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New Developments among ACLS Associations

posted by Linda Downs — Nov 19, 2013

Each fall the ACLS convenes a meeting for the chief administrative officers (CAOs) of learned societies to exchange information on new developments in our organizations and to explore possible conference sites. This year’s conference was held in Louisville, KY. My takeaways from Louisville were the unforgettable gleaming white nine-ton Carrara marble statue of Louis XVI (the city’s namesake) by Achille-Joseph-Étienne Valois (1829) commissioned in 1829 by the king’s surviving daughter Marie-Thérèse which stands in front of the Louisville City Hall; and the contemporary art museum-cum-hotel called 21C with an installation of Pierre Gonnord’s striking photos of people in rural Spain and a great menu at the restaurant called Proof (as in bourbon).

Among the new developments within the 50 associations that attended were:

The CAOs also heard presentations from the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature on how these societies dealt with the threat of union strikes at their conference hotels.

Trevor Parry-Giles of the National Communication Association presented a history of the development of impact factors and the pros and cons, inflation and gaming of current systems such as Thomson Reuters http://thomsonreuters.com/journal-citation-reports/, SCImago http://www.scimagojr.com/, Google Scholar Metrics http://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=top_venues; and the latest metric under development, Microsoft Academic http://academic.research.microsoft.com/?SearchDomain=3&entitytype=2 . Digital factors have yet to be fully addressed such as counting downloads versus citations and tracing social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In 1964 the ACLS supported a Commission on the Humanities whose report eventually led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of the recommendations from the Commission were to fund the humanities at the level of the sciences, give more national emphasis on higher education humanities, attract a more diverse faculty, and a demand for faculty to work together. Three learned societies compared then and now. It was noted that there was enormous expansion in humanities departments in the 1960s and so many teaching positions that PhD candidates left school before finishing their degrees to take teaching positions. While the humanities have not attracted a more diverse faculty and faculty positions and departments have been compressed, one very positive result is that faculty has embraced collaboration in both formal (humanities and digital humanities centers) and informal ways, and advocacy of higher education in the public sphere has assisted greater understanding of the value of a humanities education.

Filed under: Humanities, Learned Societies