Scientific Association Records Programs: A Beginner's GuideAssociation Activities and the Records they Create
- Set Direction of the Association and the Discipline
- Establish policies and priorities
- Initiate programs and projects
- Decide on the mission of the association
- Take stands on issues such as creationism
The records for this function are most often generated by the governing bodies (Board of Directors or Council), the Executive Office (if there is a staffed headquarters), and the President.
The agenda, minutes, reports, and other substantive records of the governing bodies are crucial documentation for your organization. Staff members and outside researchers commonly begin research on any topic relating to the association by finding out what the governing bodies had to say about it. Obviously these are permanent and vital records, worthy of the greatest care in preservation, security, and accessibility. During the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, staff of the California Academy of Sciences risked their lives to save the minute books from a burning building, and these documents are among the few items of the Academy that survived the cataclysm.
The Executive Office usually oversees implementation of the mandates of the governing bodies. It establishes procedures for the organization and works with committees and staff to insure that the association conducts its operations in a business-like fashion and accomplishes its mission. Its records are a rich source of information about the long-term achievements of the group and are frequently consulted by its own members and staff and by outside researchers. In setting up retention schedules, records managers and archivists find that correspondence, reports, budget files, governance records, and the like should be retained as permanent records. What can be scheduled for disposition--and the office itself almost always recommends this--are records relating to logistics (such as setting up meeting times and places for the governing board) once they aren't needed for current operations or audits. The official set of financial records of this office is normally kept by the accounting office of the association, but a few duplicate record series such as annual budgets may be kept by the Executive Office for ease of reference.
The records of the President relating to the society--and of other elected officers--are usually considered part of his or her personal papers and are rarely accessioned by an association archive. Normally they are deposited with the rest of the papers in the library or archives of institutions with which the officer had their last or longest employment. Sometimes it is necessary to copy parts of the President's or other officers' files to fill a gap in the documentation of an important association activity. If these copies are accessioned into the permanent files of your group, the source of them must be made clear, as permission to quote will probably reside with the depository where the original papers are. It is also a good idea to keep a list of where the papers of past officers of the society are housed.
Associations are sometimes consulted about where scientists who have been officers should place their papers. The Society of American Archivists and some discipline history centers publish one-page brochures that can be distributed for guidance. If there is someone to do it--a history center or committee is ideal for this--the association may take a more active role by contacting important past officers and helping them shepherd their papers to a depository.
- Certify Scientists and Bestow Honors
- Election to membership or fellow status
- Appointment or election to office in the society
- Certification based on exams or experience and training
- Awards for research distinction and service to science
- Awards to students
- Financial support for research or curriculum change.
Current membership lists are kept by every association, usually in electronic form. The lists range from simple name, address, and dues paid entries on pc word processing software that generates bills and labels to mainframe databases that keep detailed profiles on the members, including their past activities in the association. The AAAS member file is of the latter type, requiring four computer screens for data entry.
Appraisal and retention for membership files are daunting. Groups that publish a member directory may find that keeping an archival set of the books is sufficient for verifying whether persons were members. However, there is a limit on the size of the association that can produce a manageable volume. The Geological Society of America has about 17,000 members and its 1995 directory, with indexes and small but readable typefaces, over 350 pages long in 8.5 by 11 inch format. AAAS, which now has 142,000 members, hasn't published a member directory since 1948 (although it does publish lists of fellows occasionally).
Groups too large for directories may find that microfilm or microfiche copies of the printed out list, made once a year, are an acceptable medium for checking on individual memberships
Directories and micro-printouts are clumsy substitutes for electronic files if the association or an outside researcher wants to do statistical studies of the members because the data must be sampled and reentered. For that reason, the final choice is to keep them in electronic form. Machine readable records present serious records management and archival challenges, and a substantial and helpful literature has grown up to deal with them if your association decides to keep its members records in that medium (see "Further Readings" section of this report).
Three points from this literature cannot be stressed enough in electronic record-keeping:
- Preserve old data on media and in computer languages that can be read by software and hardware available today (ideally, this can be written into the contract with an outside fulfillment vendor if you use one; if you handle the records yourself, convert the data and test their readability when you change software or machines or hire a conversion bureau to do it).
- Archive all editions of the printed data entry guidebooks that tell you what the elements of the electronic file are and what they mean (the current guidebook for the AAAS membership system runs to 35 pages).
- Save data at least once a year on the same date(s) every time so that members who stay with you for only a short period are recorded.
Records on office-holding, election to fellow, awards, or other honorary status consist of nominating and evaluating papers, correspondence and reports on the election process, and lists of persons awarded the standing. The lists are normally permanent records, but your records survey may show them maintained by several offices and only the set generated by the office that administers the program usually needs to be kept beyond current needs. Nomination and evaluation papers are often collected under a pledge of confidentiality; if they are retained, this promise must be honored for the duration stated in the solicitation or assessment. The forms on successful awardees are often retained for long periods--even permanently--by associations because questions arise on why someone won it, possibly as a precursor to awarding them something else. However, these papers are bulky, and associations commonly discard files on unsuccessful nominees within a few years and may sample files on awardees back a decade or so if they lack space to keep them all.
Some care is needed with records or certification. These days employment may hinge on whether a person has the credentials claimed, and hiring offices may check your association to find out if the applicant did indeed pass the certifying exam or course. If the certification has a finite time period to it before renewal is required, you should keep records that document who qualified under the program up until the renewal deadline is past. If certification is indefinite, lists should be maintained of those who qualified for enough time to cover the working life of most scientists (say, fifty years). The exams or applications for certification need to be retained for the period during which an accusation of fraud might be raised, as determined by the statute of limitations in your state. A sample of them should be retained permanently as part of the documentation of the process, as should files relating to policy and procedure for running the program. The certificates themselves are good exhibit artifacts and a few of each are worth preserving for that use.
- Edit and Publish on Paper or Electronically
- Journals and newsletters
- Monographs and popular books
- Software and data sets (maps, table, catalogs, fieldtrip guidebooks)
- Instrumentation and techniques guidebooks
This activity is at the heart of what JCAST termed the "facilitator of communication" role that scientific societies play in the world of science. Associations are well experienced in handling the enormous number of paper and electronic records required to carry out publications programs.
Publication touches on areas where lawsuits (plagiarism, slander and libel) may arise. The statute of limitations in your jurisdiction is crucial for deciding the minimum time for keeping what records. For example, since Science is published in Washington, D.C., story files (the materials gathered by the writers of the magazine's news section) must be kept at least one year in case a story is challenged in court. As a practical matter, story files are commonly kept at Science for at least three years, partly on the advice of AAAS lawyers and partly for news department operations. The writers commonly check older story files for follow-up or in researching related issues.
Once the issue that inspired the story has died down and the likelihood of legal challenges is past, the question arises of what to do with these records. Most commercial publications discard story files when the topic is stale, finding that the published version is enough and that the number of files can be overwhelming. However, the news section of Science is such a vital part of the magazine and so depended on by the scientific community that the AAAS archives solicits donation of older story files by reporters for long term preservation. Some of these have intrinsic value, such as Eliot Marshall's box full of material on Three Mile Island, Mitch Waldrop's files on Challenger, or Gina Kolata's interpretation of mathematics breakthroughs. Not all writers choose to send their story files to archives, but enough are saved to show how the news department has functioned over its nearly thirty years of existence.
Story files present another problem: writers often do interviews under a pledge of confidentiality, and include the notes in the files. For that reason, access to story files may be restricted. At Science, researchers outside the news department must have the permission of the writer to use the files, or if the reporter has left AAAS, of the head of the news section.
Central to any technical journal are the records of the submissions from scientists and the process by which the manuscripts become published articles. The volume of material is awesome; Science generates over thirty cartons a year of paper worthy of at least short term preservation, plus gigabytes of computer files, in connection with the review and publication of scientists' research.
Journals of all sizes have some sort of tracking and indexing system to chart the course of a submission through review and editing. This may range from a card index with handwritten entries about actions taken on each item to a computer database that captures many features of the submission as well as accounting for the handling of it. As Science, the system has evolved from one end to the other of this range. The current computer tracking system also serves as a subject index for the technical side of the journal; a customized thesaurus is used to optimize the reliability and usefulness of this feature of the database. In its current incarnation, the system is a vital record of the association, and special arrangements have been made to keep backup copies onsite and offsite in case of disaster.
The second group of records generated by submission of research papers is what is called a "jacket" in publishing slang. It is an envelope or folder which contains the submission, reviewers' comment, and correspondence between authors and editors. If the article is accepted, the file swells with material from the editing and production process--revisions, copyedited texts, and marked up galleys. At Science, six months after an article is published, the file is thinned of the latter material.
At AAAS, confidentiality of the review process requires that the computer database and jackets files are closed to researchers. Only the editorial staff has access to these files. One exception is made on the database: the AAAS librarian is allowed to search it when normal bibliographical channels do not yield desired citations. Articles not accepted for publication are returned promptly to the author, and only a slim record is kept of the transaction. The jackets for accepted manuscripts are maintained by the journal only for its own use for about five years after submission.
Other scientific societies conduct peer review under pledges of confidentiality for a finite period of time or have a policy that allows disclosure of the names of authors and reviewers to each other, in which case the group needs to decide whether to keep submission records for the long term. Most do not. The volume of these operations can be sizable, and if the records are maintained beyond current operations, they may need to be sampled. Several studies of the peer review process have been conducted by scholars using such records, but each association needs to weigh its unique blend of resources before deciding how long to keep them. Some organizations may decide to keep the tracking files but not the jackets.
No matter what resolution is reached on the issue of submissions file and story files, most scientific associations try to preserve the records of the evolution of editorial policy and procedures. This material may be in the form of correspondence of the editor, minutes of editorial advisory committees, reports of ad hoc evaluative boards, memos to and from staff, and similar records. When the records of the editorial office are well managed, they become good permanent records for archiving on this important function. For example, the central office papers of Philip Abelson, editor of Science from 1962 to 1984, take up only twenty boxes in the AAAS archives. The files of his successor, Daniel Koshland, editor from 1995, are expected to be about ten boxes. The records of both were maintained by exceptionally competent secretaries well trained in filing and with an eye for what was significant.
Book publication (reports, monographs, popularizations) is a common association enterprise. With the desktop publishing, the amount of paper files per book has declined somewhat, but the problem of what to save has been transferred from one medium to another. The correspondence between editor and author, the minutes of advisory boards, contracts, reports to the executive office, and procedural guidelines are durable records of limited size, and are commonly retained as permanent records. The proliferation of drafts, galleys, and paste-ups can be staggering. Normally the latter records are maintained for about a year after the book appears in print. By then the publications office has some idea of whether a second edition is needed and if any of the artwork must be saved for that occasion.
Software and data sets (maps, fieldtrip guides, tables, and catalogs) should be documented in two ways: an archival set of the final version should be maintained in a secure place, and the process by which the material was produced should be codified. As with books, successive drafts are usually not kept long beyond the appearance of the item, although the first draft may be deemed to have historical value. A special consideration arises regarding the data from which these products are formed. Normally these are retained by the office that created the item, rather than among the records of a publications office.
Instrumentation catalogs and techniques guidebooks may generate extensive "information" files form which the publication is drawn. The experience of the AAAS with the files of the Guide to Scientific Instruments, a supplemental issue of Science for several decades, may be instructive. When the Guide was outsourced, the archivist and head of the project retired the files to a storage area for three years. During that time, they were not needed by researchers. The office head and archivist decided to save a one-in-twenty sample of the files to illustrate how the guide was produced, a compromise between the need for space and the needs of future researchers which has proven satisfactory so far.
- Convene Meetings
- On research topics within the discipline
- On societal issues relating to the discipline
- On governance (internal) issues
- Encourage student participation and presentations
Association meetings may be managed by a central meetings office or dispersed through the organization. Also, any given meeting may cover more than one of the above functions; the AAAS annual meeting, for example, includes all of them. Symposia, lectures, and contributed papers given during the annual meeting present the research findings of scientists and spell out the implications of the work for society at large. An active pressroom insures that print and broadcast media can efficiently disseminate the findings to the public. Both the AAAS governing bodies (Board and Council) are convened during the annual meeting. An awards competition for the best contributed papers, social functions, and special registration rates are designed to have graduate students participate, and for younger students, an entire day is taken up with hands-on science activities for children in the host city.
Abstracts printed in a meeting program are a variant form of publication in many fields of science, and a convenient summary of what the scientist intended to say in the presentation. They have considerable research value and requests to the AAAS library for abstracts from19th and 20th century AAAS meetings are not uncommon. However, what the scientist actually said is harder to document.
Many associations allow an outside service to tape proceedings of lectures and technical sessions and sell them for a reasonable fee. The contract with the audiotaping company usually promises that a set of the tapes are given to the association and these can be archived. However, audiotapes require special storage conditions and must be retaped periodically before sound quality deteriorates. There are also restrictions on the distribution and use of the tapes that are spelled out in the release form signed by the speakers and the contract with the association; if you archive the tapes, it is crucial to keep the copy of contract and permission form used each year for reference purposes.
Sometimes the author proves a paper copy of the presentation. Like the abstract, this may deviate from what was actually said, but paper is a convenient medium and many researchers will use it in preference to audiotapes. The AAAS Office of News and Information collects papers for release to the press during the meeting, and at its close presents a set to the AAAS archives. Not all authors submit written versions to the News and Information staff, but many significant presentations are saved in this guise.
Abstracts and technical session proposals may be reviewed before acceptance for the meeting. The review records are subject to the same difficulties regarding confidentiality as those for a technical journal, although the number of files is likely to be more manageable. If the reviews themselves must be destroyed to keep them confidential, the process by which the review took place still should be documented so that members, staff, and outside researchers can understand the way the meting was constructed. This may appear in the form of minutes, handbooks, guidelines, letters, and memos.
Meetings on governance and internal matters are relatively painless to record. Traditional paper files of agenda, correspondence, minutes, and reports are generated; there may also be audiotapes of the proceedings (these do no need to be retained if the minutes are written out). The files are usually of modest size. Because policy, priorities, projects, and directions are hammered out at these meetings, the records are usually of long term operational and research value.
Student participation is partly documented when the records of presentations are captured in some form or other, but meetings serve another function for students that is more difficult to capture. At universities, Samuels terms this activity "foster socialization." By seeing how scientists conduct scholarly and practical business at meetings, students learn how they are supposed to behave from a much bigger sample than the professors at their university. It may require a deliberate documentation strategy for an association to collect any material on this, for example, by surveys of registrants that include special questions for students.
Meetings are a form of scientific communication that almost always inspires photography. Only fieldtrips bring out more shutterbugs. Registrants and association staff photograph nearly everything--social gatherings, lectures, informal discussion groups milling around in the halls, the meeting site, living quarters, the long lines at registration, banquets, and awards ceremonies. Photographs are indisputably the best way to document exhibits at meetings. They belong in your records. Modern film does not present the nightmares of preservation of glass negatives, nitrate and acetate but it does require attention in cataloging and packaging to prolong its life and usefulness. There are some good books on photo archives to guide you (see "Further Readings" section of this report).
Scheduling retention of meeting registration records is a vexing question. Since they record financial transactions, they have a minimum period when they must be saved that varies among states. Most of them are now computerized, and are useful as marketing lists for a surprisingly long time after the close of the meeting. Once that application fades, the record that has a longer life than the individual registrations is the statistical summary or analysis of the data if one were done. It can be used for planning and for history, and is commonly preserved in reports to governing boards or the executive office.
- Advance Scientific Education
- Teach short courses
- Affect curriculum
- Popularize science
- Disseminate science to the media
Scientific associations commonly offer specialized instruction in the discipline in courses at the annual meetings of the national or regional groups, or in special sessions throughout the year. These courses range from a few days to a few weeks and are designed to upgrade or update technical skills and knowledge of members and other registrants. Continuing education credit may be provided if the course meets criteria of educational institutions that certify its contents as sufficiently rigorous.
The contents of these courses are captured in the near-print course syllabi, outlines, and readings lists, just like a university class. These should be retained for at least five to seven years in case someone wants to verify what a participant was taught. They may have considerable historical value. Related files are the correspondence of the course director with the association's sponsoring office and registration records. The size of these files in usually manageable enough for associations to add them to their archives as permanent records. If registration records are too bulky to be saved indefinitely, they may have to be discarded (perhaps after sampling), but lists of participants should be kept for the reasons mentioned above in the discussion of certification.
Societies may influence science teaching in schools and universities through cooperative ventures with educational institutions and associations or through creating new curricula for use in classrooms. This activity is one of the most direct interactions between an association and its culture, and has great interest for members and other researchers.
A full set of the products of these reform efforts is always worth permanent retention. Deciding what to save and for how long from the records of the process by which the materials was created is more problematic. Often these projects are done under a grant from a funding agency (private or government) or under contract, and the agreements that set them up may specify minimum retention periods for drafts, evaluation data, and administrative records. Once that time has passed, the issue becomes how much longer to save these materials. Nearly all educational reform projects have some form of assessment built in, and the amount of material from this part of the project can be formidable. About half of the files relating to Science: A Process Approach, a post-Sputnik curriculum project for elementary schools conducted by the AAAS, related to the evaluation of its draft products in trials in the schoolroom. Fortunately, most projects summarize and analyze these data in reports, making it less painful to discard the raw data (after sampling to show how the evaluations were collected) once the report is archived and minimum retention dates are past.
Scientific societies reach the public with the results of research through the media--print, television, and radio. Many organizations have a publicity officer, committee, or office that deals with the press to encourage news coverage. Press releases, press conferences, and press rooms at meetings are employed to get the word out about scientific discoveries reported in the association's journal or presented at technical sessions. Some societies prepare radio or TV programs for broadcast.
Documenting what the association said follows directly from these activities. Files of releases and audiotapes of press conferences often find their ways into the archives of the group. What is harder to document is what the public actually got out of these efforts. The most common medium for showing the effect of publicity efforts is a clippings file, which presents archivists and records managers with a preservation headache. Newspaper has a high acid content, yellowing and then disintegrating within a few decades unless treated, especially if pasted onto high-acid paper scapbooks or kept in poor conditions of temperature and humidity. If the association decides to preserve the information (contents) of the clipping, the item can be copied into long-lifed paper, but for exhibits, the original clipping is prized and will need deacidification, an expensive and time-consuming procedure generally reserved for only the important material. Organizations with an aggressive press office that uses a clipping service may also find themselves awash in clippings. Archivists faced with this dilemma may decide to save only one version of the story along with the tags from the other clippings showing what other papers ran it on what days. When space is at a premium and deterioration of clippings becomes serious, some societies may be forced to discard them. A competent historical researcher should be able to find most of these newspaper stories in research libraries.
- Advise Government and Voters on Scientific Issues
- Run seminars
- Give testimony on request
- Inform members of government matters of interest
- Recommend and supply scientific experts
Most scientific associations are tax-exempt under statutes of the Internal Revenue Service that do not permit lobbying in more than minuscule amounts. Historically, societies have concentrated instead on educational roles in policy issues and become involved in legislative matters only on request. AAAS, for example, runs Congressional seminars that are designed as instructive, not didactic, and that address both sides of contentious issues. In conjunction with several affiliated associations, it conducts a program to place scientists and engineers in Congressional offices for a year. The association publishes data and analysis on scientific research and development budgets in federal agencies. Occasionally the AAAS President may be asked to testify at a Congressional hearing on a science-related issue.
The possibility of a challenge to tax exemption because of activities that might be misconstrued as lobbying is very real. Consequently, it is advisable to establish retention schedules for records of government, especially legislative, contacts and projects for a duration that would take the association safely past an audit. Seven years is not unreasonable.
What of the value of records of government-related activities beyond this minimum? Historians have shown great interest in this aspect of scientific societies. Currently, for example, several scholars are researching what associations did--and did not--do to help members who had trouble during the McCarthy era. The role of scientific associations in Vietnam War era concerns, their activities in arms control, and their work on preserving threatened natural environments are predictable topics for the future. In some societies, the documentation of the Board or Council's actions may be sufficient. But groups more active in these matters, the records of committees and projects could be marked for permanent retention with some confidence that members, staff, and other researchers will use them.
- Certify Knowledge and Define Boundaries
- Take stands on controversial issues such as creationism
- Arbitrate disputes
- Offer print or in-person forums for debate
- Establish and enforce codes of behavior
- Expose quackery
Scientific theories and research can lead to stimulating debate in the community over matters of fact and truth. Over the years, conduct becomes codified in the scientific world through ethics guidelines, unwritten rules of procedure taught to the young in informal venues, and experience with methods that work in settling disputes. Technical journals, newsletters, and meetings sponsored by scientific societies leave a record of this process. The retention schedules and decisions on archiving their records will usually secure an adequate body of material for staff, members, and outside researchers to investigate how these issues came to be handled.
For intense arguments that flare quickly across the scientific landscape, such as cold fusion and the extinction debates, researchers have recently gathered documentation from all sorts of sources, including print output, organizational email bulletin boards, and abstracts and audiotapes of meetings of scientific associations. The unpublished material related to these activities in society archives are a valuable complement to this kind of documentation. And for the many topics that are not captured by these special targeted efforts, the archives of the association, along with the papers of protagonists, may be the only records for later study. The published literature--much of it issued by associations--gives the researcher clues on where to look for such material. When the archivist or records manager notices documentation on a serious scientific debate in material accessioned for permanent retention, they should highlight its existence in the finding aid that describes the collection.
- Measure and Improve the Status of the Profession
- Conduct and publish employment and educational surveys
- Assess the health of funding for research
- Track participation of various groups in science
- Run employment exchanges, job fairs, and job bulletins
- Monitor the status of persecuted scientists
Associations produce important studies of the numbers and attributes of students and employed workers in the discipline. Sometimes these reports are based on government data, such as the federal census, but often societies collect the data themselves. For most purposes, the written reports provide sufficient documentation of the project, but often the original data gathered by the association have a research value beyond a few years. This occurs when the detailed evidence is only summarized in the publication but can be used later for longitudinal studies. There are several factors that can be used to evaluate this possibility. One is whether the data were gathered in such a way that comparisons can be made with later surveys. Often the need for preserving confidentiality interferes with the ability to match answers from a later survey. Also, the advice and assessment of the members or staff that collected the first set of data are crucial; they may have anticipated long term use and planned for it in their study design. They can also warn records managers and archivists about the need for restrictions on data gathered under a pledge of confidentiality.
Scientific associations have been concerned since the days of the civil rights movement with the issue of whether science is open to all segments of the population. Nearly every group has had, and many still have, committees that address equal opportunities for women or racial minority groups who might be underrepresented or under-appreciated in their discipline. If there is no special office devoted to this cause, the records of the committee are likely to be found with the executive office. These committees and projects are rarely content with handwringing over low numbers but are likely to encourage, survey, publicize, and sponsor intervention efforts to improve the situation. This work is an important index of the social conscience of science, and deserves attention in a program to document the organization.
Job fairs and bulletins (increasingly maintained online) are a prized service to association members. The documentary challenge is whether to preserve only the records of the creation and conduct of the operation, or of all of the listings also. Space considerations may dictate sampling the latter.
Some associations dedicate themselves to helping secure the freedom of persecuted scientists working abroad, or of improving the work conditions of members who have encountered discrimination. These activities generate case files arranged by the scientists' name, and parts of these records may be protected under standard rules of privacy. Case files are commonly restricted (permission from the head of the office and the scientist involved may be needed for examining them) and they may be closed. Case files of associations especially active in this cause may also get voluminous. The AAAS files on Andreas Sakharov take up one entire box. If sampling is used to reduce the bulk, a random technique may not be desirable, but whatever process is employed, it must be written out and accessible to researchers who might obtain the privilege of using the material.
- Sustain the Institution
- Finances, including sales of ads and products
- Administration (staff, phones, travel, building, computers)
- Member recruitment and services
These support activities can overwhelm an association with records. Authorities estimate that the accounting department alone generates about half of the records of any business. Besides volume, there is variety: records from a finance office may include the following, and the list is suggestive, not exhaustive:
Auditor's reports Accounts payable Journal entries
Budgets Accounts receivable Timesheets
General ledger Tax forms Payroll records
Monthly reports Tax work papers Bank statements
Fixed assets Capital accounts Canceled checks
Contracts Insurance policies VAT returns
Telephone records Postal meter accounts Photocopier readings
Invoices Collections records Check carbons
These records are also likely to be the target of regulations about minimum retention issued by the Internal Revenue Service, granting agencies, and state authorities.
Because of the business and legal nature of financial materials, the records management literature, especially Skupsky, does a superb job of indicating retention periods for them. Schedules can be set up from these books and then customized to meet the quirks of the association's home state and the needs of current operations within the society. The question remains which ones associations might want to keep longer than the period required. Auditor's reports, final copies of filled-in tax forms, financial statements to the Board or Council, the budget as passed by the Board, and the summary year-end general ledger are often maintained for long periods of time or treated as permanent records.
Fundraising in scientific societies is devoted to raising from individuals (members and philanthropists) and organizations (foundations, corporations, and government agencies). Records for approaches to each are usually kept separate. Donor files on persons include letters outlining the worthiness of the association, requests for donations, data on responses, copies of thank you notes, and later rounds of appeals. Most associations also keep files on bequest from the estates of members and others that consists of a copy of the will, correspondence with the executor, and probate records. Files on bequests are usually permanently archived a few years after probate, because they are a valuable indicator of whether any restrictions were placed on the use of the money. Individual prospect files other than bequests are commonly treated as information files--updated with the latest data and discarded when no longer needed for fundraising.
Development files on funding agencies include profiles on the group, correspondence not related to a specific grant, and notes on meetings and interviews with program officers. These are treated as information files (thinned of out-of-date data and kept for current purposes).
The fundraising office may also keep files on grants that duplicate in part the records of the finance office. Both sets need to be studied before a decision is made on which to retain. The development office but not finance is likely to keep records of unsuccessful proposals, for example, at least for long enough to be useful in seeing what didn't work with an agency before sending in an application for a new project.
When a development office undertakes a special campaign, such as seeking funds for a new building, the files are apt to be segregated from the regular files kept on individuals, corporations and agencies. The records of one campaign tend to become the platform of the next, and may consequently be treated as "current" records until the second campaign is finished. These high-energy projects generate records of considerable color and say a lot on how the association views itself and projects itself to donors. Shorn of duplicates and routine material, they are good candidates for permanent retention.
Member recruitment activities generate promotional materials that make good display items once they are past their current usefulness. Like fundraising campaigns, they offer a convenient way to study how the association envisioned and advertised itself over time. At AAAS, one example of each mailing is kept with a one-page report on how it was deployed and its success rate.
Member service records include a lot of correspondence with prospective and current members. This varies from routine requests to send another copy of a missing journal to profound (sometimes highly critical) comments on the health and effectiveness of the society. Some membership offices weed out the routine letters shortly after the issue seems resolved or segregate the routine from the extraordinary in filing. Others keep all letters for a year or two to see if a pattern evolves that needs fixing, such as careless handling of the association's journal at a particular postal center. Archivists and records managers can help member offices cope with the volume of this mail. If they do, records that have promise for long-term research value, such as historical researchers, will not be lost among routine transactions. If a record series of everyday letters does make its way to the archives, it is a good candidate for sampling.