Scholarly Societies

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Scholarly Societies

Key Takeaways

  • The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the largest scholarly society dedicated to the academic study of religion, with more than 8,000 members around the world. It operates as an affiliate of Emory University and its leadership groups include the AAR Board of Directors, five committees of the board, and numerous working groups, such as juries, committees, and task forces.
  • AAR offers its members special discounts, access to the latest scholarship, opportunities to promote their own accomplishments through AAR's official channels, and invitations to members-only events.
  • The Dictionary Society of North America (DSNA) was formed in 1975 with the purpose of bringing together people interested in dictionary making, study, collection, and use. It currently has more than 400 members living in over 40 countries around the world.

Introduction

The below research provides a detailed overview of the business model of two of the largest and most prominent scholarly societies in the US. These include the American Academy of Religion and the Dictionary Society of North America. The overview of each scholarly society includes a short description of the society, its organizational structure, products/services offered to members, and its financial structure. While most of the scholarly societies are non-profit in nature, we have chosen the above two as they are slightly different in their organizational and membership structures.

American Academy of Religion

Overview

  • The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the largest scholarly society dedicated to the academic study of religion, with more than 8,000 members around the world. It was initially founded by professor Ismar J. Peritz of Syracuse University, along with three colleagues, in 1909, under the name Association of Biblical Instructors in American Colleges and Secondary Schools.
  • The name was subsequently changed to the National Association of Biblical Instructors (NABI) in 1922 and finally to the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in 1964. AAR has its executive offices located in the Luce Center on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Alice Hunt is the current Executive Director of AAR since 2018.
  • The primary mission of the scholarly society is to "foster excellence in the academic study of religion and enhance the public understanding of religion. It is committed to promoting academic excellence, professional responsibility, free inquiry, critical examination, diversity, inclusion, respect, and transparency within the academic study of religion and in its own work."
  • AAR is a nonprofit membership association and raises funds to support its projects and services and to carry out its responsibilities as a learned society and professional association. It received 501(c)(3) tax status in 1985. AAR's members "are largely faculty and graduate students at colleges, universities, and divinity schools in North America, with a growing percentage located at institutions of higher education in Asia, Africa, and Europe."
  • AAR holds an annual North American meeting and ten regional meetings through which it serves its members and the advancement of the field. It maintains several grant programs for members through which eligible applicants can seek funding for "regional development grants, travel grants to attend AAR's annual meeting, public engagement fellowships and seed grants, and research grants for international dissertation work, collaboration with other scholars, and individual projects."

Organizational Structure

  • AAR operates as an affiliate of Emory University, and its organizational structure/leadership groups include the AAR Board of Directors, five committees of the board, and numerous working groups, such as juries, committees, and task forces.
  • The Board of Directors consists of twelve members elected by the membership and the AAR Executive Director, who serves in a nonvoting role. The Board of Directors governs the organization through "strategic planning, policy development, assessment, and advocacy, and it oversees the AAR's working groups as well as the staff." The list of the current Board of Directors of AAR can be viewed here.
  • The five committees of the board include Audit Committee, Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Governance and Leadership Development Committee, and Program Committee. The names of the current members in each of the committees can be viewed in the links provided herein.
  • AAR also has several other working groups, which include juries for AAR grant and award programs, specially commissioned task forces, and numerous other committees that serve the needs of AAR constituents, public programming, and the academic study of religion. Some examples of such committees include Publications Committee, Theological Education Committee, Academic Relations Committee, Graduate Student Committee, and International Connections Committee, among others. The list of current members in each of the committees can be viewed on the respective committee page links provided here.
  • Additionally, AAR has regionally elected coordinators. The AAR's ten regions are each represented by a Regionally Elected Coordinator who promotes the work of the regional group and serves on the AAR Regions Committee.

Financial Structure

  • AAR is a nonprofit member association, which raises donations from the public through its various funds. It also charges its members an annual membership fee.
  • The various AAR funds where one can donate include AAR Academy Fund, which provides support for general and programmatic operations, Annual Meeting Travel Grants Fund, which provides financial support to members to enable them to attend AAR's annual meeting, Awards and Recognition Fund, which provides support to AAR’s awards programs that recognize extraordinary contributions to the academic study of religion, Research and Development Grants Fund, which provides support to AAR’s grant programs that provide funding for development grants, public engagement fellowships, and seed grants, and AAR COVID-19 Crisis Fund, which provides mini-grants to members who have lost a significant portion of their income due to the current pandemic.
  • AAR also finances its operations through the annual membership fees, which it charges on a rolling-year cycle. The organization offers six categories of memberships with varying fees.
  • The various membership categories include:

Products/Services Offered to Members

  • AAR offers its members special discounts, access to the latest scholarship, opportunities to promote their own accomplishments through AAR's official channels, and invitations to members-only events.
  • AAR members receive deep discounts on registration fees for the annual meeting, which is held in a major US city every November and includes more than 500 academic sessions, plenaries with leaders in the field, and hundreds of academic publishers. They are also free to attend any of the regional meetings organized by AAR's ten regions. The members are also provided access to a member directory and several online communities through which they can "engage in conversation, share resources, and search for colleagues by research area, institution, or involvement in the AAR."
  • As highlighted above, AAR provides its members with an opportunity to submit their professional accomplishments, such as awards, media mentions, and major publications and projects for promotion through its official communication channels, including social media, website, and quarterly newsletters.
  • AAR is a member of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), and hence all AAR members also enjoy the benefits of IAHR membership, including registration discounts for the IAHR World Congress and eligibility for travel grants. Additionally, AAR members enjoy access to numerous career resources, including a job board, online training for job seekers, funding opportunities for research projects, and travel funds to attend the annual meeting.
  • Through a partnership with Beyond the Professoriate, AAR provides its members access to Aurora, an e-learning platform for scholars pursuing work within or outside academia. It covers topics such as interviewing, resumes, and networking, among others. Further, AAR regularly posts job openings, including faculty positions, editorial jobs, and ministerial roles, which its members can access through the job board, managed jointly with the Society of Biblical Literature.
  • AAR has exclusive grant programs for its members. AAR members can apply for "funding to pursue individual or collaborative projects, regional development, international dissertation research, travel to the annual meeting, and public engagement." AAR membership also includes online access to current and archived issues of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR), an academic journal in religious studies.
  • AAR has a partnership with JSTOR, which provides members with access to JSTOR's Religious Studies Collection. The collection is updated annually, with the current list of journals nearing 150. Further, AAR's partner in publishing, Oxford University Press, offers discounts to AAR members on academic and trade books across all disciplines. Members also receive discounts on journals from Penn State Press and Cambridge University Press, among others.

The Dictionary Society of North America

Overview

  • The Dictionary Society of North America (DSNA) was formed in 1975 to bring together people interested in dictionary making, study, collection, and use. It was founded by participants in a colloquium, entitled 'Research on the History of English Dictionaries,' held at Indiana State University, in Terre Haute, Indiana. It currently has more than 400 members living in over 40 countries around the world. DSNA has its headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.
  • As stated in its handbook, the primary purpose of DSNA is "to foster scholarly and professional activities related to dictionaries and promote the exchange of information and ideas among members through meetings, research projects, and publications, such as a newsletter, a journal, bibliographies, or directories."
  • DSNA is a member of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), whose mission is “the advancement of humanistic studies in all fields of learning in the humanities and the social sciences and the maintenance and strengthening of relations among the national societies devoted to such studies.”
  • DSNA members primarily include people "working on dictionaries, people engaged in research and writing about dictionaries, dictionary collectors, librarians, booksellers, translators, linguists, publishers, writers, collectors, journalists, and people with an avocational interest in dictionaries."

Organizational Structure

  • The organizational structure of DSNA consists of officers, an executive board, and committees. The officers of the DSNA include a President, a Vice-President, and an Executive Secretary. The Vice President also has the title of President-Elect.
  • The President and the Vice-President each serve a term of two years and are not eligible for reelection in those offices. However, the Executive Secretary serves a term of four years and is eligible for reelection for two additional terms.
  • DSNA Executive Board is composed of the President, the Vice-President, the Executive Secretary, and four members-at-large. The immediate past President is a non-voting member of the Executive Board.
  • DSNA also features a Nominating Committee of four members, which is representative of DSNA's different interests. Two members of the committee are appointed by the Executive Board each biennium for a term of four years. The committee elects its own Chairperson. The organization also has a Publications Committee, which is responsible for all its publications.
  • Additionally, DSNA has an Editor who is appointed by the Executive Board and is responsible for the editorial form and content of each annual volume. The Editor serves for a term of two years and can be reappointed for up to five additional terms. The list of all the current members in DSNA's organizational structure can be found here.

Financial Structure

  • DSNA is recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation under the federal Internal Revenue Code. Apart from public donations and contributions, the organization primarily funds its operations through membership and conference fees. The scholarly society offers various levels of memberships. As highlighted above, its membership is open to all.
  • DSNA typically charges a fee of $70 (which includes a year of membership in the DSNA) from nonmembers and $25 from DSNA members for attending its meetings.
  • While the DSNA membership for international and North American students is free, the charges for other membership levels vary from $50 to $950. The membership for students is only free for the duration of their studies. The below chart provides the various membership levels of DSNA along with the fees.

Products/Services Offered to Members

  • DSNA membership is open for anyone who has an interest in language, words, dictionaries, lexicography, or any combination of these. DSNA members receive a semi-annual newsletter that provides the latest information about DSNA and its members, recently published or in-progress dictionaries or lexicographic research, lexicography courses and workshops, and recent or forthcoming conferences of lexicographic interest.
  • DSNA also provides its members with journal Dictionaries once a year. These contain "forums on issues in lexicography; articles, notes, and queries on the making, critique, use, collection, and history of dictionaries, including sketches of lexicographers; descriptions of significant dictionary collections; reviews of dictionaries and books on lexicography or closely related topics; and bibliographies on various aspects of lexicography."
  • DSNA also holds an exclusive meet for its members every other year to help them make or renew acquaintance with other lexophiles and to present and hear papers about dictionaries. Only DSNA members have the privilege to speak at these meetings and non-members need to compulsorily apply for membership when they receive their acceptance to speak. The next DSNA biennial meeting is scheduled to be held in 2021.
  • DSNA members also have exclusive access to Member Directory, which they can leverage to network and connect with other members. They also get free access to several DSNA member sites and organizations. Some of these include the Cordell Collection of Dictionaries, Emily Dickinson Lexicon, Scottish Language Dictionaries, Oxford English Dictionary, Robert Greenman, and Lexicography Master Class, among others. The complete list of sites and organizations can be viewed here.

Research Strategy

To compile the required information we have used the most credible sources of information, such as the websites of the respective scholarly societies, their press releases, blogs, and available filings. We also searched through various media articles from Forbes, WSJ, Bloomberg, Businesswire, Live Mint, and PR Newswire, among others, to include any other relevant information about the identified societies. While most of the scholarly societies are non-profit in nature, we have chosen the above two as they are slightly different in their organizational and membership structures.
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