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An academician is a full member of an artistic, literary, or scientific academy. In many countries, it is an honorific title used to denote a full member of an academy that has a strong influence on national scientific life. In systems such as the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the title grants privileges and administrative responsibilities for funding allocation and research priorities.
A related title also exists in some countries — a Corresponding Member (French: membre correspondant; Russian: член-корреспондент "chlen-korrespondent") is a person who is eminent in respect of scientific discoveries and attainments but is not normally resident in the country where the academy is located. Because they are unable to read their communications in person, they have to use "correspondence". For example, Corresponding Members of the Australian Academy of Science who reside outside of Australia include: Sir David Attenborough (United Kingdom), Rolf M. Zinkernagel (Switzerland), Elizabeth Blackburn (USA) and Gunnar Öquist (Switzerland).
Historically, the meaning for the title of Academician follows the traditions of the two most successful early scientific societies: either the Royal Society, where it was an honorary recognition by an independent body of peer reviewers and was meant to distinguish a person, while giving relatively little formal power, or the model of the French Academy of Sciences, which was much closer integrated with the government, provided with more state funding as an organization, and where the title of Academician implied in a lot more rights when it came to decision making. While both approaches are, to a degree, political, normally in the scientific academies shaped after British model, the nature of politics involved in becoming an academician is more rooted in scientific argument, while organization modeled after French typically involve a lot more vested funding interests and purely political reasons that have nothing to do with science.
Eastern Europe and China
"Academician" may also be a functional title and denote a full member of the National Academy of Sciences in those countries where the academy has a strong influence on national scientific life, particularly countries that were part of, or influenced by, the Soviet Union. In such countries, "academician" is used as an honorific title (like "Doctor", "Professor", etc.) when addressing or speaking about someone. Countries where the term academician is used in this way include China, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
However, since the reforms of late USSR dismantled the de facto monopoly of the state on forming academies, the creation of voluntary academies has been allowed. While some of the newly created academies did improve the relatively rigid structure, the prestige and meaning of the title has been substantially undermined; as the title of "academician" could be awarded by associations of pseudoscientists or organizations that use the title for the sole purpose of gaining money. Therefore, it became customary and almost compulsory to list which academy gave the title to assert its meaningfulness.
The British honours "Fellow of the Royal Society" (FRS) or Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences can be considered rough equivalents. Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences was known as the Award of Academician until July 2014.
In Canada, Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada is a comparable honour.
In Finland, "Academician" (Finnish: akateemikko, Swedish: akademiker) is an honorary title and the President of the Republic nominates the Academicians. There can be 12 Finnish Academicians representing science and scholarly pursuits and eight Academicians representing fine arts and literature at the same time. The Academy of Finland is the state funding agency of Finnish science and letters, but it has no organizational connection to Finnish Academicians. The scientists and scholars funded by the Academy of Finland are called Academy Professors (Finnish: akatemiaprofessori, Swedish: akademiprofessor) and Academy Research Fellows (Finnish: akatemiatutkija, Swedish: akademiforskare). In addition to Academy of Finland, Finland has four independent national academies.
- Australian Academy of Sciences. "Corresponding members". Retrieved November 25, 2012.