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Scientific Societies: 'Should I Bother?'

Writing in The Scientist, Steven Wiley examines the merits of renewing his annual society memberships. Wiley writes that every year it comes time to pay society dues, he asks himself "should I bother?" In the past, he says, membership benefits were often tangible ― they arrived in the mail in the form of print journals and invitations to submit abstracts for annual meetings ― whereas now, many society publications are freely accessible online. Wiley also suggests that the very people who could potentially gain the most from society networking opportunities also represent the population on the most rapid decline in societies ― young scientists — are a rare commodity therein. Wiley writes that this is likely because "scientific societies generally cater to the status quo, not to the new and emerging elements of a field." His suggestion? "If a society were helping me deal with the rapidly increasing rate of innovation and discovery in biology, then it would give me a great reason to bother remaining a member," he says. Whether societies embrace his advice or not, it appears they've managed to maintain his membership based on more of a "sense of tradition than need."

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