Editorial, 2009, December 27:
Fifteen Years of the Scholarly Societies Project
The Early Days
First Decade: Retrospect and Prospect, the Editor (that would be
me) indicates that
the first five years (1994-1999) were marked by rapid growth in the number
of entries for societies in the Project, but also considerable concern
about the amount
of maintenance work required to fix broken URLs.
In 1999 I began a sub-project entitled
Inventory of the
Oldest Scholarly Societies.
Much information on that may be found at
Years of the Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies.
Geographical Expansion and Unicode Use
From 2000 to 2001, I undertook intensive work to increase the
of societies from countries other than the ones that then dominated the
Internet, namely the English-speaking ones.
As a result of
enhanced geographical coverage,
problems in dealing with
foreign diacritics and non-Latin
scripts assumed greater prominence than
Consequently I developed protocols for dealing with diacritics and
in particular I used
the Unicode standard for
The Horror Sets In
on, I became alarmed by the amount of maintenance work that was required
significant number of society websites changed their
URLs in any
given year. There have certainly been societies who have avoided that
situation by obtaining a domain name; examples include the earliest ones
added to the SSP: the IEEE and
the ACM. The latter two societies had
acquired their respective domain names by 1994 or 1995 and have never
changed the URL for their websites since that time.
Restrictions Set In
So I instituted a policy of restricting
most new additions to the Project to
societies that had acquired
their own domain names, thinking that
over time this would result
in a considerable reduction in maintenance work in "fixing"
This is documented in a series of
three editorials in 1997 found in News/Editorial.
It never occurred to me that a significant number of societies who went to
the effort of acquiring their own domain names would find it necessary to
obtain different domain names with
passing of time.
There are, indeed, a few situations when this is
necessary, as, for example, when the name of the society changes.
In most cases, however, the discarding of one domain name for a new domain
completely unnecessary, and essentially
defeats the purpose
of having a domain name,
which is to provide stability by
eliminating the need for changing a website's URL.
A New Direction
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
s the collection of societies in the
entries, it became clear that the Project would be
in danger of collapsing if
the collection were to become significantly larger, simply because of the
I therefore decided to concentrate less on increasing the number of
entries for societies in the Project, and more on
increasing the amount of
"stable" data, meaning data
that could not be compromised by the
deliberate actions of that subset of webmasters who might more
appropriately be described as
Energy-Sucking Agents of Chaos.
A Safe Haven
The bulk of the data being mined is in the form of
(for the older scholarly societies) found in the scholarly
Further information may be found
recent Editorial in the historical section:
Editorial, 2009, December 2: Ten Years of the Inventory of the Oldest
Unless malicious individuals somehow gain
the ability to alter the text of journal articles that have been written
over the last 340 years, that data cannot be altered,
unlike the situation with website addresses.
How Great the Change
Some idea of the shift in emphasis may be gained by comparing the
following statistics over the last five years. The table below reveals
that in the past 5 years,
only about 300 new entries for
societies have been
the SSP as a whole, and the vast majority of the new entries have been
added to the historical area;
that is to say, most new entries are for
societies founded prior to 1850.
Moreover, the number of history pages in
the historical area has doubled.
198 History Pages
427 History Pages
What the table does not reveal is the
extraordinary increase in the number of
journal-title abbreviations added
to the historical area, much less the effort that it has cost me.
As implied in Ten
Years of the Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies,
the value of this data is likely to increase with the passage of time,
as fewer and fewer scholars possess the skill to interpret
arcane bibliographic inscriptions that
form a distinctive feature of the
scholarly record from the 17th to 20th centuries.
s mentioned above, there has been a significant shift away from
adding new entries for societies.
This means that I am no longer actively pursuing new societies.
If, however, people send in requests for new societies to be added, and if
they satisfy the
I will add them to the Project as my schedule
A Closing Invocation
Hail Bright Spirits!
Shine your Light on the Agents of Chaos and Confound them;
and Let Domain Names endure from generation to generation, even
unto the End of Days.
Grant us Grace, Bright Spirits, and
Defend us from the Spectres of Unreason that haunt us;
and Preserve the Scholarly Record, our Best Hope in a Dark Time.
Published 2009, December 27|
Jim Parrott, Editor
Scholarly Societies Project, and
Repertorium Veterrimarum Societatum Litterariarum
Sending Email to the Project