The Academy is modelled after the Royal Society and operates under a Royal Charter; as such, it is an independent body, but it has government endorsement. The Academy Secretariat is in Canberra, at the Shine Dome.
The objectives of the Academy are to promote science and science education through a range of activities. It has defined four major program areas:
- recognition of outstanding contributions to science
- education and public awareness
- science policy
- international relations
The Academy also runs the 22 National Committees for Science which provide a forum to discuss issues relevant to all the scientific disciplines in Australia.
The Australian National Research Council (ANRC) was established in 1919 for the purpose of representing Australia on the International Research Council. The Council ceased to exist in 1954, replaced by the Australian Academy of Science.
The Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science is made up of around 500 leading Australian scientists. Scientists judged by their peers to have made an exceptional contribution to knowledge in their field may be elected to Fellowship of the Academy. Twenty new Fellows may be elected every year. No more than two Fellows may be elected every three years on the basis of distinguished contributions to science by means other than personal research. A small number of distinguished foreign scientists with substantial connections to Australian science are elected as Corresponding Members. Fellows are denoted by the letters FAA (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science) after their name.