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Royal Geographical Society Votes to Boldly Go … Nowhere

19 May 2009 6:08 am
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Today's Independent, among others, has a nice account of a contentious academic debate among the United Kingdom's geographers, which has culminated in a vote by Royal Geographical Society members to not support large-scale scientific expeditions.

Michael McCarthy writes:

More than 300 fellows and members of the Royal Geographical Society crowded into a lecture theatre at the society's elegant Kensington headquarters, to argue over a controversial call for the RGS to resume the big scientific expeditions for which it was once a byword, and which have now been abandoned.

But after a passionate two-hour debate behind closed doors, which involved some of Britain's leading explorers, including the Arctic adventurer Pen Hadow and the pioneer of rainforest studies Robin Hanbury-Tenison, the motion was defeated.

The argument had been seen as a fight for the soul of the RGS, between those who felt that large-scale exploration should still be its true purpose, and those who felt that times had changed, and it should now be an essentially academic institution.

More than 4000 of the society's 10,000-plus members cast a ballot, and the motion to restore major expeditions was defeated 61.3% to 38.7%.

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