About The Beagle Campaign

The Royal Geographical Society has a history of mounting its own expeditions – more commonly known today as field research projects. The eighteen it organised between the mid 1950’s and 1990’s all broke even, and sometimes provided a surplus to the Society. None drew on RGS Funds. Yet, since 1998, this integral part of the Society’s anatomy has somehow been mislaid at a time of pressing need for new geographical data and discoveries.

It is no longer mountain summits or poles we seek (although countless areas still remain virgin territory), so much as a greater knowledge about climate change, forest destruction and degradation, and a host of other unknowns; our knowledge of the planet’s species still has a long way to go. For example, marine biologists estimate there are up to fifty million new species within the largely unexplored oceans, and there may be as many as ten million species of undiscovered insects, and hundreds of thousands of vascular plants, fungi and algae waiting to be discovered. As The Times leader article recently put it: “There is more urgent need than ever for RGS explorers to strive, to seek and not
to yield.”

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At the May 2009 Special General Meeting, held after eighty distinguished Fellows submitted a resolution calling for the RGS (with IBG) to reactivate the Society‚Äôs own research, we won almost 40% of the SGM vote (45% if the President’s proxy votes are removed). The endeavour received over 25,000 words of high-profile media and our support went from 80 to 1,600 Fellows in just sixty days.

The Society subsequently held a research and scientific expeditions review. ‘The Beagle stakeholder group’ were invited to contribute to the review and we presented to the panel in November 2009. In May 2010, the review’s results were published and it became clear that many concessions had been made by the RGS (with IBG) management team. There is a greater impetus on global research and scientific expeditions and, amongst other commitments, ‘one joint field programme focused on an issue of international significance’, ‘building links with other national geographical societies overseas’ and ‘working with one or more of the 700+ field centres around the world’.

On the back of the review’s findings, we sent a letter to the Director and President offering our support and commending Council’s decisions. We hailed the review initiatives as a significant step forward.

We are now eager to discover how and when Council will action these new initiatives.

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