Scholarly Societies Project

Purpose of the Scholarly Societies Project

Table of Contents

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The Importance of Scholarly Societies
Historical Importance Right from their earliest beginnings, scholarly societies played a major role in bringing scholars together in meetings where they could discuss and exchange ideas.

In the pre-1800 period, by far the majority of scholarly journals were published by scholarly societies. It is for this reason that the Reuss Repertorium is so valuable a tool.

Present-Day Importance Even today, scholarly societies still play a very active role in arranging meetings for scholarly exchange.

Although scholarly societies no longer publish the vast majority of scholarly journals, the material that they do publish is often of superior quality, and is generally more reasonably priced than journals from commercial publishers.

Comment

Because scholarly societies are, and have been, so critical to the scholarly enterprise, it is essential that information about them be readily available to scholars.

In the sections below we examine various sources of information on scholarly societies.

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Directory Information for Scholarly Societies (covering many subject areas)

Directory information typically includes the society name, contact information, founding date, and subject areas of interest. It may also include the location of the society, number of members, and the major journals.
Encyclopedia of Associations
published by the Gale Group
  • print version
  • Internet version (Associations Unlimited)
  • 456,000 scholarly & non-scholarly societies
  • only U.S. societies, and societies of international scope
  • fee-based
Yearbook of International Organizations
edited by the Union of International Associations.
  • print version
  • Internet version
  • 62,000 scholarly & non-scholarly societies
  • only societies of international scope
  • fee-based for full service
  • free access to URLs of some societies (no indication of the number to which this applies)
World Guide to Scientific Associations and Learned Societies
published by K.G. Saur Verlag
  • print version published at about 4-year intervals (latest ed. is 9th, 2003)
  • no Internet version
  • 17,500 scholarly societies across the world
  • fee-based
World of Learning
published by Europa Publications.
  • annual print version
  • Internet version
  • includes information on 400 major organizations (including scholarly societies) around the world
  • fee-based
directories for geographical areas
  • print version usually
  • many countries or clusters of countries have directories of societies (generally including all types of societies)
Scholarly Societies Project
sponsored by the University of Waterloo Library
  • Internet
  • 3800 scholarly societies across the world
  • free
Comment

The Scholarly Societies Project offers free Internet access to directory information (including links to websites) for a selection of scholarly societies across the world.

Since 2000, a comprehensive review has been underway to ensure that the selection includes the most important societies in each country (subject to the requirement that the societies satisfy the Guidelines for Inclusion of Resources).

In addition, since July 2001, over 130 society names in non-Latin scripts have been encoded using the Unicode Standard. [More information on the encoding process is available in Linguistic Considerations.]

The Project is currently the largest free Internet-accessible database on scholarly societies across the world that allows database access via several fields.

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Historical Information on Scholarly Societies

Sometimes determining even the founding date of a society can be a daunting task. Establishing when name changes occurred is often more difficult, since existing documentation can be hard to find.
Historical monographs on one or more scholarly societies
International Encyclopedia of Learned Societies and Academies (edited by Joseph C. Kiger). Provides historical (and other) information on 103 important national societies and academies across the world (outside the U.S.A.).
Centenary, bicentenary, etc. commemorative monographs Many societies that were founded more than a century ago have issued commemorative monographs. These can generally be identified using rich online library catalogues or rich printed library catalogues.
historical journal articles on one or more societies
ISIS Cumulative Bibliography:
A Bibliography of the History of Science formed from ISIS Critical Bibliographies;
published by the History of Science Society (HSS).
The Institutions section of this bibliography includes references to journal articles and monographs on the history of scholarly societies. Most societies covered are scientific or technical. The cumulations go back to 1915.
Comment

In 1999 a pilot project was begun within the Project to address the difficulty in determining historical data on scholarly societies. The pilot project, entitled Repertorium Veterrimarum Societatum Litterariarum (Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies), is confined to societies founded up to and including 1819.

It uses the sources above to help determine as well as possible the history of name changes for the societies, as well as other interesting historical details.

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Historical Information about Journals of Scholarly Societies

It can sometimes be rather difficult to establish the correct title, publishing years and volume numbers for older journals of scholarly societies. The problem is exacerbated by frequent changes in the society's name caused by political upheavals, for example those in France from 1792 to 1870.

An additional problem for historians and librarians is that the abbreviations used in the older literature for citing journal titles are especially challenging to decipher when society journals are concerned.

Publishing Information for Older Journals of Scholarly Societies
Scudder's Catalogue of Scientific Serials
  • covers journals published up to 1876
  • restricted to scientific journals
rich online library catalogues Coverage and quality vary. See individual annotations.
rich printed library catalogues Coverage and quality vary. See individual annotations.
Indexes covering Articles in Older Society Journals
Reuss Repertorium
  • articles in society journals only
  • covers articles published up to the early 19th century
Royal Society of London Catlogue of Scientific Literature
  • articles in society journals, as well as independent ones
  • covers articles from 1800 - 1900
  • restricted to scientific articles
Comment

In 1999 a pilot project was begun within the Project to address the difficulty in determining historical data on scholarly societies. The pilot project, entitled Repertorium Veterrimarum Societatum Litterariarum (Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies), is confined to societies founded up to and including 1819.

It uses information from the sources in the above to create records for the major journals of each society (including abbreviations used for the titles of these journals). It also uses the sources above to help determine as well as possible the history of name changes for the societies.

Ultimately a search engine will be provided to allow users to ask historically interesting questions. An example would be: Which journals of scholarly societies were being published between 1742 and 1749?

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Assessment of the Role of the Scholarly Societies Project
Directory Information The Scholarly Societies Project is currently the largest free Internet-accessible database on scholarly societies across the world that allows database access via several fields. Unlike most other directories, society names in non-Latin scripts have been encoded using the Unicode Standard.

We continue to work towards providing fuller coverage of the most important scholarly societies across the world.

Historical Information on Scholarly Societies An Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies within the Scholarly Societies Project was begun in 1999. Historical pages for 231 societies founded prior to 1820 are now available.
Historical Information about Journals of Scholarly Societies The historical pages in the Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies within the Scholarly Societies Project also provide an enumeration of the principal journals of these societies (societies founded prior to 1820); the journals are enumerated up to at least the mid 20th century.

Abbreviations used up to 1900 for these journals are also given.

Conclusion

The Scholarly Societies Project does not have the staff resources of a large commercial undertaking, and, consequently, cannot provide the level of completeness that some commercial products do for societies of a particular scope (e.g. U.S. societies and international-scope societies). Nor can it provide the level of completeness that some subject-specific free directories on the Internet do.

Nonetheless, the Project provides access to information about a significant number of important scholarly societies across the globe. Some of this information is not readily accessible from other existing sources on the Internet or in print; and some of the historical information is unlikely to have been compiled before.

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Published 2002, November 29
Last revised, 2004, May 25
Jim Parrott, Editor
Scholarly Societies Project
Sending Email to the Project

[This page is an updated version of an
Editorial published 2000, March 27]

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