Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society was founded in 1886 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, as an honor society for science and engineering. It is an international, nonprofit membership society of more than 70,000 scientists and engineers elected because of their research achievements or potential.
Originally established to recognize the scholarly potential and accomplishments of young scientists and engineers, Sigma Xi also had the objective of bringing together scholars from a number of scientific disciplines so that they might communicate and collaborate. With these guiding principles, the main purpose of the Sigma Xi today is to honor scientific achievement and encourage research in science and technology through awareness, advocacy, and scholarly activities. Sigma Xi strives to promote an appreciation of the roles of science and research in society, and to foster worldwide interactions among science, technology, and society.
Programs and Activities
Sigma Xi sponsors numerous programs to support ethics and values in research; to improve science and education–and the public's understanding of science; and to promote the health of scientific research worldwide. Key programs include Distinguished Lectureships, the Forum Series of national and international conferences, and Grants-in-Aid of Research. The society also produces numerous publications.
The Distinguished Lectureship program provides an opportunity for society chapters to host visits from outstanding individuals who are at the leading edge of science. The lecturers are brought to campus to communicate their insights and excitement about science and technology to scholars, students, and to the community at large.
The Forum Series was initiated to provide national and international conferences on topics that concern the intersection of science and society. The conference and forum initiative was conceived at the society's centennial celebration in 1986 as part of its New Agenda for Science.
The Grants-in-Aid program awards stipends of $100 to $1,000 to support scientific investigation in any field. To be considered for a grant-in-aid, an individual must be an undergraduate or graduate student in a degree program. While membership in Sigma Xi is not a requirement for the program, the majority of the funds are designated for use by individuals whose primary advisers are Sigma Xi members or who are Sigma Xi student members themselves. Individuals are eligible to receive a total of two Grants-in-Aid from Sigma Xi headquarters in their lifetime. No citizenship restrictions apply, and international students and non-U.S. citizens are encouraged to apply. Upon the committee's receipt of an application for aid, notification occurs within twelve weeks of the application deadline.
American Scientist, a bimonthly magazine of science and technology, is the publication of Sigma Xi. Containing reviews of current research written by prominent scientists and engineers, it has been produced since 1913 and has received many awards for its exceptional quality.
Additionally, a number of new, smaller programs have also been developed to extend Sigma Xi's mission: The International Chapter Sponsorship Program promotes and assists the formation of new chapters worldwide; the Partnership Programs support joint initiatives sponsored by Sigma Xi and other organizations; and the Science, Math and Engineering Education Program that offers one-time grants of up to $1,000 to support science education projects. The basic policy is to provide seed money to initiate innovative programs, with special consideration given to those projects that are designed to stimulate young people's interest in science and mathematics.
The Development of College and University Chapters
Sigma Xi has more than 500 chapters at universities and colleges, government laboratories, and industry research centers worldwide. Having a chapter affords institutions the opportunity to honor individuals involved in science-related activities, supplies a vehicle for providing services (i.e. seminar series, awards, grants), and allows fellowship and interaction with colleagues across science, math, and engineering disciplines.
To receive approval for a chapter charter, Sigma Xi headquarters (in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina) must receive a letter of intent to petition for a charter that includes the signatures of at least eighteen active members in the area. With the letter and appropriate signatures, a description of the sponsoring institution is required, along with supporting recommendations from administrators, a proposed three-year schedule of activities, and member recruitment plans.
The review process is overseen by the Committee on Qualifications and Membership, and, upon their recommendation of approval of an application, the Sigma Xi Board of Directors gives final approval. For chapters to remain in good standing, regular communication with Sigma Xi headquarters is required, minimally providing officer names and an annual report each year. Representation at least once every three years at the Society's annual meeting is also mandatory. Activity within the chapter evidenced by new membership and programs is also critical to a chapter's good standing.
WARD, HENRY BALDWIN, and ELLERY, EDWARD. 1936. Sigma Xi: Half Century Record and History, 1886–1936. Schenectady, NY: Union College.
SIGMA XI, THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH SOCIETY. 2002. <www.sigmaxi.org>.
MEAGHAN E. MUNDY
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