From Members to Fellows: The European Academy of Microbiology is changing


The title of those elected to the European Academy of Microbiology (EAM) is changing from Members to Fellows. We believe this will better capture the spirit of belonging that characterises the EAM. Find below a piece written by EAM Fellow Charles Dorman, who has been with the EAM since its inception in 2009.

Since the inception of the Academy in 2009, those elected have been given the title ‘Member of the European Academy of Microbiology (the EAM)’. Following a decision this summer by the Federation of European Microbiology Societies (FEMS), the Members of EAM are to be re-designated as Fellows of the EAM. Is this change significant?

Dictionaries define `membership’ as ‘the state or status of being a member’ (Merriam-Webster) or ‘the state of belonging to an organization’ (Cambridge). In contrast, dictionary definitions of ‘fellowship’ include ‘a feeling of friendship that people have when they are talking or doing something together and sharing their experiences’ (Collins) or ‘a friendly feeling that exists between people who have a shared interest or are doing something as a group’ (Cambridge). Membership implies a somewhat contractual arrangement, whereas fellowship suggests a functioning community of friends.

Other learned societies use the terms ‘Member’ or ‘Fellow’ exclusively. For example, those elected to the American Academy of Microbiology are Fellows and not Members, while those elected to the USA’s National Academy of Sciences are Members and not Fellows. However, there are many examples of learned societies and professional bodies (especially in the medical and business worlds) that use both terms. When this happens, the Fellows and Members are usually assigned to tiers within a strict hierarchy in which Fellowship ranks above Membership.  The Royal Society of Biology provides an excellent example of this type of arrangement. Depending on the organisation, progression from Member to Fellow may be possible, subject to the achievement of specified goals.  There may also be differences in the annual cost of belonging (not currently an issue in the EAM).

Overall, the switch from Member to Fellow better captures the spirit of belonging that characterises the EAM, further enhancing its profile as a learned organisation to which people might like to belong. Those members who use the MEAM post-nominal should remember to change it to FEAM.

Charles Dorman FEAM

September 2022

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