Wales to boost its image with a learned society

Welsh academics are aiming to create their own version of the British Academy or Royal Society with the launch of the first Learned Society for Wales.

The society, which will be based in Cardiff, will promote learning and scholarship and disseminate Welsh research. It will offer independent advice to the Welsh Assembly Government and attempt to foster public interest in science and the arts and humanities.

Lynn Williams, the society's secretary, said: "Wales is virtually the only advanced nation that lacks such an academy of scholars and we believe that the establishment of the society will fill a major gap in the country's academic, intellectual and civic life."

The Royal Society, based in London, was established in 1660 and the Royal Society of Edinburgh was founded in 1783, but until now scholars in Wales have been represented only by academic institutions that cover Britain as a whole.

The new society, which will be launched in May, has 60 founding fellows. Sir John Cadogan, former head of the UK Science Research Councils, has been appointed president.

A prospectus penned by the first fellows claims that the lack of a learned society in Wales "not only reflects badly on the country's intellectual image, it also means that its people, politicians and policymakers and businesses do not have access to well-researched, scholarly and objective advice on issues of key importance in the way that those in other countries do".

Fellowship will be open to Welsh residents or those born in Wales who have a "demonstrable record of excellence and achievement" in academia, or who have made a contribution to knowledge in their professional field.

In time, the learned society hopes to open a library, publish a journal, award research funding and even conduct research in its own right.

Funding to get it off the ground has been provided by the University of Wales. Marc Clement, its vice-chancellor, said: "It will be along the lines of the Royal Society. Our aspiration is to establish a learned society of that importance."

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