A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research activities and standards for academic disciplines, most frequently in the sciences but also the humanities. Typically the country's learned societies in individual disciplines will liaise with or be co-ordinated by the national academy. National academies play an important organisational role in academic exchanges and collaborations between countries.
The extent of official recognition of national academies varies between countries. In some cases they are explicitly or de facto an arm of government; in others, as in the United Kingdom, they are voluntary, non-profit bodies with which government has agreed to negotiate, and which may receive government financial support while retaining substantial independence. In some countries, a single academy covers all disciplines; an example is France. In others, there are several academies, which work together more or less closely; for example, Australia. In many states they are organized in Academies of Science. In the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in the People's Republic of China, the national academies have considerable power over policy and personnel in their areas. There is however a growing consensus among international federations of learned academies that bona fide national (or learned) academies need to adhere to certain criteria:
In 1863, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln incorporated the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The affiliated organisations were granted congressional charters to operate under the National Academy of Sciences. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson reincorporated the organisation under the National Research Council to foster scientific research emphasising American industries. Today NASEM is composed of three non-profit member organisations: the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) (after 2015; formerly Institute of Medicine (IoM)).
|Name||Year founded||Area of focus||President||Notes|
|National Academy of Sciences||1863||Science||Marcia McNutt|
|National Academy of Engineering||1964||Engineering||John L. Anderson|
|National Academy of Medicine||1970||Medicine||Victor Dzau||Established as the Institute of Medicine (1970–2015)|
In the United Kingdom four national academies are the major learned societies of England: the Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society. In addition, there are the Learned Society of Wales in Wales and the Royal Society of Edinburgh in Scotland.
|Name||Country||Year founded||Area of focus||Patron or President||Notes|
|Royal Society||England||1660||Hard sciences, soft sciences||Queen Elizabeth II||The Invisible College was a precursor to the Royal Society of London. In 1660, the informal committee of 12 philosophers formed the College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning.|
|Royal Society of Edinburgh||Scotland||1783||Hard sciences, soft sciences, arts, humanities, medicine, social sciences||Professor Dame Anne Glover as President||The Royal Society was founded during the Scottish Enlightenment as the Edinburgh Society for Improving Arts and Sciences.|
|British Academy||England||1902||Humanities and social sciences||Sir David Cannadine as President||The British Academy was first proposed in 1899 as the British Academy for the Promotion of Historical, Philosophical and Philological Studies. The name was subsequently shortened and incorporated in 1901, receiving Royal Charter from King Edward VII in 1902.|
|Royal Academy of Engineering||England||1976||Engineering||Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was Senior Fellow until his death
||The Fellowship of Engineering was conceived in the late 1960s under Harold Wilson, and subsequently established in 1976. It was granted Royal Charter in 1983 and renamed the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1992.|
|Academy of Medical Sciences||England||1998||Biomedical and health research||Professor Dame Anne Johnson as President||The Academy was established by a working group chaired by Michael Atiyah.|
|Learned Society of Wales||Wales||2010||Hard sciences, soft sciences, arts, humanities, medicine, social sciences||Sir Emyr Jones Parry as President;
Charles, Prince of Wales as Patron
Within most countries, the unqualified phrase "National Academy" will normally refer to that country's academy. For example, within the United States, the plural phrase "National Academies" is widely understood to refer to the U.S. National Academies.