Britain's The Royal Society, the world's oldest scientific community, was named Wednesday as this year's recipient of Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for communication and humanities.

The jury said that among the top priorities of the 350-year-old institution - which beat out international photographic cooperative Magnum Photos and the BBC, Britain's top public broadcaster, for the honor - include fostering scientific research and the dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

It noted that The Royal Society has more than 1,500 fellows, who are elected for life based on scientific excellence. They include 75 Nobel Prize winners and nine Prince of Asturias Award recipients, including English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Spanish scientist Antonio Garcia Bellido.

Past fellows include Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.

According to the jury, The Royal Society sponsors numerous professorships and post-doctoral fellowships and provides research grants at different universities

It also underscored the "multidisciplinary nature of the institution, in which the links between science, humanities, society and politics are made evident."

The Royal Society's goal is to improve Britain's "scientific base and foster collaboration between countries" by organizing lectures, scientific meetings and research projects, the Prince of Asturias Foundation said on its Web site.

With a library of more than 70,000 titles, it houses one of the "world's most important collections of scientific publications from the 17th and 18th centuries .. and also publishes eight journals, including Philosophical Transactions, the oldest existing scientific publication."

After the award was announced, that institution's president, Sir Paul Nurse said in a statement that the Royal Society "is honored to be awarded so prestigious a prize as the Prince of Asturias Award."

"As we celebrated our 350th anniversary last year, one of our goals was to inspire people to see the wonder of the world around them and the enlightenment and advancement that science can offer. This prize offers a clear endorsement of our goal and our success in achieving it."

The Prince of Asturias Foundation says its communication and humanities prize is bestowed "upon the person, institution, group of people or group of institutions whose work or research constitutes a significant contribution to universal culture in these fields."

The award - the third to be announced this year after Italian conductor Riccardo Muti won in the arts category and U.S. psychologist Howard Gardner received the social sciences award - comprises a cash prize of 50,000 euros ($71,360), a sculpture by Joan Miro that represents and symbolizes the awards, a diploma and an insignia bearing the foundation's coat of arms.

Past recipients of the Prince of Asturias Prize for communication and humanities include Internet service giant Google, the National Geographic Society and Italian medievalist and philosopher Umberto Eco.

This year's other Prince of Asturias Awards - in the technical and scientific research, letters, international cooperation, sports and concord categories - will be announced between May 25 and Sept. 7.

The prizes, which Spain's Crown Prince Felipe will hand out later this year in the northwestern city of Oviedo's Campoamor Theater, are regarded as the Ibero-American world's equivalent of the Nobels.