What is a scientific society and why do you join them?

secret_societyWhen I first met my husband, he saw on the top of my pile of mail a magazine for the “Protein Society“.  He proceeded to ask me about the secret handshake and our underground rituals. And what about the outfits?  Are there robes?  There must be robes!  That’s when I realized that  most people know nothing about professional scientific societies.  Since I’m spending this entire week at a scientific meeting for the International Society for Biological and Environmental Research (or ISBER – pronouced “is-burr” – for short), my blog posts this week are going to be all about scientific societies and scientific meetings.

In science there may be hundreds (thousands?) of professional societies.  They can have membership based in the United State or can be international.  They can have a broad focus like the Protein Society or a very specific focus, like ISBER. They can have hundreds of members or thousands.  The American Association for the globalpeopleAdvancement of Science boasts over 120,000 global members!  There are many purposes for these societies. They bring scientists with similar interests together so that they can share ideas.  As a group, the society can also have a single voice to collectively educate the public to explain certain controversial pieces of research or to advocate the government to attempt to change laws, policy or funding affecting scientists. Many societies have their own journals and provide a forum to publish articles of particular interest to that group of people.  For example, the official ISBER journal is Biopreservation and Biobanking.  Depending on the society, they could be managed by hired staff, a subcontracted management group, or exclusively by the member volunteers.  For example, ISBER is managed by Malachite Management Inc., and I volunteer on the Membership and Marketing Committee (to help recruit new members) and the Programming Committee (to help plan the annual meeting).  Societies also provide support for young researchers through networking, mentoring, education and career opportunities.  And this brings us to the annual meeting, which most societies also have, in various locations around the country or around the world to bring researchers together to talk about their research, network and learn.

To give you an example of different kinds of scientific societies, I have listed below the societies that I have either been a member of or attended a meeting (and presented in one form or another) for.

Because I’m trained as a cell and molecular biologist, most of my society affiliations are related to that, however there are scientific societies for Neuroscientists (people who study the brain), Microbiologists (scientists who study bacteria and other microbes), Physicists, Mathematicians, Physicians, and on and on.

Since I’m at the ISBER Annual Meeting this week, my next blog post will be all about meetings and what exactly we do at them (besides drink cocktails).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *