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A learned society is an organization that exists to promote an academic discipline or group of disciplines. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some qualification, or may be an honor conferred by election, as is the case with the oldest learned societies, such as the Polish Sodalitas Litterarum Vistulana (founded 1488), the Italian Accademia dei Lincei (founded 1603), the Académie Française (founded 1635), the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (founded 1652) or the Royal Society of London (founded 1660).

Most learned societies are non-profit organizations. Their activities typically include holding regular conferences for the presentation and discussion of new research results and publishing or sponsoring academic journals in their discipline. Some also act as professional bodies, regulating the activities of their members in the public interest or the collective interest of the membership.

Learned societies are of key importance in the sociology of science. The formation of a society is an important step in the emergence of a new discipline or sub-discipline.

Societies can be very general in nature, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, specific to a given discipline, such as the Modern Language Association, or specific to a given area of study, such as the American Association of Professors of Yiddish.

Most are either specific to a particular country (though they generally include some members from other countries as well), often with local branches, or are international, such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) or the Regional Studies Association, in which case they often have national branches. But many are local, such as the Massachusetts Medical Society, the publishers of the internationally known New England Journal of Medicine.

Some learned societies (such as the Royal Society of New Zealand) have been refounded by legislation to form quasi non-governmental organizations.

Membership

Some societies offer membership to those who have an interest in a particular subject or discipline, provided they pay their membership fees. Older and more academic/professional societies may offer associateships and/or fellowships to those who are appropriately qualified by honoris causa, or by submission of a portfolio of work or an original thesis. The most frequent benefit of membership is a sharply discounted subscription rate for the publications of the society.

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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