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November 20, 2014

Welsh Institue of Health and Social Care Blog
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» At last, a way of viewing politics with maturity

Last week’s Wales Report (BBC1 on 12.11.14) on the NHS turned out to be a real demonstration of how to support public scrutiny and democracy in a different, more modern way. Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford’s performance was … Continue reading

May 4, 2012

Journalism News
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» Glamorgan Graduate Elected in Cardiff

THE political landscape of Wales has changed again today.  As the results of the council elections are revealed, it’s apparent that Welsh Labour is enjoying its best showing since local council reorganisation in 1996.. I’ve always loved election nights. Having … Continue reading

December 13, 2010
» Iaith Fyw : Iaith Byw

WAGs proposed new Welsh Language Strategy is now open for consultation, or perhaps not as it appears to be listed as a “closed” consultation


September 10, 2010
» Video on the language measure

The WAG has uploaded a short video about the Proposed Welsh Language Measure onto their YouTube channel.

It is interesting to see how web2.0 is gradually becoming an accepted part of the media world – press release, check! – Tweet, check! – YouTube, check!

Two things in particular about the content struck me – firstly the strong mention of mobile phones (1:20) – and secondly the extent to which the cattle auction rooms (2:56) resemble the Assembly debating chamber (don’t get me wrong, I love the building, was just struck by the resemblance!).

May 20, 2010
» A less bilingual Welsh Assembly

I see from a story on the BBC that English language speeches in the Welsh Assembly will no longer be translated into Welsh in the official record of proceedings. While this has raised eyebrows/objections/hackles in various quarters for a variety of different reasons, it is interesting that part of the argument in favour of this refers to “…proposals to make the records of our debates and proceedings more user-friendly by imaginative use of modern technology.” Given the importance of parallel bilingual texts for technology such as Google Translate, I can’t help wondering whether this will in fact inhibit the use (imaginative or otherwise) of Welsh in future modern technology and whether the strategic goal to “increase participation in the democratic process here in Wales”, will ultimately result in cementing English as the language of Welsh politics.

While this may be an easy way to save £250,000 in austere times, we should perhaps be mindful of unintended consequences, both directly for the language and indirectly in terms of the erosion of the Assembly’s claim to be “an exemplar organisation in its delivery of bilingual services.” Exemplar organisations are needed to develop and demonstrate innovative, effective, affordable, responsive bilingual organisational practices – if the Welsh Assembly can’t fulfil this role, who else will?

March 17, 2010
» Is having a language enough?

Last night I watched Week In Week Out: A Broken Heart – “Reporter Phil Parry returns to the village of Llangeitho after twenty years as he investigates the health of the Welsh language in its traditional strongholds, and asks some uncomfortable questions about its future.” Part of the programme was an interview with Alun Ffred Jones, the Minister for Heritage. A couple of the comments he made brought me back to thinking about what it would mean for Wales to be a truly bilingual country…

The particular comments (around 20:43) were: ”...the success is that people have two languages, whether they choose to use both of them in equal measure is not [interrupted by interviewer]” and ”...and that is the important point; that it [the Welsh language] is there for them to use…”

Does this suggest that the WAG would consider a Wales in which everyone could speak Welsh, but no-one actually does, to be a truly bilingual country? I’d like to think not. But is does raise the critical issue of how we move from speakers who are bilingual (in the sense of being able to use both Welsh and English) to a bilingual society where both languages have vibrant communities of users. Without users, individual competence and confidence diminishes, opportunities for use diminish and the production of new, quality materials in Welsh also diminishes. This distinction between speakers and users is an important one, and whilst producing speakers might be relatively easy, it is not clear how government policy can create users.

March 1, 2010
» EBLUL closes

One of the mailing lists I subscribe to has just carried an announcement that the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages has closed. From their site I notice that the news service Eurolang is also currently closed.

Does anyone know if there is a story behind this, or is it just coincidence – perhaps funding sources that just happened to run out at more or less the same time? Are new organisations emerging to champion the cause of lesser used languages or is the language agenda less important in these times of economic crisis?

November 11, 2009

Welsh Institue of Health and Social Care Blog
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» Making research count

Until 2006, on leaving post British ambassadors had absolute freedom to write whatever they wished in their final telegram home – the grandly entitled ‘valedictory despatch’. The despatch could contain anything the diplomats wished: about the post they were leaving, about the governments they had served, about the diplomatic service itself. Especially candid were final valedictories, written by ambassadors quitting their last posting before retirement. The opportunity to be indiscreet, without fear of reprisal, was often seized with both hands. This centuries-old tradition – the subject of a recent radio series – survived in the Foreign Office through countless changes of government, upheaval and wars – before coming to an abrupt end recently.

Given the events of the last week I wonder if the facility were extended to independent scientific advisors, what would be contained in Professor David Nutt’s valedictory despatch?

The political furore around the sacking of the Head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has brought into sharp focus the relationship between independent advice, research evidence and politics. And whilst I don’t want to use this blog to add to that debate, it is apparent that as researchers who often are reporting to government, the implications for us are important. The affair pitted seemingly opposed forces – science and politics – and was characterised by firmly entrenched positions on both sides. What was often overlooked in the discourse that followed was the extent to which independent advice – scientific and otherwise – is fundamental in the working of government departments centrally and locally. So what are the implications and consequences in making research count in policy discussions? It is difficult to know, but what is obvious is that much greater clarity needs to be given to the roles and responsibilities so that all parties are aware of where boundaries lie. Such boundaries may however evade easy capture.

The end of the valedictory despatch has been accounted for by political correctness in watering down the language that made them so unusual, and the Freedom of Information Act which has given the public permission to read a vast range of official documents.

What would be most interesting is to ascertain the degree to which research and evidence-based advice has been subject to similar pressures, and indeed whether the Nutt affair is an isolated example or speaks to a more pernicious undercurrent in government. From a researcher’s point of view, I sincerely hope it is the former.

Written by Dr Mark Llewellyn, Senior Fellow, WIHSC

October 24, 2008
» Politics, Schmolitics... or not?

Regular readers may well have formed that view that I am not a particularly political animal – and they would be right. I have been viewing the whole USA presidential race (more a marathon than a sprint) with at best a rather abstract interest in as much as there will be a winner – a sporting event in which I am pretty much indifferent about who actually wins.

Now, thanks to YouTube I suddenly find that I actually care who wins…

...however as it is YouTube I also find myself wondering if it is actually a fake (albeit a good one!) which perhaps tells us something about the problematic status of YouTube as a genuine source of information. My colleagues and I had a similar debate about whether you could really remove the glass front of an iMac with a sink plunger as shown on YouTube (we still haven’t tried!).

So what is this movie that has stirred me into some form of political awareness with respect to the USA? Barack’s Message for First Americans.

Please tell me this isn’t a fake!

February 21, 2008
» Missed Opportunity?

Well, I’m sure I don’t need to draw any of my readers attention to the recent announcement by Heritage Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas which gave a “clear indication of this Welsh Assembly Government’s support to the Welsh language print media.” The announcement of funding “to fulfil the government’s commitment” to “expand the funding and support for Welsh language magazines and newspapers, including the establishment of a Welsh language daily newspaper” has perhaps not been greeted with as much enthusiasm as the rhetoric might have suggested it would be.

Was there a missed opportunity here? Well, certainly I think that Rhodri Glyn Thomas missed at least one trick; if he had waited until today to make his announcement he would have been making it on International Mother Language Day, during the International Year of Languages. Surely such a momentous announcement for the future of Welsh language print media could have waited a few days in order to coincide with this auspicious date?

Of course this blog doesn’t really concern itself with print media – other than labels on milk – so can we put an internet slant on this? Of course we can. Firstly, many people have suggested that a print publication is simply too 20th (19th?) century and that really a Welsh language daily newspaper should be on the WWW. To be honest I haven’t yet had time to check this out – but are there any examples of commercial successful purely online newspapers? Is there a business model that could deliver the editorial and journalistic quality Y Byd aspired to, but only through online provision? It is important to remember that Y Byd was embracing online provision – and indeed provided online only subscriptions. Was the commitment to paper a commercial necessity or was there something more symbolic about being a “proper” newspaper?

Secondly, part of the response to the announcement has been conducted online. Y Byd themselves link to a variety of online sources, Heini Gruffudd is using email to collect signatures for a letter of protest and Cymdeithas have launched an online petition which is also being promoted by email. Perhaps there are other on and offline activities that I am not aware of, but the internet is clearly a tool that comes easily to hand these days when protest needs to be organised.