National academy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research activities and standards for academic disciplines, most frequently in the sciences but also the humanities. Typically the country's learned societies in individual disciplines will liaise with or be co-ordinated by the national academy. National academies play an important organisational role in academic exchanges and collaborations between countries.

The extent of official recognition of national academies varies between countries. In some cases they are explicitly or de facto an arm of government; in others, as in the United Kingdom, they are voluntary, non-profit bodies with which government has agreed to negotiate, and which may receive government financial support while retaining substantial independence. In some countries, a single academy covers all disciplines; an example is France. In others, there are several academies, which work together more or less closely; for example, Australia. In many states they are organized in Academies of Science. In the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in the People's Republic of China, the national academies have considerable power over policy and personnel in their areas. There is however a growing consensus among international federations of learned academies that bona fide national (or learned) academies need to adhere to certain criteria:

  • The fellowship is elected, on the basis of excellence, by existing fellows (members)
  • The number of fellows is restricted either to a total number or to a rate of accretion
  • The governance of the academy is democratic and "bottom up". The fellowship is the ultimate source of the academy's authority
  • The academy is independent of government, industry and professional associations. Most, if not all, academies derive some financial support from some or all of these other organisations but this support needs to be given in a manner that does not compromise the academy's independence.

United States[edit]

In 1863, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln incorporated the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The affiliated organisations were granted congressional charters to operate under the National Academy of Sciences. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson reincorporated the organisation under the National Research Council to foster scientific research emphasising American industries. Today NASEM is composed of three non-profit member organisations: the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) (after 2015; formerly Institute of Medicine (IoM)).

Name Year founded Area of focus President Notes
National Academy of Sciences 1863 Science Marcia McNutt
National Academy of Engineering 1964 Engineering John L. Anderson
National Academy of Medicine 1970 Medicine Victor Dzau Established as the Institute of Medicine (1970–2015)

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom four national academies are the major learned societies of England: the Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.[1] In addition, there are the Learned Society of Wales in Wales and the Royal Society of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Name Country Year founded Area of focus Patron or President Notes
Royal Society England 1660 Hard sciences, soft sciences Charles III[2] The Invisible College was a precursor to the Royal Society of London. In 1660, the informal committee of 12 philosophers formed the College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning.
Royal Society of Edinburgh Scotland 1783 Hard sciences, soft sciences, arts, humanities, medicine, social sciences Professor Dame Anne Glover as President The Royal Society was founded during the Scottish Enlightenment as the Edinburgh Society for Improving Arts and Sciences.
British Academy England 1902 Humanities and social sciences Sir David Cannadine as President The British Academy was first proposed in 1899 as the British Academy for the Promotion of Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies. The name was subsequently shortened and incorporated in 1901, receiving royal charter from King Edward VII in 1902.
Royal Academy of Engineering England 1976 Engineering Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was Senior Fellow until his death[3]

Anne, Princess Royal and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent as Royal Fellows[4]
Sir James McDonald as President[5]

The Fellowship of Engineering was conceived in the late 1960s under Harold Wilson, and subsequently established in 1976. It was granted royal charter in 1983 and renamed the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1992.
Academy of Medical Sciences England 1998 Biomedical and health research Professor Dame Anne Johnson as President The academy was established by a working group chaired by Michael Atiyah.
Learned Society of Wales Wales 2010 Hard sciences, soft sciences, arts, humanities, medicine, social sciences Sir Emyr Jones Parry as President;

Charles, Prince of Wales as Patron


Within most countries, the unqualified phrase "National Academy" will normally refer to that country's academy. For example, within the United States, the plural phrase "National Academies" is widely understood to refer to the U.S. National Academies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Joint Academies' Statement: Building a Stronger Future". The Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  2. ^ "Royal Fellows". Royal Society. Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Senior Fellow". Royal Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Royal Fellows". Royal Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  5. ^ "President of the Royal Academy of Engineering". Royal Academy of Engineering. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  6. ^ Hoare, James E. (2012). "Academy of Sciences". Historical Dictionary of Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8108-7987-4.