ASCL as a Learned Society

What should be the focus of a “learned society” in the 21st century?

As we start thinking about the nature, function and limits of professional associations, our gaze has turned inward. Specifically, what is the key function that a “learned society” like the American Society of Comparative Law plays in the 21st century’s modes of knowledge production?

The ASCL is not alone in asking these existential questions. Traditionally, societies like the ASCL operates as gatekeepers and intermediaries — helping to separate the professional wheat from the chaff. But as barriers to information continue to be flattened, the traditional role played by a professional or scholarly organization like the ASCL is changing.

In some ways, the ASCL still controls access to the highest echelons of “professional comparative law” (such as publication in the American Journal of Comparative Law). But even those channeling functions that the ASCL used to carry out are now assumed by a globally dispersed editorial board that operates largely outside of ASCL control.

One of the most remarkable aspects of today’s learned societies and institutions of higher learning is the discovery of new vectors of relevance — once that might have been afterthoughts or unthinkable a few decades ago. Today, learned societies operate as central information clearinghouses, exchanging information about upcoming events, fellowship and appointment opportunities, and avenues for collaboration.

The ASCL is certainly moving in this direction, and we are not alone. As we continue our transformation, we respectfully ask for your input so that we can get a better sense of where organizations like ASCL are going, and, as important, where they should be headed.