American Council of Learned Societies

Last updated
American Council of Learned Societies
Formation1919
Type Professional association
Headquarters New York, New York
Location
  • United States
Membership
75 scholarly associations
President
Joy Connolly
Website www.acls.org

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), founded in 1919, is a private, nonprofit federation of 75 scholarly organizations in the humanities and related social sciences. [1] It is best known for its fellowship competitions which provide a range of opportunities for scholars in the humanities and related social sciences at all career stages, from graduate students to distinguished professors to independent scholars, working with a number of disciplines and methodologies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contents

Background

The federation was created in 1919 to represent the United States in the Union Académique Internationale (International Union of Academies). The founders of ACLS, representatives of 13 learned societies, believed that a federation of scholarly organizations (dedicated to excellence in research, and most with open membership) was the best combination of U.S. democracy and intellectual aspirations. According to the council's constitution, its mission was advancing humanistic studies and social sciences and maintaining and strengthening national societies dedicated to those studies.

Advancing scholarship in the humanities

Since its founding, ACLS has provided the humanities and related social sciences with leadership, opportunities for innovation, and national and international representation. The Council's many activities have at their core the practice of scholarly self-governance. Central to ACLS throughout its history have been its programs of fellowships and grants aiding research. ACLS made its first grants, totaling $4,500, in 1926; in 2012, ACLS awarded over $15 million in fellowship stipends and other awards to more than 320 scholars in the United States and abroad. All ACLS awards are made through rigorous peer review by specially appointed committees of scholars from throughout the United States and, in some programs, abroad. During the late 1950s, the council encouraged Hans Wehr in his writing of the first English edition of his Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (1962).[ citation needed ]

Relationships among learned societies

The executive directors of the ACLS member societies meet in a Conference of Administrative Officers (CAO); before 1988, this was the Conference of Secretaries. At its first meeting in 1925 the conference had 11 members, including Frederic Ogg of the American Political Science Association and Ernest Burgess of the American Sociological Society (now the American Sociological Association). The goal of the first meeting, and of every meeting since, was "the promotion of closer relations between the associations of humanists [through] a conference in which the secretaries, or principal executive officers, of its constituent societies could make each other’s acquaintance, explain to each other the character, aims and activities of their respective organizations, and discuss, in the light of their various experiences, the many common problems of their societies." [2]

New research methods and subjects

In addition to peer review, the ACLS has organized committees to research promising fields of study. The concept of organizing expertise around a cultural region grew out of the council's early work in Far Eastern and Slavic studies. After World War II, when the practical need for such competence was evident, the ACLS and the Social Science Research Council developed African, Asian, Latin American, Near and Middle Eastern, Slavic, and East and West European studies.

In 1927 the ACLS Committee on Research in Native American Languages, under the leadership of Franz Boas and Edward Sapir, began in 1927 to "secure an adequate record of Indian languages and dialects." [3] The Committee on a Journal of Medieval Studies, begun in 1924, founded the journal Speculum. The Committee on the History of Ideas, which included Richard McKeon and Arthur Oncken Lovejoy, created the Journal of the History of Ideas. Lovejoy wrote in the journal’s first issue, "The processes of the human mind, in the individual or group, which manifest themselves in history, do not run in the enclosed channels corresponding to the officially established divisions of university faculties." At the founding conference of the Committee on Negro Studies in 1940 Ralph Bunche said, "We cannot ignore the importance of making clear to ourselves the scope of our interest in terms of the very broad social implications of our deliberations and resources." [4]

Since the introduction of new research technology, the ACLS has helped scholars explore the impact of new technologies on their fields. In 1964 the council developed a grant and fellowship program to encourage computer use in humanistic research, which continues in its Digital Innovation Fellowships. Our Cultural Commonwealth, the 2006 report by the ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences, recommended digital humanities using new forms of research, reading and writing.

The ACLS has an interest in the problems of scholarly publication and has conducted a survey of publication needs, established a publication service to advise scholars on communicating research and aided scholars with subsidies and publication. The ACLS-sponsored National Enquiry into the Production and Dissemination of Scholarly Knowledge investigated all aspects of the dissemination of humanistic scholarship from 1974 to 1979. In 1979 it presented a report, Scholarly Communication: The Report of the National Enquiry, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press and operated its Office of Scholarly Communication and Technology in Washington, D.C. until 1984. Today, the ACLS Humanities E-Book collection focuses on how digital innovations can enhance scholarly communication. [5]

Humanities scholarship

By bringing scholars together as scholars rather than as specialists, the ACLS advocates for the humanities in public forums and policy arenas. The council's role in establishing (in 1964) and reauthorizing (in 1985) the National Endowment for the Humanities is an example.

While continuing to represent the U.S. in the Union Académique Internationale, the ACLS has participated in international scholarly exchange. From 1961 to 1992, its American Studies Program aided overseas scholars specializing in the study of the U.S. The council and other members of the Associated Board of Research Councils founded the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, which administers the graduating-senior Fulbright Program. In 1992 the United States Information Agency asked the ACLS to reinstitute the Fulbright Program in Vietnam, operated by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. The ACLS Center for Educational Exchange with Vietnam offers fellowship and study opportunities to Vietnamese scholars. In 1966 the ACLS, the Social Science Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences founded the Committee on Scholarly Communication with China, which maintains an office in Beijing to assist American schools with programs in that country. The ACLS has extended its support of research to scholars in the former USSR through the ACLS Humanities Program in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, and in Africa through its African Humanities Program.

Humanities E-Book (HEB)

In June 1999 under its President John D'Arms, ACLS received a $3-million, 5-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to initiate The History E-Book Project. In October 1999, Eileen Gardiner and Ronald G. Musto of Italica Press became the project directors working in collaboration with the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library and with New York University Press. Three years later and two years ahead of schedule, on September 1, 2002, the History E-Book Project website launched online with over 500 titles. These had been reviewed and recommended by historians and scholarly societies and were often award-winning books in different area specialties. [6] “HEB continued to grow and to adjust accordingly, becoming self-sufficient in 2005, garnering attention and a supportive constituency among scholars, presses, libraries, and learned societies.” [7] HEB mission expanded to include all the humanities disciplines and was renamed ACLS Humanities E-Book. In September 2009, the Institute of Historical Research in London called HEB “one of the best—if not the best—electronically accessible sites in the humanities.” [8]

At the end of 2019, ACLS transferred the management and administration of Humanities E-Book to the University of Michigan, where this online collection of over 5,400 books of high quality in the humanities and related social sciences is accessible through institutional subscription.

Structure and governance

The ACLS' organizational structure has experienced few major changes during the council’s existence. Most notable is the growth in the number of member societies, from 13 to 71. As the number of societies increased, it became impossible for a council with two representatives of each member to govern effectively. In 1947 a council-elected board of directors was created, and the number of delegates from each society was reduced to one. Another change occurred in 1957; the council moved its headquarters from Washington to New York and appointed Frederick Burkhardt its first president, signaling a new determination to place scholarship at the center of public culture. The ACLS was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1924, receiving a congressional charter in 1982.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, the ACLS reported an endowment of US$120 million. During the same period the institution distributed about US$15.9 million in grants and fellowships. [9]

Archives

The ACLS archives are in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. [10]

Awards

Member societies

Affiliates

Related Research Articles

Modern Language Association Principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature

The Modern Language Association of America, often referred to as the Modern Language Association (MLA), is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. The MLA aims to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature". The organization includes over 25,000 members in 100 countries, primarily academic scholars, professors, and graduate students who study or teach language and literature, including English, other modern languages, and comparative literature. Although founded in the United States, with offices in New York City, the MLA's membership, concerns, reputation, and influence are international in scope.

Learned society Organization that exists to promote an academic discipline or profession

A learned society is an organization that exists to promote an academic discipline, profession, or a group of related disciplines such as the arts and science. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some qualification, or may be an honour conferred by election.

Graduate Center, CUNY

The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York is a public research institution and post-graduate university in New York City. It is the principal doctoral-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. The school is situated in the landmark B. Altman and Company Building at 365 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, opposite the Empire State Building. The Graduate Center has 4,600 students, 31 doctoral programs, 14 master's programs, and 30 research centers and institutes. A core faculty of approximately 140 is supplemented by over 1,800 additional faculty members drawn from throughout CUNY's eleven senior colleges and New York City's cultural and scientific institutions.

Royal Society of Canada Academy in Canada

The Royal Society of Canada, also known as the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada, is the senior national, bilingual council of distinguished Canadian scholars, humanists, scientists and artists. The primary objective of the RSC is to promote learning and research in the arts, the humanities and the sciences. The RSC is Canada's National Academy and exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both official languages, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations and Canadians on matters of public interest.

Social Science Research Council American nonprofit social science research organization

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is a US-based, independent, international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing research in the social sciences and related disciplines. Established in Manhattan in 1923, it today maintains a headquarters in Brooklyn Heights with a staff of approximately 70, and small regional offices in other parts of the world.

The Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, also known as the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, is a member-based organization and the national voice for researchers in the humanities and social sciences in Canada. It is a non-profit charitable organization that represents more than 85,000 researchers in 81 scholarly associations, 80 universities and colleges, and 6 affiliates across the country.

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) is a scholarly, non-political and non-profit professional association open to all persons interested in Asia and the study of Asia. It is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. With approximately 6,000 members worldwide, from all the regions and countries of Asia and across academic disciplines, the AAS is the largest organization focussing on Asian studies.

John Haughton D'Arms was the Gerald F. Else Professor of Humanities and professor of classical studies and history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He also served as president of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). He served ACLS until his death in 2002. He died of brain cancer in New York City.

Douglas Greenberg is Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Previously, he was Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences (2008-2012) at Rutgers. In the past, he served as a Professor of History at the University of Southern California, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, and President of the Chicago Historical Society.

Waldo Gifford Leland was an American historian and archivist whose work for the Carnegie Institution and the Library of Congress was instrumental in the founding of the National Archives. He also served in leadership roles in a variety of historical and archival societies, including the American Council of Learned Societies, Society of American Archivists, National Park Service, and the FDR Library.

The Latin American Studies Association (LASA) is the largest association for scholars of Latin American studies. Founded in 1966, it has over 12,000 members, 45 percent of whom reside outside the United States, LASA brings together experts on Latin America from all disciplines and diverse occupational endeavors, across the globe.

Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

The Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) is a scholarly society dedicated to the advancement of knowledge about the former Soviet Union and Eastern and Central Europe. The ASEEES supports teaching, research, and publication relating to the peoples and territories within this area.

Henry L. Snyder was professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside, and the former director of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research. He served as a co-director and the leader of the American English Short Title Catalogue team for more than 32 years.

Michèle Lamont Canadian sociologist

Michèle Lamont is a sociologist and is the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and a Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Harvard University. She served as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association from 2016–2017. In 2017, she received the Erasmus Prize and was awarded 3 honorary doctorates. She has 3 children: Gabrielle Lamont-Dobbin, Chloe Lamont-Dobbin, and Pierre Lamont-Dobbin.

The Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) is an academic organization for the study of rhetoric.

Alondra Nelson American sociologist and author

Alondra Nelson is an American writer and academic. An award-winning researcher, she is the Harold F. Linder Chair in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. She currently serves at Deputy Director for Science and Society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. From 2017-2021, she was president of the Social Science Research Council. She was previously professor of sociology at Columbia University in the City of New York, where she served as the inaugural dean of Social Science, as well as director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

Center for Khmer Studies

The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) is a private American Overseas Research Center working to promote research, teaching and public service in the social sciences, arts and humanities, as they are related to Cambodia. CKS also aims to connect Cambodian scholars, students and artists with their international colleagues for the purposes of fostering understanding of Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

Steve F. Anderson (1963) is Professor of Digital Media at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Previously, he served as founding director of the Ph.D. program in Media Arts and Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and an Associate Professor in the USC Interactive Media & Games Division. He co-edits the interdisciplinary electronic journal Vectors Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular and is the founder of Critical Commons, an online media archive and fair use advocacy network. He is author of the books Technologies of Vision: The War Between Data and Images and Technologies of History: Visual Media and the Eccentricity of the Past.

Pauline Yu is an American scholar of Chinese literature and culture noted for her contributions to the study of classical Chinese poetry and comparative literature. She is also known for her research and advocacy on issues in the humanities.

The National Coalition of Independent Scholars (NCIS) is the principal professional association for independent scholars. Incorporated in the USA but now with an international membership, NCIS is a non-profit organization that supports independent scholars, defined as someone who is actively pursuing knowledge in an academic or scientific discipline, without secure employment in or support from an academic institution. Independent scholars include unaffiliated scholars, adjunct professors and part-time faculty, graduate students, research professionals, artists, and curators. NCIS enables scholars working in the arts, humanities, social sciences and STEM fields to access and share resources, such as library access, and support, which are typically unavailable to researchers who are not affiliated with a university or other institution.

References

  1. "Our Work". American Council of Learned Societies. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  2. “The First and Second Conferences of the Secretaries of the Constituent Societies,” ACLS Bulletin 5(1926):54.
  3. "Proceedings, Annual Meeting, 1928," ACLS Bulletin 7 (April 1928): 53.
  4. "Some Objectives of Negro Studies," ACLS Bulletin 32 (September 1941): 438.
  5. "ACLS Humanities E-Book" . Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  6. Eileen Gardiner and Ronald G. Musto, “ACLS History E-Book Project”, in New Technologies in Renaissance Studies, edited by William R. Bowen and Raymond G. Siemens, 2008, 701–735.
  7. Ronald G. Musto and Eileen Gardiner, “The ACLS History E-Book Project: 10 Years Later. A Tribute to John D’Arms,” SOF News (Society of Fellows of the American Academy in Rome), Oct 2009, 6-8.
  8. Mark Herring, in Reviews in History (http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/paper/herringm2.html).
  9. https://www.acls.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Financials/ACLS-Financial-Statements-Oct2017.pdf
  10. "American Council of Learned Societies records, 1910-2011 (Library of Congress Finding Aid)". Library of Congress. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  11. "Arts & Sciences Advocacy Award - Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences". www.ccas.net. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  12. "Member Learned Societies". ACLS. Retrieved August 29, 2017.