Proceedings of International Meetings
Analysis of a bibliography
- / -
Orginally published in International Associations, 1964, August, pp. 462-471 [PDF version]
The following summary analysis is based on Bibliography of Proceedings of International Meetings held in 1958 which has just been published by the Union of International Associations.
The bibliography contained 1587 reports produced in connection with 1161 meetings on all subjects. Material was included in the bibliography on the basis of the following criteria :
Classification of Material
Descriptions of reports are classified according to the opening date of the meeting to which they refer. The bibliography includes three indexes: Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) number, subject, author and organization responsible for meeting.
Analysis of Material
The material was analysed in two operations :
As indicated above the groups will be referred to in the following text by their main members (i.e. as 'conference', 'symposium', 'administrative').
The placing of meetings in each group based simply on the title of the resulting report is not very satisfactory. Overlapping of the groups was bound to occur because the words themselves do not have precise definitions in practice. This is particularly true of the French word 'congrès' which may imply either a meeting of purely administrative character or one at which technical material is to be presented. In many cases it was possible to avoid this difficulty by referring to the contents of the report.
B. Organizations and bodies responsible for the meetings were broken down into three groups :
The second and third groupings were further split up on the basis of the manner in which the report was published :
C. In each case account was taken of the number of publications and translations per meeting. Publication is to be considered in this case as meaning bibliographical entry- this conceals the fact that in some cases a number of publications produced in connection with the same meeting have been included in the same entry. It also conceals the cases where the main report is merely an article (included for lack of fuller information or in cases where the main report is not easily obtainable) though this is to a certain extent shown up by the second analysis.
D. In some cases where positive indication was obtained stating that no report was available or that the report was restricted to members only an entry was included to this effect. The number of these cases was noted in the analysis.
E. For each group 'conference', 'symposium' and 'administrative' where the meeting formed part of a series of meetings (annual, biennial, etc.) the number of the meeting in its series was noted (i.e. 1st meeting; 2nd-Sth meeting; 6th-10th 11th-15th; above 15th). The frequency of these meetings was also noted.
As indicated above the two main groups will be referred to in the following text by their main member (i.e. as 'report', 'proceedings') Where material falling into different groups was available for the same meeting this was included under the most appropriate heading. Translations were not included except where they were published by different bodies.
B. The material was split up according to date of publication by year as indicated in the entry ie. 1957, 1958, 1963. 1957 was included to cover, those cases where the preparatory material was published before the meeting.
Undated material was considered as having been published in 1958 - the year of the meeting.
C. The material was also split up on the basis of the number of pages per meeting (i.e. 1-20 pages; 21-50; 51-100; 101-200; 201-300; 301-500; 501-700; 701-900; above 901; unpaged).
As the first analysis was done month by month it was possible to plot the information summarized in Table I.
The graph showed minima in each case (i.e. 'conference', 'symposium', and 'administrative') for the meetings sponsored by the three types of organization considered (IGO, NGO. national). The minima occurred in the period December-February and less markedly around the month of August. The maximum in June-July and September-October occur for all meetings but the September-October is most marked in the case of the NGO conferences (August 52: September 100; October 29). This effect is well known and has been remarked on in previous issues of International Associations. It is due to the attempt to organize meetings in the tourist season and at the same time to avoid interfering with the holiday period (IGO meetings show a minimum in August).
The distribution of the reports is shown in Table II. A distinction has been made between 'single' reports (1 report per meeting) and 'multiple' reports (several reports and/or translations per meeting).
ces' were either of the information type such as the United Nations conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy or convened under inter-govermenmental auspices to regulate such difficulties as the production of wheat, coffee, etc. This difficulty did not arise in the case of the NGOs where a distinction is usually made in the report between the business meeting and the technical meeting proper. It is for this reason that there are so few purely 'administrative' reports under the NGO section.
30 % of the IGO reports listed were translations, generally English, French or Spanish. This figure is almost certainly not representa-
The reason for the greater number of IGO 'administrative' reports in comparison with the 'conference' section is due to the fact that most intergovernmental conferences are in fact plenary assembies. It is only in the cases where the 'conference' was convened expressly to consider the technical material presented and not to formulate internal policy on the basis of the material that the meeting was considered to be an intergovernmental 'conference'. In practice this meant that the 'conferentive of the true situation as in most cases it was only considered necessary to include the English or the French versions of IGO reports -many United Nations reports are published in four or more languages.
5 % of the NGO reports listed were translations. By contrast much NGO material contained bilingual text or communications in several languages (generally English, French, German, Italian or Spanish).
2 % of the 'national' reports listed were translations. Here again material was often given in the language of the contributor but in many eases the material was translated into the language of the country concerned.
Table III shows by whom the material was published for the three types of meeting.
It can be seen that :
In the case of the nationally sponsored meetings 27 % of the material passes through the hands of the commercial publishers; 62 % is published by the organizations themselves.
Analysis of the meetings forming part of a series produced the results shown in Table IV.
71 % of the 'conferences'; 38.5 % of the 'symposia' and 81 % of the 'administrative meetings' formed part of a series; 62 % of the meetings as a whole formed part of a series.
The meetings in a series were split up into the number of the meeting in the series (i.e. 1st meeting; 2nd-5th meeting; etc.) and represented as a percentage of the total series meetings for each group ('conference', 'symposia', 'administrative') . This was plotted (see Graph I).
Interesting points are the considerably higher proportion of new 'symposia' series starting and the fact that the established series are not very long (only 3.2 % of the meetings go above the 15th).
The proportion of new 'administrative' meetings is small (4.4 %) and presumably corresponds to the number of new organizations holding their first plenary meeting. The curve as a whole is much flatter tailing off slowly (31.6 % of the meetings go above the 15th). This long tail off is due to the rapidity with which the 'administrative' meetings reach the higher numbers as a result of their greater frequency.
The 'conference' series is intermediate between the 'symposia' and the 'administrative' meetings. 12.6 % are new meetings and the tail off shows 13.4 % above the 15th.
It should he mentioned that only meetings specifically indicated as being part of a series by a number in that series have been taken into consideration. Many of the others may be part of a series or come to be considered as the 'first' meeting as is shown by Table V.
F. Frequency of Meetings in Series
The results shown in Table V and Graph II show the frequency of the meetings in series for the three types of meeting. The totals differ slightly as the figures were obtained from a separate run which made it possible to include meetings known to be in series but whose number in that series was unknown. The shift between 'conference' and 'administrative' is indicative of the subjective judgement involved in choosing between the two categories in some borderline cases.
G. Types of Material
The breakdown of the material by groups is shown in Table VI. It proved difficult to allocate material to the first group because 'documents' were usually combined with other material and could therefore be placed under 'proceedings'.
It is interesting to note that in some cases the programme and abstracts of proceedings are combined, particularly in the case of Latin American medical meetings.
H. Quantity of Material
The breakdown by number of pages is shown in Table VII.
The largest proportion of reports falls within the 1-100 page group. The number of reports in the remaining page groups decreases with increasing number of pages as would be expected.
To obtain some guide to the quantity of material produced the 'number of reports x number of pages' was determined for the main page groups. From this it appears that the bulk of the material falls within the 101-200 page group.
I. Date of publication
It is important to distinguish between the various types of material in indicating the date of publication. The length of the report has also to be taken into account. Plots have therefore been made of number of reports versus year of publication for various total numbers of pages. This has been done for the two main types of material 'Reports' and 'Proceedings', (see Graphs III and IV).
'Reports': most of the 'reports' (97 %) were published in the year in which the meeting was held or in the following year. Publication falls off rapidly thereafter as would be expected since from the practical point of view the record of the meeting must generally be available for consideration at the following meeting. 77 % of the minutes are in the range 1-100 pages.
'Proceedings': the majority of proceedings less than 100 pages (79 %) were published in the year of the meeting. For the other page groups there is a maximum corresponding to the year following the meeting. Due to the greater number of publications with a higher number of pages the number of publications produced from three to four years after the year of the meeting is higher. In 1963 for example 6 195S 'proceedings' were published-all in the higher page range.
In order to show the variation in the number of reports produced with date of publication a plot of percentage of total reports published versus year of publication for both the 'reports' and the 'proceedings' has been made see Graph V), This summarizes Graphs III and IV.
Coverage of Bibliography
A rough check on the card file on the 1958 meetings showed 1350 cards before information arising from bibliographical research was added to it. Reports were located for 730 of these cards and information that no report was available was obtained from the organizers of 30 meetings. The remaining 590 meetings were broken down according to Table I. (see Table VIII).
The main reasons for reports not being located in these cases are as follows,
An estimate on the basis of the type of meeting involved is that 20-30 % resulted in reports of other than internal nature.
The bibliographical search itself lead to information on reports resulting from a further 430 meetings.
The main points arising from this analysis are :
i. the small proportion of material published through the commercial publishing houses ii. the high proportion of meetings forming part of series - although the reports for a given series are very often published by the different national bodies organizing the meeting iii. 99.6 % reports resulting from the 1958 meetings located were published by 1963.
The presentation of the reports requires a comment. Many organizers publishing their own seem to assume that the report will not enventually find its way into a library. Efforts have been made in the past to suggest a standard form of presentation but it does seem important to include the name and date of the meeting giving rise to the report together with the names of the various bodies responsible for its organization. (For details of some of the problems in this field see 'The proceedings of meetings: their identification and cataloguing' by N Joyce Chamberlayne and Henry Coblaus, CERN, Geneva in Revue internationale de la documentation, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 46-49).
Although much of the material forms part of a series the analysis itself can only give a general idea of the situation for a particular year. The grouping of the meetings is not very satisfactory. It might be more fruitful to split up the meetings on the basis of what they soughtto accomplish)
general information on a ran- The research work involved in the prepar-
ge of subjects; study of a particular subject; ation of this bibliography would be much eas-
publicise a social condition; organize a prac- ier if the bodies responsible for the organization
tical plan of action; establish or regulate a of meetings would take more care to ensure that
convention; etc.)- This would eliminate some the report of the meeting is not simply restric-
of the difficulties over terminology. ted to the participants at the meeting .This is particularly true of meetings organized by the national committee of an international organization. In some cases the secretariat of the international organization was not even aware of the existence of a report of the meeting due to changes in personnel or because the publication of the report had been placed in the hands of some other body. This bibliographical series has been undertaken in order to improve the situation, but to accomplish this redistribution of information effectively we need the co-operation of the organizers of the meetings to notify us of the publication of the reports of their meetings.
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.