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Society for the History of Natural History

Strategic Plan 2018-2021

Strategic Plan 2018-2021

President’s Message 9 February 2021

Professor Peter Davis
SHNH President

Council has been very busy over the last three years reviewing the Society’s activities, membership and governance. Following a wide-ranging discussion at Council in February 2018 regarding the formulation of a strategic plan for the Society, a working group developed a detailed document that addressed our mission, purpose and aims, assessed our strengths and weaknesses, explored key challenges and opportunities, and formulated a list of priorities for action. Council discussed this detailed text at its meeting in May 2018 and further minor changes resulted in a Strategic Statement – a precis of the detailed document – which was agreed by Council in September 2018. This was made available to member on the Society’s website and featured in the Newsletter (NL 115, January 2019), with a call for comments from the membership.

From 2019 through 2020, Council members have focussed on how best to deliver the strategy; Working Groups composed of Council members have explored five key areas (Management; Links to and partnership with other organisations; Membership and promotion; Awards and Grants; and International Representatives) highlighted in the strategy.  The reports from the working groups, and detailed discussion at Council, prompted Council to consider nine important strategy questions in April 2020. These questions prompted wide-ranging debates on the purpose of the Society, how we serve our members, and how we might develop a better sense of community. Practical issues such as the effectiveness and size of Council, the relevance of our current ‘Rules’, succession planning, collaboration, the nature of our awards and grants, and providing better guidance and support for our International Representatives, were discussed at length.

Following the April Council all members sent individual written responses to the nine questions to the President, who then developed a synopsis of the ideas embedded in them and created a set of strategic options for Council to vote on. These options were considered at Council on 22 September 2020 when several important decisions were made. Arguably the most important of these were the decisions to revise our current Governing Document (Byelaws) to reflect the ways the Society now operates, to revise the guidelines for all our awards, revise the guidelines for our international representatives, and implement several practical changes to make the Society more resilient, more active and serve the membership better.

A Council working group developed a draft of our Byelaws which was shared with the full Council for comment and discussion.  Further revisions were prepared and circulated. A final draft version was then forwarded  to three former SHNH Presidents and several long-standing members of the Society for comment. Their feedback was reviewed and appropriate revision undertaken. The final  document was presented to Council on 26 January 2021 where it was unanimously agreed by those present. Council recommended that the draft of the Byelaws be taken to a Special General Meeting for approval by the membership.  This meeting is now set to take place on Tuesday 23 March 2021 at 3.30 (UK time) by Zoom. Details will be sent shortly to all members about how to join this meeting.

From our strategy discussions, Council felt it was critical to the process to understand much more about the profile of our membership and how we could better serve members, particularly in these challenging times. Consequently, we carried out a membership survey between August and November 2020. The response from the membership was excellent, and my thanks go to everyone who contributed their ideas. Analysis of the results is already helping to guide the Society further in developing its strategies and activities for the future. A summary of the findings of the survey will be presented at the Special General Meeting.

Peter Davis
SHNH President



SHNH Strategic Plan 2018–2021

Mission, Purpose and Aims

  • The Society is instituted for the historical and bibliographical study of all branches of natural history, including their cultural and social aspects, across all cultures.
  • The Society shall promote the objects for which it was founded by the issue of publications and by such other means as the Council may from time to time direct.

Strategic aims 2018–2021

  • To improve our resilience by strengthening/widening our offer to engage more people in the history of natural history, attracting more members and so improving our financial position.
  • To ensure the Society is well-managed, delivers the expectations of its members and achieves its charitable purpose.
  • To re-invigorate and maintain links with the Natural History Museum which has been a key player in the history of, and support for, the Society.
  • To promote links with like-minded organisations, especially with regard to increasing membership and joint conferences.
  • To work closely with Edinburgh University Press in the publication of Archives of Natural History, and to develop a closer relationship regarding publicity, promotion and the management of the membership database.
  • To review the awards currently offered by the Society, including the processes used for their promotion, implementation and funding.
  • To explore the potential for more informal Society meetings/events to further networking, social connections and to engage new audiences.
  • To review the guidelines/roles and the support given to the Society’s International Representatives in order to strengthen their ability to organise events in their own countries to promote recruitment.
  • To regularly monitor and review the performance of the Society and report back to the annual Autumn meeting of Council.

This document was approved by the Council of the Society for the History of Natural History on 25 September 2018.