Society Dedicated to Learning Gains Royal Seal of Approval; Wales' National Academy for the Sciences, Arts and Humanities Has Been Given a Significant Commendation from the Queen. Here, Chief Executive of the Learned Society of Wales, Professor Peter Halligan, Explains What It Means

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Society Dedicated to Learning Gains Royal Seal of Approval; Wales' National Academy for the Sciences, Arts and Humanities Has Been Given a Significant Commendation from the Queen. Here, Chief Executive of the Learned Society of Wales, Professor Peter Halligan, Explains What It Means


FROM their earliest beginnings in the Renaissance to the present day, organisations described as 'learned societies' have been concerned with the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination to a wide audience.

In England, France, Italy and Germany, learned societies were established during the 17th century with the Royal Society in London (founded in 1663) being among the oldest on the world.

By the 18th century, Scotland (Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1783) and Ireland (the Royal Irish Academy, 1786) both had learned societies established under Royal Charter.

Two hundred and twenty seven years after Scotland and 10 years after Welsh devolution, an equivalent academy was established in Wales as a company limited by guarantee, operating under a memorandum and articles of association. It was accorded charitable status in April 2011.

The creation of Wales' first national academy of learning was the subject of much interest for many years prior to the launch of the Learned Society of Wales in 2010, but the idea was only taken forward in a practical way when a group of some 20 scholars representing the major academic disciplines came together and formed themselves into a shadow council, with Sir John Cadogan elected as the society's inaugural president.

Although smaller than its older sister organisations in the UK, the Learned Society of Wales has over the past five years undertaken a number of significant activities and initiatives in delivering its mission of celebrating scholarship and serving the nation.

These have included electing distinguished fellows, providing advice on a variety of public policy issues related to science, engineering, medicine and the arts; bestowing awards; organising and hosting symposia and meetings; and more generally, promoting public intellectual life in Wales.

Unlike other UK learned societies such as the Royal Society or British Academy, the fellowship covers a wide range of disciplines - science and technology, arts, humanities, social science, business and public service.

As Wales' first national academy, one of the society's key mediumterm strategic goals was to be "acknowledged as a recognised representative of the world of Welsh Learning".

With this in mind, the society's council sought to secure the award of Royal Charter accorded to other established learned societies in the UK.

Awards of Royal Charter, however, are comparatively rare and are typically reserved for eminent professional bodies, charities or universities, which have a solid record of achievement and are financially sound like the BBC, the British Council and the research and sports councils.

Since the 13th century, only 900 awards have been granted. National organisations in Wales that have secured Royal Charter include the National Library, the National Museum, the Sports Council for Wales, the Arts Council of Wales and more recently, the Welsh Livery Guild. …

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Society Dedicated to Learning Gains Royal Seal of Approval; Wales' National Academy for the Sciences, Arts and Humanities Has Been Given a Significant Commendation from the Queen. Here, Chief Executive of the Learned Society of Wales, Professor Peter Halligan, Explains What It Means
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