What Do Early Career Researchers Want from Society Membership?

May 10, 2017 Samantha Green

The results from our Society Membership Survey told us that early career researchers continue to find relevance in society membership. But what are their expectations? How do they make the decision to join and renew? 


We looked at how early career researchers (those with less than 2 years’ experience in their fields) compared to the overall research community when it comes to reasons for joining and renewing.

Reasons for Joining

More than any other demographic, those just beginning their careers value employment and professional development-related opportunities when they are deciding whether or not to join a society. The opportunity to receive funding and access expert advice is also more appealing to early career members than to the full research community.

Overall, the most commonly selected reasons for joining a society were opportunities to continue learning (78%), access to research journals (72%), and to be a part of a community (73%). On each of these, early career members scored just higher than average, indicating a consistency across the experience spectrum.

One of the most striking findings from our research is that early career members were more likely to select virtually all of the reasons we offered as possible motivation for joining, as shown in the chart below. In addition, our survey indicated that early career researchers are more likely to join a society in the next 12 months than the average respondent.

Reasons for Renewing

Early career members are far more likely than the average to be in their first year of membership. As such, many haven’t yet made the decision to renew.

For those early career members that have renewed their society memberships, they are less likely to do so for some of the most common reasons identified by the wider researcher community. Attending the society’s conference was one of the top reasons for renewing across the research community (59%), but only 42% of early career members cited it as a motivation.

Receiving the society’s journals was also a less common factor in the decision to renew for early career members than the average member (36% compared to 49%). For those who’d been members longer than early career members (3-10 years), journals were only slightly more of a factor (42% compared to 49%)

society membership.png

What does this information mean for your society?

When it comes to reasons for joining and renewing, conferences are less likely to motivate early career members. Ensuring that there are opportunities for early career researchers to network and access other professional development activities at conferences may help engage them.

One of the key takeaways from this data is how highly motivated early career researchers are to join societies. They see it as a key step in their career, which shows the continued relevance of society membership in the research community.

What membership trends to you see from ECRs in your society? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: Chris Schmidt/iStockphoto

About the Author

Samantha Green

Society Marketing, Wiley // Samantha Green joined Wiley in 2012, working in the Social Science and Humanities Community Marketing team at Wiley. She now works in the Society Strategy & Marketing creating content on publishing trends and the research community.

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