This discussion must be preceded by the acknowledge that it is fully possible to do distance learning (ODL) as a professional without having a "scientific" attitude; without worrying about a work preparation that is both systematic and exhaustive; without the maintenance of quantitative and qualitative analytical records of transactions and without preparing final reports that make it very clear what works and does not work and why. But it is not possible to achieve and maintain for long the level of quality because the constant improvisation, poor oral communication and the difficulty in being able to compare data due to a non-systematic scheme, what will not allow a safe understanding of the process or its evolution in a sustainable manner.

The "essence of science" has always been the communication between professionals, organized according to their areas of expertise and meeting in person regularly in conferences, congresses and symposiums on global and local levels and between intervals using printed and electronic media to exchange information and knowledge. Such communications can be done through research reports, significant experiences or theoretical essays whose intention is to add new data and new ideas to the specific area, giving recognition to researchers / authors and their institutions.
The oldest scientific societies or "learned societies" appeared in Europe in the 17th century to organize meetings and publications of different areas of knowledge. Its members, through different councils, committees and groups, determined the paradigm for the area such as what can be considered part of it, what can be considered an "original contribution", something innovative, of quality, or deserving awards. Those who do not participate in the scientific society of their sphere of action can hardly have a significant impact among those specialized members of the community because their ideas have not been corroborated by their "peers", those that select the communication for publications of the conclaves of scientific societies.

While professionals and academics in Europe and North America - where there is a long tradition of scientific societies - identify more with the associations to which they belong rather than with the institutions in which they work (and which they transfer from frequently) in Brazil the reverse situation is true, probably due to the relative scarcity of such associations in the country.

What are the benefits of being an active member of a scientific society in an influential field of knowledge?

- The satisfaction of belonging to a community of professionals, meeting their leaders and, if possible, advancing the personal career by participating in various boards and groups;
- To be in contact with the newest ideas in an area of expertise and to have the opportunity to present own ideas and discoveries in the events of the community;
- Making new friends and renewing old friendships ("networking") is an important professional skill to find new job opportunities.
- Joining a scientific society in your area is not mandatory to act in it but it shows that the individual feels as part of a community, paying its tuition and contributing to the growth and progress of the area. It is the professional equivalent of being a good citizen.

Fredric Michael Litto
Chairman of ABED - Brazilian Association of Distance Education
January 21, 2009
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