Why join a scientific society?
Wiley publishes around 950 journals for over 900 society partners. In 2014, a membership survey was sent out to 1.2 million recipients to learn more about why research professionals do or don’t join societies. Around 14,000 individuals participated in this survey (69% of whom belonged to societies). The results were released this past month.
When respondents were asked why they originally joined their society or association, the most common reason given was “Quality of research-based content.” The second most popular reason was “Prestige of organization in my field.” Other popular answers included “Required to attend conference,” “Required certification for career,” “Networking opportunities,” and “Value of Member benefits.”
Among these member benefits, those cited as being the most valued most were:
- A peer-reviewed journal that publishes academic/scholarly research (the most popular answer, cited by 27% of respondents)
- Opportunities for continuing education and training’ (cited by 26%). Conferences, grants, seminars, technical books, workshops, and LinkedIn are examples of such opportunities.
- Publication with latest techniques and trends (9%), typically in the form of magazines. Members far prefer this form of content to newsletters (1%)
Click here to view the full survey summary.
How you interpret these numbers depends on where you stand. Some have written that 27% is good number—that this is evidence of the continuing importance of society journals. One might also see this same number as evidence of the opposite, however—that if only one-quarter of members see the society’s journal as the primary benefit (about the same number as those who don’t join because of the cost, incidentally), then maybe the journal isn’t as important to membership as society’s current think. Also concerning is the fact that 1 out of 5 society members is a “detractor”— someone who actively trashes the brand. One can only suppose here, because the raw data from this survey was not available for analysis, but perhaps the combination of high membership prices and required participation exerts a more negative influence on societies than the appeal of and satisfaction from membership?