After the success of the International Geophysical Year, in 1959 a group of biologists from several countries began to discuss the possibility of a similar programme. In due time, the International Biological Programme (IBP) was set up under the auspices of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and entitled The Biological Basis of Productivity and Human Welfare. The remit of the IBP was to study (i) organic production on the land, in freshwaters and in the seas, and the potentialities and use of new as well as existing resources; and (ii) human adaptability to changing conditions. By the end of this 10-year programme, in 1974, 58 countries were directly involved, with a further 40 countries contributing to individual projects, which were grouped into seven different sections: IBP-BP (Biological Productivity), IBP-PT (Production Terrestrial), IBP-CT (Conservation Terrestrial), IBP-PF (Production Freshwater), IBP-PM (Production Marine), IBP-HA (Human Adaptability) and IBP-PP (Primary Productivity). The development and history of the IBP have been described by E. B. Worthington, who was Scientific Director of the IBP, in volume 1 of the Synthesis Series.1 The 26 volumes of this series summarize the results of the research projects in the sections as well as various particular projects and specialized topics. They were published by Cambridge University Press, all with striking yellow dust-covers and numbered from IBP 1 to IBP 26.
The Central Office of the IBP was in London. When the IBP ended and Central Office closed in September 1974, its papers were archived at the Science Museum.2 At some stage, probably when the Science Museum moved its archives out of London to Didcot, the IBP archive moved to the Natural History Museum, from where it has recently been transferred to the Royal Society.
After this transfer, the contents of the folders in the 60 or more boxes have been noted in a Microsoft Excel file—not the details of each item, but a general overview of the folders’ contents. They contain correspondence and records of meetings, conferences and consultations, both in the initial stages of development of the IBP and throughout its activities in all the sections. However, most of the papers in this archive are associated with the IBP-CT section and the enormous survey that was organized to record, in a standardized way, the vegetation in protected terrestrial areas all over the world.3 This survey resulted in more than 3000 data sheets from 55 countries. The original data sheets sent in are in this archive at the Royal Society and could be of considerable interest to those monitoring vegetation changes in specific areas, particularly if copies of the data sheets have not been retained in local archives. The papers relevant to other sections of the IBP in this archive are mostly administrative, because the scientific data may have been deposited elsewhere. Those of the IBP-PF projects, for example, were deposited with the Freshwater Biological Association at Windermere.4 There are other archives relevant to the IBP still at the Natural History Museum as well as rich collections of IBP-related publications at the Linnean Society of London.
The UK was a major participant in the IBP, and its projects in all sections were funded by a specific government grant administered by the Royal Society. The minutes and associated papers of meetings of the British National Committee of the IBP are therefore in the Royal Society archives, as are the papers of the ad hoc committee that governed the Royal Society African Freshwater Biological Team who were working on Lake George in Uganda from 1966 to 1972. We, the authors, were members of that team. No doubt there are also copies of at least three booklets entitled ‘The United Kingdom Contribution to the International Biological Programme’ prepared by the British National Committee for the International Biological Programme and published by the Royal Society in August 1965, February 1967 and September 1970 and, perhaps, later editions.
We thank Gina Douglas for checking the manuscript, and Joanna Corden and Keith Moore for their suggestion that this should be written to make known the location of these archives.
↵1 E. B. Worthington (ed.), IBP 1: the evolution of IBP (Cambridge University Press, 1975).
↵2 Personal communication from Ms Gina Douglas, at that time part-time Executive Secretary and formerly Scientific Coordinator of the IBP-CT section.
↵3 G. F. Peterken (compiler), F. R. Fosberg and D. F. Ball, Guide to the check sheet for IBP areas (Blackwell Scientific Publications for IBP, Oxford, 1967); A. R. Clapham (ed.), IBP 24: the IBP survey of conservation sites; an experimental study (Cambridge University Press, 1980).
↵4 E. D. Le Cren and R. M. Lowe-McConnell (eds), IBP 22: the functioning of freshwater ecosystems (Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 493.
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