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March 5, 2013 / Damien Irving

Professional society membership – is it worth it?

I’ve always been a member of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS), which is my local professional society. Put simply, it would be crazy for me not to be a member. For a mere $45 per annum (student rate) I get a range of obvious benefits, including a reduced registration fee for the annual conference, free attendance at regular social/networking events, numerous professional development opportunities, and an e-newsletter that keeps me up to date with local happenings and job alerts. I also get a number of benefits that aren’t so obvious. For instance, if the institution I work at was ever in danger of losing a significant amount of funding, AMOS would step in to try and help. I’m also eligible for certain scholarships and awards, and AMOS regularly represents the views of my profession in parliamentary inquiries and other related activities. The purpose of this post is therefore not to debate whether it’s worth becoming a member of your local professional society (it most definitely is). Instead, I want to discuss the merits of joining other major professional societies abroad.

I actually started writing this post way back in November, when I first received a membership renewal notice from the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Five months and multiple follow up reminders later, I’m still debating whether to renew. You see, earlier in 2012 I joined both the AGU and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) for the first time. My rationale for joining was pretty simple – colleagues of mine are members, so it seemed like a good thing to do. Twelve months on, I’m not sure that I really got anything for my money:

  • I have access to all the journals/bulletins published by these societies via my university library
  • I can’t attend any of the social events or workshops, because I don’t live in the USA
  • You can receive job alerts from these societies even if you aren’t a member (see this post)
  • I’m not attending an AGU or AMS conference anytime soon

In summary, I’m a little confused. As far as I can see, unless you have a specific reason (e.g. if you’re attending a conference or looking for a job in the country), there aren’t any obvious benefits associated with joining a major professional society abroad. Sure, there might be less obvious benefits like the fact that the AMS lobbies the American Government to fund satellite programs that provide some of the data I use in my daily work, however such indirect benefits surely cannot explain why so many foreigners take out memberships.

I’m therefore appealing to you to help me decide whether to renew my memberships. Are you a member of a professional society abroad? If so, why?


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