• community/networking—web presence, membership directories, new online community technologies such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, affinity groups, etc.
• policy work, including advocacy
• scholarships, travel awards, research funds, internships
The relative importance of different functions may be reflected in the extent to which resources are allocated to these various mechanisms. Functions that are seen as important would tend to have a higher level of resource allocation than those functions that are less important.
Disciplinary associations vary greatly in terms of their characteristics. The geographic scope can be very large, such as the international level, or at world, regional, or national levels. This scope affects the extent to which the organization may become involved in policy and political issues, and at what level. The membership of disciplinary associations varies, too. In the sciences, some associations have a largely academic membership, such as the Association of Women in Mathematics, while others may have more industry members such as the American Chemical Society. Further, the extent to which students—graduate and undergraduate— participate in the activities of the society varies as well. Some associations are actually federations of many smaller organizations. For example the International Council for Science has 113 multidisciplinary National Scientific Members, Associates, and Observers (scientific research councils or science academies) from 133 countries.
It is also important to be attentive to the organizational structure and governance of disciplinary associations. Some, for example, have chapters at a “local” level, providing a mechanism for individuals to participate in activities without traveling. Many scientific associations have sections or other organizational entities that represent various sub-field or subject areas or interest groups. The balance of grassroots efforts versus centralization of tasks is an on-going struggle in some associations. As associations’ functions become more time- and labor-intensive, more of these functions are likely to be performed by professional staff rather than volunteers. Some associations are at the intersection of identity and profession. Social movement theory helps us understand the functions and mechanisms employed by these kinds of associations. In the United States, the very vibrant period of collective action by identity movements in the 1960s and 1970s—notably the Civil Rights Movements and the Women’s Liberation Movement—saw a blossoming of large organizational fields of associations connected by overlapping memberships and similarity of goals. Some of the organizations that arose in the sciences and engineering, include • Association of Women in Mathematics (1971)
• Association of Women in Science (1971)
• National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (1972)
• Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (1974)
• National Association of Black Engineers (1975)
• National Association of Black Physicists (1977)
• Association for Women in Computing (1978)
All of these organizations grew from grassroots organizing by members of the relevant identity groups—women, Blacks, and Hispanics—who saw a need to pursue common interests vis-à-vis their identity outside of existing disciplinary associations.