A learned society is a society that exists to promote an academic discipline or group of disciplines. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some qualification, or may be an honour conferred by election, as is the case with the oldest learned societies, such as the Roman Accademia dei Lincei, founded in 1603, the Academie francaise or the Royal Society of London.
Most learned societies are non-profit organizations. Their activities typically include holding regular conferences for the presentation and discussion of new research results, and publishing or sponsoring academic journals in their discipline. Some also act as professional bodies, regulating the activities of their members in the public interest or the collective interest of the membership.
Learned societies are of key importance in the sociology of science. The formation of a society is an important step in the emergence of a new discipline or sub-discipline.