On Monday 28 November the WISERD Centre for Welsh Politics and Society (CWPS) was launched at Aberystwyth University. This new interdisciplinary research centre aims to develop an understanding of contemporary politics and society in Wales, and contribute to the public and policy debates on a range of issues.
The centre aims to achieve its objectives through promoting and facilitating interdisciplinary research and collaborations, undertaking new empirical research, supporting postgraduate researchers and their development, engaging with Welsh Government, local authorities and civil society groups, promoting national and international networks and the exchange of ideas.
The centre organises its research activities around three main themes: Governance, Participation and Civil Society, Language and Identity, and Global Connections. It also incorporates the public engagement ethos and activities of the Institute of Welsh Politics, including an Annual Welsh Politics and Society Lecture and public events in Aberystwyth and around Wales.
The centre hosts three major externally funded research projects – the ESRC WISERD/Civil Society research centre; the European Rural Council GLOBAL-RURAL project; and the Horizon 2020 IMAJINE (Integrative Mechanisms to Address Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe) project. It also acts as the Aberystwyth arm of WISERD.
The launch of the new centre brought together over thirty academics and researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds including geographers, political scientists, psychologists, historians, economists and sociologists with a shared interest in Welsh politics and society.
In his opening address, Professor Michael Woods, Co-Director of WISERD based at Aberystwyth University, spoke of the aim of the centre to use Wales as a platform from which to deliver world-class research that has wide reaching policy relevance both within and outside of Wales. He also introduced the training and capacity building remit of the centre, something of particular interest to the many early career researchers and PhD students in attendance.
After the introduction, attendees were able to join one of three ‘break out’ groups representing the three main themes of the WISERD Centre for Welsh Politics and Society. The purpose of each discussion was to consider how the themes can help those associated with the centre to identify and synergise common research interests, and develop future research collaborations and wider networks.
Within the Governance group, discussion quickly turned to the timely nature of the theme in a post- Brexit/Trump world, and the role of academia in understanding the ways in which people participate and engage with politics. The Language and Identity group considered practical ways of bringing interested parties together through reading groups and workshops. At the end of the event, theme leaders were able to take away practical ideas for events that could be planned for the new year and broader points about the conceptual and empirical focus of the themes.
A public launch of the centre will be held in Aberystwyth on 25 January at 7pm in the Morlan Centre. The event will focus on some of the key issues surrounding contemporary Welsh politics and society in the context of Brexit. A further launch reception is also planned to be held in the Senedd, Cardiff in June 2017.