A Basic Framework for Running an IAHR World Congress

This document, revised June 6th 2005 by the IAHR Executive Committee, is intended to serve as both framework and guidelines for organizing an IAHR Congress.  Any questions, comments, or suggestions should be sent to the IAHR Secretary General.

  1. Finance and budget

  2. Schedule

  3. Personnel and organizing committees

  4. The congress site/venue

  5. Academic, business, and cultural programs

  6. Publication of IAHR Congress proceedings

1. Finance and budget

The IAHR is not in a position to cover expenses, except for extending small loans for initial expenses, and partial funding for 2 or 3 key participants through CIPSH. Although the academic program has the highest priority, it is recommended that the financial aspects are accorded equally high priority when a national association considers the possibility of hosting an IAHR World Congress. .
Unless the services of a professional conference agency are secured, it is strongly advised that a corporate group be established to handle the financial structure of the Congress so that no single person becomes liable for unforeseen losses. This group must include a professional accountant or someone familiar with accounting procedures. The IAHR cannot be held liable for financial losses. At some point, the organisers may have to sign various legally binding contracts, be it for the venue, or organising agency, for example. Sometimes a university office may back this, but in most cases this is unlikely. Consequently, consulting a lawyer is highly advisable.

 1.1. Income

The main source of income is the registration fee. The most recent Congress fee (the 2005 Congress in Tokyo) was $300 (USD) with a late fee of $350 (USD). The Executive Committee strongly recommends staying close to these figures (as inflation allows).
Participation in IAHR Congresses has in the past varied from 350-1500. If a Congress is well organized and well publicized, a large number of people can be expected to participate, and the income from the registration fee consequently could increase. However, when creating the budget, it may be wise to calculate realistically with about 500-600 participants in mind, and to create the budget on the basis of 450-500 participants paying a full registration fee.

1.1.2 Additional sources of income

Other sources of income should be looked for, right from the outset. Business, government and other organizations in the host country should be explored. A difficulty in securing corporate funding for IAHR Congresses is that they do not necessarily see tangible benefits. Sometimes, they may be more willing to commit if they are asked to sponsor specific activities (e.g. the opening event, receptions, or cultural events). Efforts can also be made by those IAHR members, who are closest to the host country in terms of residence and/or scholarly interests, to raise funds from embassies, publishers, journals, local businesses, airlines, transport agencies, foundations and benefactors. Congress patrons should be encouraged to help organize and use their influence in fund raising campaigns.
Donations from the local association, from some of the more affluent national and regional member associations of the IAHR, as well as from individual local and international scholars should be also part of the strategy, developed in cooperation with the Executive Committee of the IAHR.
Finally, in order to economize, or even make money out of the Congress, it is important to select an efficient but not overly expensive, conference agency. They can assist in ensuring that profitable arrangements and contracts are entered into in such a way that a certain percentage of commissions, which most organising agencies get from the hotels they contract for accommodation, are recovered. Besides the commission, conference agencies can generally help secure one free room for every 25-30 rooms. This can be factored into the budget when calculating the costs for hosting keynote speakers, and scholars from less affluent countries and associations, for example.

  1.1.3 CIPSH (conseil international de la philosophie et des sciences humaines/international council for philosophy and humanistic studies)

 The IAHR is sometimes able to pay for the flight expenses of 2 or 3 key people from countries with weak currencies with the help of a CIPSH subvention. Usually, the subvention totals about $5,000 to cover such expenses. Unfortunately, UNESCO has its own financial difficulties and consequently the funding potential of CIPSH faces an uncertain future.


When creating a budget, the following list of possible expenses should be included in estimates:

1. Venue
2. Opening ceremony
3. Welcome reception
4.  Banquet/party
5. Closing event
6. Local transportation arrangements (e.g. from airport, from hotel/venue to event venues)
7. Tea/coffee and snacks during session breaks (if the Congress secretariat bears the cost)
8. Congress organizing company fee
9. Administrative costs (e.g. faxes, telephones, postage, website creation and management)
10. Congress bags, folders, pens, gifts
11. Printing of program, book of abstracts, list of participants, program changes, brochures flyers, and Congress Proceedings,  etc.
12. Book exhibit related costs (venue, equipment, etc. These can be charged to the exhibitors)
13. Media coverage and videotaping important events of the Congress, such as keynote addresses
14. Communication equipment on site (phones, computers, walkie talkies, pagers)
15. Expenses of keynote speakers
16. Expenses (accommodation, and in some cases, travel expenses) of the members of the IAHR Executive Committee
17. Expenses connected with preparatory meetings of local organisers
18. Expenses connected with at least one preparatory meeting with the Deputy Secretary General of the IAHR (travel, and accommodation)
19. Part of the expenses connected with one preparatory meeting with the President, the Secretary General, and the Treasurer of the IAHR
20. Grants-in-aid for a certain number of scholars and participants from less affluent countries
21. Costs of simultaneous translation as needed.
22. Inflation costs of 5-10% per annum (Note: Bear in mind that the budget will be prepared a few years before the actual event.)
23. Any other unexpected and miscellaneous items

 1.3. Deposits and loans

In the event of the need of a small deposit in order to secure a conference center and/ or to secure a professional Congress organization, most sponsors are unwilling to provide such funding so far in advance. The IAHR is therefore prepared to extend a reasonable amount as a loan without interest . This amount is usually no more than $2000 (USD).


2) Schedule

Communication procedures should be worked out well in advance--at the latest three years ahead of time. Information and up-dates should appear on a well-organized basis (for instance, published in the IAHR Bulletin and/or at the Congress website).

2.1. Third year prior to Congress

Choosing and contracting the organizing company/agency, choosing the Congress site and preliminary contracts, fixing exact date of the event, securing a travel agent (if different from organizing agency), deciding on a Congress logo, printing the Congress poster, invitations to exhibitors, soliciting financial support, working out pre- and post-Congress events, setting hotel tariffs, and sending out the first circular towards the end of the year. The first circular can be sent in packages to each association asking them to ensure that a circular is sent to each of their members, but this has to be carefully considered in terms of expenses and effectiveness. Several member associations do not have the means to mail the circular to all members, and electronic communication may be preferred. 

From this point on, Congress staff must handle inquiries efficiently and quickly, and it is  therefore advisable that the local organizing committee and/or agency be already in place. 

2.2. Second year prior to the Congress

Send out the second circular (and poster) with the preliminary list of coordinators and events during the second half of the year. 

2.3. Last year prior to the Congress

Deadlines for Papers, Panels, Symposia and abstracts, orders for exhibition space, reservations of book and magazine stands, booking of entertainers, and finalisation of contracts with relevant companies. 

2.4. The year of the Congress

Deadlines for pre-Congress registrations including receipt of Congress fee at the beginning of the year, final edition of the program to be published sent out to registered participants, book of abstracts to be sent out prior to the Congress (if possible, or make available online and distribute published versions at Congress itself).  

2.5 Final preparations

Opening reception, welcome event, etc. The registration desk should be at least partially open several days before the Congress officially opens.


3) Personnel and organizing committees

The success of a Congress depends to a large extent on the effectiveness of the committee structure. Since it is an IAHR event in cooperation with an IAHR affiliate, there will be the need for an International Congress Committee acting in cooperation with the Local Organizing Committee or Congress Secretariat. The local committee consists of the officers of the affiliate IAHR association/s and other key persons, and is supported by a pyramid of working committees that have clear areas of responsibility. There is also the World Congress Advisory Committee, consisting of local and national leaders, in addition to well-known cultural personalities, and senior scholars. The Congress Academic Program Committee will be discussed below.
The committee structure has three main functions: 1) to ensure the effective planning and functioning of the Congress , 2) to ensure effective cooperation between the local and international levels, and 3) to ensure clear demarcation of areas of responsibility.  

3.1. Congress Secretariat

The stages of activity before the actual Congress, such as announcements, circulars, registrations, call for panel proposals, call for papers, collection of abstracts, and the publication of the Congress program and the book of abstracts, are clearly the most important aspects of the Congress process. Many of the failures and successes of prior IAHR Congresses have been due to the way these aspects were handled. These activities have two purposes: the first is to reach out to as many potential participants as possible, and the second is to ensure an interesting and stimulating Congress program. Letters of invitation and confirmation must be sent out promptly so that participants can apply for funding. The names and contact details of those responsible for symposia, panels, etc. must be prominently advertised. This job can be carried out by a committee consisting of reliable student assistants and junior scholars under the supervision of one of the officers of the Congress, but it could also be handled by a professional Congress organization. It is essential that a Congress website be developed in order to facilitate and rationalize the registration and information process. Congress secretariat e-mail, fax, and phone facilities must be working from the earliest possible moment.

3.2 International Congress Committee.

Since it is an IAHR event in cooperation with an IAHR affiliate, there will be the need for an International Congress Committee, normally consisting of the Secretary General and the Treasurer of the IAHR, as well as resource persons on the Executive Committee of the IAHR or persons with some insight into the hosting aspects, together with the officers of the local organizing committee/Congress Secretariat. The Secretary General of the IAHR or a person designated for the job must be kept routinely informed by e-mail, fax, or phone of the progress of the various phases of the Congress. The local organizers can also expect to receive visits and enquiries now and then from one or more IAHR officers. Furthermore, it is also required that the Secretary General of the IAHR receives a copy of the full address listing of all the participants. 

3.3. Local Organizing Committee/Congress Secretariat

The organizing committee consists of the officers of the affiliate IAHR association/s and other key persons. The organizing committee is supported by a pyramid of working committees that have clear areas of responsibility: funding (professional fund raisers might be advisable), transportation, logistics, registration and tours (it is strongly urged that this job is carried out by a professional travel or tourist agent), academic program, correspondence and confirmations, cultural program (cultural activities, entertainment, exhibitions, art galleries, etc.), public relations, office management during the Congress itself (photocopying, faxing, communication facilities, materials for drawing up announcements), and so on. During the Congress itself, a committee (e.g., welcome committee) should be in place to take care of the Congress participants: making sure that their journey from airport to hotel is worked out in advance, assisting participants in various ways during the Congress, and assisting the symposia and panel chairpersons. These matters can be worked out by a travel or Congress organising company/agent. In Mexico City, for example, the participants and chairpersons were personally taken care of by the students from a tourist business school. 

Past Congresses have amply demonstrated that senior scholars should not be burdened with the actual running of things, but serve instead as the patrons and advisors of the Congress .  With their greater academic and institutional experiences, they can be more involved in  the larger structures of the Congress organization and communication, so that younger, energetic scholars can be given the responsibility of the day-to-day planning and running of the Congress .

Please see the organizational chart.


4) The Congress site/venue

Care should be taken in choosing the Congress site. Atmosphere, function, transportation, and economy must be kept in mind. Furthermore, there must a range of rooms and public spaces to accommodate the following categories: the Congress secretariat, committee meetings, receptions and meetings hosted by national and regional associations and publishers, plenary sessions, panels, symposia and roundtables, , public meeting areas, film rooms, rooms for cultural events, exhibition areas, press and communication, cloak room, registration desk, information, tours and travel desk, restaurant and cafeteria, postal services, first aid, and security. 

Congress organisers should carefully consider the advantages as well as disadvantages of using a university as compared to a hotel venue. In terms of finance, a university may be preferred, for financial reasons, but in terms of transportation, atmosphere, the need for having business meetings, receptions, cultural events after the academic program during the day, a hotel venue may be preferred. Since it is a major financial decision, organisers should bear in mind the costs involved in either case. Access to local restaurants, shops and entertainment spots, as well as local transportation, may also be a consideration. 

Congress participants should be given the option of choosing from a running scale of hotel prices. Homestays and/or dormitory accommodation should also be looked into.


5) Academic, business, and cultural programs

The Deputy Secretary General of the IAHR is the key person from the IAHR Executive Committee in regard to the academic program.  It is likewise the Deputy Secretary General, who, together with the Publications Secretary and the local hosts, is responsible for securing, editing and overseeing matters pertaining to the Congress proceedings, adjunct proceedings, and spin-off publications.


The official languages of the IAHR Congress are English, French, and the local language, if applicable.  


The IAHR Congress normally lasts 6 days, and with the exception of the Tokyo Congress, it has generally taken place in August or September. The following is a guide: Arrivals and registration on Sunday with opening receptions on Sunday afternoon/evening; the main events during the week with a day off for excursions (usually on Wednesday), and a farewell banquet (on Friday evening). The meeting of the General Assembly to be held on Saturday morning is followed by the official closing of the Congress. 

5.3. The academic program

The academic program consists of six major groupings: 1. Keynote addresses, 2. Plenary sessions, 3. Organized panels, 4. Symposia, 5. Individual papers, 6. Roundtable sessions. 

5.3.1. Keynote addresses.

The keynote addresses are given by distinguished scholars who are invited by the Congress Academic Program Committee. 

5.3.2.Plenary sessions

A plenary session consists of an address by a speaker on a particular topic and responses by a panel of experts to the keynote speakers. 

5.3.3. Organized panels

The organized panels consist of usually four panelists (3 presenters and + a respondent, or 4 presenters and no respondent/discussant), with a panel convener as the chair. The duration is 2 hours, and it is expected that the convener of the panel will directly contact panelists and put together a single proposal for the entire panel. The proposal should contain the title of the panel, the names and institutional affiliations of the panellists (and respondent), and a 150 word abstract of the topic. The proposal must be sent by the convener. 

5.3.4. Symposia

Groups of scholars engaged in a particular project which will likely lead to publication may submit a proposal for a symposium. It is expected that these groups will circulate their papers for discussion prior to the Congress (if not, enough copies should be brought to the Congress for the other symposium participants). The proposal should contain the title of the symposium, the names and institutional affiliations of the panelists (and respondent, if appropriate), and a 150 word abstract of the topic. The duration of the symposium is 2 hours. The proposal must be sent by the convener. 

5.3.5. Roundtable sessions

Roundtable sessions consist of a maximum of 10 participants around a table. There are two types of roundtable formats.    Roundtables with titled papers

These are meant for more detailed discussion among scholars on their respective research projects. Space for these sessions is limited. Proposals should consist of the title of the paper, full name and institutional affiliation of the presenter, and a 150 word abstract. Those whose proposals are accepted will subsequently need to send 10 copies of the complete paper in advance for circulation among those who register for the roundtable sessions. Scholars are encouraged to advertise their proposed roundtable sessions among their peers to enable maximum participation.    Roundtables with open discussion

These are intended to provide a forum for open-ended on a topic of common interest to the invited speakers.  No paper titles or abstracts are required, but the convenor must provide a title and proposal for the roundtable, with a list of the participants. 

5.3.6. Individual papers

Individuals are welcome to submit individual papers. Every attempt will be made to organize the individual papers into coherent sessions. In any given session there will be three papers + a respondent (or 4 papers without respondent) lasting 2 hours. Proposals for individual papers should consist of the title of the paper, full name and institutional affiliation of the presenter, and a 150 word abstract. 

NB: Please note that all Panel, Symposia and Roundtable conveners should ensure that the Congress Academic Program Committee receives the abstracts of individual papers within a panel/symposium/roundtable (if appropriate). This is necessary so that they may be included in the Book of Abstracts. This information helps participants to decide on which panels/symposia/roundtables, or parts of them, to attend. Even though convenors are responsible for submitting information on their panels and participants, etc., each individual participant is responsible for registering and informing the Congress Secretariat of the nature of their participation in the Congress. 

5.3.7. Congress theme

Panels, symposia and roundtable sessions deal with a variety of special topics, not necessarily related to the main theme of the Congress. The topics may reflect current concerns in the academic study of religion (for instance Religion and Violence, or Esotericism), or they may reflect meaningful topics in the hosting country (for instance, Aztec Sacrifice, Asian Shamanism, Vapostoli Prophets in Zimbabwe, or Diaspora Hinduism in South Africa), and can therefore function as a showcase of local scholarship.  

5.3.8. Diversity

It is further recommended that wherever possible attention should be paid to national, ethnic and gender balance in terms of keynote speakers and plenary discussants, as well as of participants. 

5.4. Business program

The business program should include slots for the following IAHR business events: the meeting of the out-going Executive Committee during the first day or two of the Congress; the meeting of the International Committee during the middle of the Congress usually on Wednesday morning, while the other Congress participants are on day excursions; the meeting of the in-coming Executive Committee shortly thereafter; and finally the General Assembly meeting on Saturday morning or afternoon. These events should figure prominently in the program. 

5.5.  Cultural program

The cultural program can consist of museum and art exhibitions, excursions to sites of interests or houses of worship or local communities, musical and/or artistic events, and book exhibitions. It may be desirable to try to tie cultural events into aspects of the academic program, as well as local culture and history. Events can be held before, during, and after the Congress, and are often best handled in cooperation with travel agents, tourism bureaus, or local anthropologists and historians. Other possible events are receptions held by the host association, publishing houses, local government officials, university officials, visiting organizations, and so on.


6) Guidelines for the publication of IAHR Congress Proceedings, Adjunct Proceedings and other spin-off publications.

 The Executive Committee of the IAHR adopted these guidelines in Sydney on August 23, 1985. These were further appended in Aarhus on June 5, 1996 and in Brno on August 12, 1999, and revised following the Tokyo Congress on June 6th 2005.

 6.1. Arrangements for the publication of Proceedings

The publication of the Proceedings of the IAHR World Congress is an important aspect of the Congress and the IAHR more generally, and so it is expected that the local organisers should bring out such proceedings within a reasonable time after the Congress (e.g., one year). The arrangements for the publication of IAHR World Congress Proceedings require the approval of the Executive Committee. The invitation to arrange publication of the Congress Proceedings will normally be addressed in the first instance to the national association (i.e. the Congress patrons) of the country in which the Congress is held. 

6.2. Cost of publication of Proceedings

As stated in section 1 above on Finance and Budget, it is the responsibility of the Congress hosts to incorporate the costs of publication of the Proceedings in the overall Congress budget. It is then the obligation of the Congress hosts, with the Executive Committee of IAHR, normally represented by the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General, the Publications Officer and the Treasurer, to agree on the content of the Proceedings, its format,  and distribution.

6.3. Role of IAHR Executive Committee

In approving arrangements for publication of Congress Proceedings or Adjunct Proceedings, the Executive Committee is expected to pay due regard to (a) prospects for timely publication and (b) any potential costs to the IAHR. The IAHR will not normally be able to finance the publication of the Proceedings, either in whole or in part.  

6.4. Content of proceedings

As a rule, the Congress Proceedings volume should contain at least the following: 

1) The title ‘Proceedings of the X...th World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions’. This title should be prominently visible, even if accompanied by a thematic title for the particular Congress.
2) A list, or reference to a published list, of names of participants with institutional and/or contact details.
3) A brief record of formal events, speeches of welcome, etc.
Where detailed information has already been provided to Congress/Conference participants (e.g. in published programs, handbooks, permanent websites) the Proceedings will normally cross-reference as appropriate to these publications.
4) A record of the academic program, indicating sections and titles of papers, special lectures, linked symposia, abstracts of keynote lectures, etc.
5) Where academic papers are to be included in the Proceedings, the selection of papers for inclusion should take place on the basis of (a) merit and (b) thematic relevance, and some indication should be given of their relation to other work completed or in progress. Copyright should normally be retained by authors.
6) A brief contextualising report on the relation of the Congress to the venue selected and on cultural events, which accompanied it.
7) Essential information or documentation of IAHR matters should be included as appropriate: e.g. changes in statutes, current officers, accession of new national associations. (However, it is recognised that such information is normally carried in Numen.)

 6.5. Free copies

A minimum of 50 free copies of the Congress Proceedings should be made available to the Executive Committee. Alternative agreements can be reached for hosts residing in economically weak countries.

 6.6. Archive copies

Congress hosts should ensure that two complete sets of key materials produced for the Congress (e.g. programs, abstracts, circulars, flyers, etc.) are provided to the IAHR Executive Committee no later than one month after the Congress. One set is for the Publications Officer of the Executive Committee , the other set is to be lodged permanently in the IAHR Archive in Marburg. (Address: IAHR Archive, c/o Renate Stegerhoff, Universitätsbibliothek, Wilhelm Roepke-Str. 4, D-35039 Marburg, GERMANY)

 6.7. Adjunct Proceedings and spin-off volumes

The Executive Committee may, at its discretion, invite individual organizers of symposia and other events at the Congress to propose publication of Adjunct Proceedings. Subject to approval by the Executive Committee, editors of Adjunct Proceedings are expected to use the name of the IAHR event in the title or other prominent section of the publication. It is assumed that all spin-off volumes, whether approved or not, will acknowledge that the papers were presented at an IAHR Congress.

 6.8. Free copies

A minimum of three free copies of any Adjunct or spin-off publications should be made available to the Executive Committee.

 7. Title

The title ‘World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions’ in English, French, and the local language must figure prominently in all Congress related folders, letterheads, faxes, websites, and e-mails. If in certain kinds of materials there is room only for one language version of the title (for instance name-tags, and buttons), either the English or the local language version is sufficient.

 IAHR Executive Committee, June 6th 2005