence that Wales has produced and has to offer the world ... and help to foster more and better in future. But the comparison perhaps gives us a glimpse of what the Learned Society of Wales might grow to become and the importance of the role it might play in Wales' future.

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