Session 2 -  Lecture Notes – Associations

Professional Associations and Societies are the key to the communication and dissemination of  knowledge and continuous discovery in sciences and technology. Professional societies bring together like-minded individuals to the benefit of all mankind.

Associations serve several purposes:

· Educating their members and the public;
· Setting professional standards of conduct;
· Setting and enforcing product safety and quality standards;
· Encouraging volunteerism;
· Informing the public;
· Developing, compiling, and disseminating information and information policies;
· Establishing forums for the exchange of ideas and information;
· Efforts to represent private interests;
· Exercising political muscle;
· Employing 8.6 people.

According to a study funded by the American Society of Association Executives, 7 out of 10 Americans belong to 1 association; 1 out of 4 belongs to four or more associations.  As a sci-tech librarian I belong to 2 in my field, the American Society for Engineering Education and the Special Libraries Association.  Associations offer education courses in their subject area as well as spend 14.5 billion on industry standard-setting activities each year.  If you are a member of an association you may offer your services as a volunteer, both for association governance and the common good of the membership.  Associations produce newsletters and journals and generally hold annual meetings for their members.  The work of associations is often not understood by the general public and is not a visible activity to most people.  Education is the most important benefit of membership and in science and technology; most associations are in the forefront of technological discoveries and advancements.

Have you ever witnessed a court case that invited an expert to testify?  Associations are often approached by our government to provide the names of technical experts in key areas to inform a jury or to provide data, which may affect how a law or policy gets enacted.  As an example, the American Medical Association’s statistical data brought to light in governmental hearings can inform the decision making body and assist in establishing important public policy on health issues which effect us all.

Associations come in all flavors from purely social ones to scientific ones.  Most are national, nonprofit membership associations but many in the sciences are international.  The development of academies, or societies, was one of great importance to science.  Mainly established in Europe, these societies were populated with small groups of men who met to discuss subjects of mutual interest.   Financially, many societies began through the generosity of a prince or a wealthy member of society.  Their interest in science was the sole reason for forming this interest group.  Through the strength of the society, the members enjoyed freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the largest general scientific society in the United States.  Founded in 1847 in Boston, it was mainly organized by geologists and naturalists.  Furthering the work of scientists by helping facilitate cooperation, working to improve scientific methods in the promotion of human welfare, and increasing public knowledge and understanding of the role of science are its goals.  AAAS is affiliated with nearly 300 scientific societies.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, it publishes the weekly journal Science.

One of the oldest, international scientific societies is the Academy of Sciences, Russian Akademiya Nauk.  Founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1724 it serves as the highest scientific society and principle coordinating body for research in the natural and social sciences, technology and production in Russia.  The academy is composed of outstanding scholars and is devoted to training students and publicizing scientific achievements and knowledge.  It is clear that without the benefits of scientific societies the achievements enjoyed by scientists worldwide would be hampered.

As information professionals working with sci-tech materials, it is vital to note that associations and societies come with acronyms :-}.   This may throw you at first when dealing with the maze of information prolific in sci-tech,  but very quickly one gets used to hearing a patron say “I am looking for the IEEE proceedings from this year”  that when translated means  “I am looking for the proceeding of the Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers from this year”.  ACM, SAE, ASC, ASME all become second nature to you like your favorite friends names……guaranteed!