A scientific society's burgeoning growth is usually seen as unadulterated good news for its members, promising, among other things, increased political clout for their discipline. But according to some scientists, very large societies can also have a downside.

Size-related problems may include a disproportionate skewing of a society's focus away from small but important subdisciplines, and meetings whose overloaded formats make it hard for attendees to focus on science, researchers say. Some argue that size-related problems can become so troubling that in themselves they form a spur for scientists to break away to form new, more focused societies.

A case in point may be the San Antonio, Texas-based International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS), established last May largely because of its members' dissatisfaction with the rapidly growing Society for Neuroscience as a forum for sharing their work.

"People were not happy with the large size of the [annual] Society for Neuroscience...

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