University of Earth


within a strategic reframing of the Union of International Associations (2005)

[reframe index]

Knowledge organization


Knowledge management

The original focus on information classification led to UIA involvement in the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis (COCTA) and the International Society for Knowledge Organization in the 1970s. Association with the early work on computer graphics, resulted in production of a film on Visualization of International Organization (1971). Two decades before the emergence of "knowledge management" as a theme, a UIA study on Knowledge representation in a computer-supported environment (1977) articulated much of the design philosophy of UIA information systems.
Knowledge-building processes: The editorial process whereby the data is collected, maintained and interrelated is in many respects as innovative as the nature of that data -- especially given the logistical and resource constraints in developing quality databases. The work has been done through a multi-lingual team of people sharing files on a local area network since 1984. This now has wide area extensions, together with extensive use of data from the web, and systematic incorporation of off-site hyperlinks. Essentially, however, the knowledge-building process is an extension of the activities of the thousands of organizations from which information is continually received.


Statutory commitment:

  • to collect and distribute the most comprehensive documentation possible on international organizations and associations, both governmental and non-governmen
  • to study, categorize, analyze, compare and illuminate world problems as perceived by international organizations.

Network emphasis

Commitment to a network perspective of interrelationships, as reflected in the management of over half million hyperlinks between its data entries.

Hyperlink editing

Hyperlink editing: A particular conceptual innovation is associated with the emphasis on "hyperlink editing" to increase the coherence and comprehensibility of relationships between organizations, problems, strategies, values, etc. Together the databases currently have in excess of 500,000 hyperlinks. Major research work is currently being done to identify "vicious" and "serendipitous" loops linking problems or strategies -- and, implicitly, the organizations with policy and strategic concerns. This approach is designed to shift the level of perception from isolated entities to complex systems of entities. Such feedback loops offer a more integrative approach to development challenges and policy-making.

Research, studies

Incorporated in accordance with the Belgian law of 25 October 1919 on international associations having a scientific aim (by Royal Decree dated 2 July 1920), the UIA operates as an institute for research, study on transnational associative networks, considered as essential components of contemporary society.
The most basic and extensive form of research undertaken by the UIA is necessarily that associated with documentation and the maintenance and enhancement of profiles on organizations and their associated concerns (meetings, problems, strategies, values, etc). This is the source of UIA's reputation in the field of documentary sciences, knowledge organization, etc. Such applied research may of course be seen as unrelated to the more academic styles of research, which it serves.

Studies, Surveys

The UIA has a long tradition of publishing studies about international organization, whether in its journal, as separate publictions, or on the web. The UIA occasionally initiates surveys (in addition to its regular mailings to all international organizations). Most recently it participated in a survey of opinions of NGO views of the UN.

Application development

The UIA registries use what amounts to a common meta-data structure enabling management of profiles through the same application and file structure. Since 1984, the common structure has facilitated a variety of maintenance, analysis, and re-formatting operations, notably for directory and CD production (XML variants), as well as for web serving (HTML) with associated generation of graphics (mapping applets, VRML) and export to third party visualization packages.

Computer software

It is important to recognize the innovative research in relation to the adaptation of information technology to enhance the value of UIA information to users. It is the UIA's capacity in this respect that has been the subject of various project proposals, notably to the European Commission

Statistics / Analyses

The UIA has been collecting and publishing statistical data in a variety of forms since its foundation. From 2001, it has invested in progressive rationalization of the statistical data it has published during the 20th century, whether on organizations or on international meetings. The main vehicle for this information is a volume on Statistics, Visualizations and Patterns (Vol. 5 of the Yearbook of International Organizations), although the data is also available to online subscribers.

Organization statistics

The UIA notably maintains data on the number and types of organizations, their secretariat locations, their countries of membership. This provides a standard reference source for the academic community.

Meeting statistics

The UIA notably maintains data on the number of meetings and their location, dating back to 1681. Published annually in International Meeting Statistics, this provides a standard reference source for the meetings industry.

Problems / Strategies

Some statistics are dervied from the development of these databases since 1972.

Network (loop) analyses

The UIA has a long history of endeavouring to analyze the networks of organizations problems and strategies, notably to identify loops that permit the level of analysis to be shifted from isolated entities.. This research notably featured in successful proposals to the European Commission and to the World Bank. Particular attention is given to the analysis of networks of organizations,

Data sets


Working methods