Scientific Academies: In the best company

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The grandfather of scientific national academies is staging major celebrations this week for its 350th birthday. But, like similar elite groups around the world, Britain's Royal Society has had to work hard to stay relevant and influential, reports Colin Macilwain.

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... Many nations have academies of science (over 100 worldwide), but they widely differ in operation and all have evolved over time. 12 The first academy of science, the Royal Society in the United Kingdom, which celebrated its 350th anniversary in 2010, is focused on the discussion of scientific research. Unlike the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society does not have a formal, official governmental role. ...
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analysis and recommendations based on the work of project participants. Author's views are their own. T his paper provides an overview of Congressionally-chartered honorific organizations that are focused on science, technology, and innovation (STI). It describes the role these organizations play in policy-making and their influence on policy decisions. 2 WHAT ARE CONGRESSIONALLY-CHARTERED HONORIFIC ORGANIZATIONS? In order for Congress to charter an organization, it must do so by pass-ing a law. Congressionally-chartered nonprofit organizations that have as their purpose the promotion of pa-triotic, charitable, and education ac-tivities are listed in Title 36 of the US Code and include organizations such as the American Chemical Society, the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. 1 There are about 100 such organizations. Within this broad cat-egory are organizations whose mem-bers are elected as an honor for their achievements. These Congressionally-chartered honorific organizations in-clude the American Academy of Arts and Letters (founded in 1780), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS; founded in 1863), and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA; founded in 1967). While generally independent in operation, with the ability to elect their members and officers, the orga-nization may have certain obligations to the Federal Government. For exam-ple, the National Academy of Sciences section of Title 36 states that On request of the United States Government, the corporation shall investigate, examine, ex-periment, and report on any subject of science or art. The corporation may not receive compensation for services to the Government, but the actual expense of the investigation, examination, experimentation, and report shall be paid by the Government from an appropria-tion for that purpose.
The Royal Society is one of the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific bodies, but what has it done in recent decades? Increasingly marginalised by postwar developments and the reforms of civil science in the 1960s, the Society was at risk of resting on its laurels. Instead, it found ways of exploiting its unique networks of scientific talent to promote science. Creating opportunities for outstanding individuals to establish and advance research careers, influencing policymaking at national and international levels, and engaging with the public outside the world of professional science, the Society gave fresh expression to the values that had shaped its long history. Through unparalleled access to the Society's modern archives and other archival sources, interviews with key individuals and extensive inside knowledge, Peter Collins shows how the Society addressed the challenges posed by the astounding growth of science and by escalating interactions between science and daily life.
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