Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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2.3 Modifications, improvements and omissions

This note reviews the changes made to the structure and content of the volume since the 1976 and 1986 editions, but especially the improvements made on the 1991 edition.

The 1976 edition was composed of 13 sections, interlinked by cross-references between items, both within a section and between sections. There was also a variety of introductory texts. Although this reflected the complexity of the material it made access to it more than necessarily difficult.

Although the general structure of the Encyclopedia now remains the same as the 1986 edition, it has been extensively restructured and redesigned. This is most evident in the division into two separate volumes, almost doubling the number of pages. The intention has been to focus on some priority sections and to simplify access. Editorial work has focused on the "world problems" section and on the "human development" section, as well as on developing the comments that appear as Notes.

The total number of entries in the 1976 edition was 18,563 linked by 30,455 relationships. This rose to 24,410 entries linked by 49,030 relationships in 1986 and to 20,958 entries linked by 114,395 relationships in 1991. The current 1994 edition (excluding Volume 3) has 19,913 entries linked by 158,679 relationships (representing an increase of 44 percent in the number of relationships).

The six section bibliographies have a total of 10,651 items. Separate indexes have been provided for Volume 1 (53,825 items) and Volume 2 (27,594 items).


1. World problems (Volume 1: Section P)

(a) Increased scope: The number of entries in the 1986 edition was 10,233 (of which only 4,700 had descriptions, the remaining being title-only); in the 1991 edition this increased by 28.7 percent to 13,167 entries, of which 8,721 have descriptions (an increase of 85.6 percent). In the current edition there are 12,203 entries of which 9,836 have descriptions (namely an increase of 13 percent) and 1,300 are new. 9,110 of these descriptive entries have been modified in some way (titles, text or cross-references). There is an overall increase in text of 34.1 percent. Refer to the Appendices (Section Z, Volume 2) for additional statistical details.

Experience with the collection of information for the previous edition indicates that there are many categories of "problem" with which international organizations as such are not directly, or only by implication, concerned. These include a number of ways of looking at what can otherwise be called "problems". These are of interest because of the special sources of information on them.

  •  risks: as documented by the insurance industry
  • criminal law: definitions and statistics on crime
  • markets for products and services, which in terms of their financial importance alone are indicative of problems which are perceived as important by the purchasers of such services. In the case of bodily conditions and ailments, for example, these are particularly interesting because such problems are normally considered of little significance in relation to social problems in general, and yet they are of much interest to industry because they represent a market for (new) products and services.
  • religious/ethical/moral problems: such "problems" (including "sins") were avoided in the two previous editions in the process of documenting the core of "harder" problems. A deliberate attempt has been made to include them in this edition, especially when they reflect the sensibilities of non-western cultures.
  • professional/disciplinary abuses: namely those with which the ethical committees of professions are increasingly concerned, often in response to consumer pressure.
Much reorganization and consolidation was undertaken for this edition. It was notably decided to merge detailed developing country problems back into the more general problem rather than have separate or other geopolitical variants. This was done in order to simplify the pattern of functional cross-referencing between problems. This was also done for "least developed countries", "land-locked countries" and other such groupings. It proved more appropriate to treat such distinctions under separate headings within the more general problem.

(b) Ordering: The reordering by "level" developed for the 1991 edition created subsections (A-G) to regroup problem entries by scope. This effectively moves more specific problems towards Section PG and more general problems towards Section PA (as is done in the companion 3-volume Yearbook of International Organizations). The criteria are described in the introduction to each sub-section. The purpose of this is to focus more clearly on the prominent problems and to isolate the very detailed problems (on which less work has been done) in sections which are not printed (although the names are indexed), as in the case of the many specific diseases. For this edition Section PA has been suppressed because the semantic complexities of the "abstract problems" it covered have proved to be more appropriately handled by developing the negative values (Section VD) in Volume 2.

(c) Cross-references: The pattern of cross-references has been considerably extended and improved, aided by special software to facilitate the management of the networks of relationships. Much effort has been devoted to indicating references whereby problems are grouped into one (or more) hierarchies. The number of cross-references included increased from 13,574 in the 1976 edition to 17,636 in the 1986 edition (an increase of 29.9 percent), and to 80,394 in the 1991 edition (an increase of 355.9 percent). The cross-references amongst the descriptive entries was increased by 53 percent to 113,330 for this 1994 edition.

(d) Bibliographical references: Problem-specific bibliographical references continue to be added to many entries and to the problem bibliography (Section PY).

(e) Indexing: There is an inherent difficulty in ordering the networks of problems into comprehensible patterns. 3597 new alternative titles have been added to the problems described in this 1994 edition. Despite rigorous pruning, the number of alternative titles for all problems has therefore increased slightly over the 1991 edition (now being 27,655), leading as a result to an increase in the number of index keywords through which problems could be located. As a space reducing measure the index (Section PX) was edited down from 80,000 items to 53,825, notably by reducing the number of non-substantive value words under which items could be indexed. This has been compensated by the considerable development to the cross-referencing from negative values (see Section VD and VP) back to the problems.

2. Human development (Volume 2: Section H)

(a) Increased scope: This section has increased by 153.8 percent from 1,596 entries in the 1986 edition to 4,051 entries in the 1991 edition. Entries have been expanded in this edition with the number increasing to 4,456, namely by 10 percent.

(b) Ordering: In the case of modes of awareness, the work on the qualifier code, introduced for the 1991 edition, to distinguish them by level, has not been continued.

(c) Cross-references: The 4,461 cross-references in the 1986 edition were increased by 241.5 percent to 15,237 linkages in 1991 and to 15,237 in this edition.

(d) Bibliographical references: Bibliographical references continue to be added to many entries, linking them to 2,709 items in a special bibliography.

(e) Indexing: The special index of 3,356 items in numbered concept sets introduced for the 1991 edition has been omitted. The index to the section as a whole now contains 23,696 items, in the overall total for Volume 2 of 27,594, the remainder being in the Values and Wisdom section indexes.

3. Human values and wisdom (Volume 2: Section V)

(a) Negative operators

Considerable attention has been given to the "negative operators" present as value words in problem names. These have been used to extend the number of entries in the section on negative values (Section VD) from 1,040 to 1,992.

(b) Cross-referencing world problems

Using the negative value as the link word, 16,311 problem names have been cross-referenced from the negative values (Section VD) and from the value polarities (Section VP). In the latter section however only the problems at the top of problem hierarchies have been cross-referenced. This work is essentially an experiment in dealing with the ambiguities associated with value words and their many connotations.

(c) Cross-referencing human development

Value words (8,335) present in any part of the description of human entries in the human development section have been cross-referenced whether from the constructive values (Section VC) or the destructive values (Section VD).

(d) Cross-referencing between values

Work continues on developing the pattern of cross-referencing between values. There are now 3,254 entries linked by 23,237 cross-references (a 60 percent increase over the previous edition). Additions continue to be made to the bibliography covering values, as well as related literature on wisdom, proverbs and aphorisms.

4. Integrative knowledge (Volume 2: Section K)

Because of space restrictions, this section is now limited to a bibliography (Section KY) and explanatory comments (Section KZ).

5. Metaphors and patterns (Volume 2: Section M)

Because of space restrictions, this section is now limited to a bibliography (Section MY) and the extensive explanatory comments (Section MZ).

6. Transformative approaches (Volume 2: Section T)

Because of space restrictions, this section is now limited to a bibliography (Section TY) and the extensive explanatory comments (Section TZ). These have however been very considerably expanded.

7. Organization strategies (Volume 3: Section S)

The material, included as Section S in the 1986 edition, had been excluded from the 1991 edition, in part because of lack of resources to focus on it, and in part because of the limited space available in the Encyclopedia. More fundamentally, however, it was then considered that the Encyclopedia could perform a more useful function in focusing on issues underlying the formulation of strategies and remedial programmes. With the increasing strength of the Encyclopedia databases, the decision was made to publish Volume 3 of the Encyclopedia presenting profiles of strategic actions undertaken by organizations, cross-referenced both to world problems and to international organizations which use them.


The following sections, present in previous editions, have been omitted from this edition:

1. International organizations and associations (1976, Section A)

The function of this section is now achieved by grouping organizations, with world problems, by subject category in a complementary publication Global Action Networks (Vol 3 of the Yearbook of International Organizations).

2. Traded commodities and products (1976, Section C)

This material has been effectively incorporated into the World Problems section. It was originally designed to demonstrate how certain problems could be grouped in terms of the United Nations Standard International Trade Classification.

3. Intellectual disciplines and sciences (1976, Section D)

This section covering 1,845 disciplines and sciences has been omitted. It was originally included to focus attention on the full range of conceptual resources available for more appropriate approaches to problems. The intention was to cross-reference disciplines to the problems to which they were relevant. A secondary concern was to recognize the specific ethical, and other, abuses associated with the misuse of particular disciplines.

4. Economic and industrial sectors (1976, Section E)

This material, like that on traded commodities, has been effectively incorporated into the World Problems section. It was originally designed to demonstrate how certain problems could be grouped in terms of the United Nations International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities.

5. Occupations, jobs and professions (1976, Section J)

This material has been omitted, although some is effectively incorporated into the World Problems section. The section was originally designed to demonstrate how certain problems could be grouped in terms of the International Standard Classification of Occupations of the International Labour Office.

6. Multinational corporations and enterprises (1976, Section M)

This section has been omitted. It dates from an attempt to cross-reference world problems to the specific multinational corporations perceived as aggravating them in some way. A secondary objective was to open the possibility of cross-referencing such bodies to the problems for which they had constructive remedial programmes.

7. Human diseases (1976, Section Q)

This section is effectively incorporated into the World Problems section. It was originally designed to demonstrate how certain problems could be grouped in terms of the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization.

8. International periodicals and serials (1976, Section S)

This section has been omitted. It was originally designed to demonstrate how certain problems could be usefully related to the periodical sources of information reporting on them. The information is now available through the bibliographical project resulting in Volume 4 of the Yearbook of International Organizations

9. Multilateral treaties, conventions and agreements (1976, Section T)

As with international organizations, the function of this section is now achieved by grouping such treaties, with world problems, by subject category in a complementary publication Global Action Networks (Vol 3 of the Yearbook of International Organizations).

10. Forms of presentation (1986, Section CF)

This omitted section was originally designed to focus attention on the range of ways in which information on world problems and the resources to deal with them could be usefully presented. The concern was to improve the handling of information through different media so that different treatments complemented rather than undermined each other. In the 1991 edition it appeared more appropriate to focus attention on the value of metaphors and patterns, as a largely unexplored resource, rather than on forms of presentation in general (Section M).

11. Integrative concepts (1991, Section K)

The sub-sections presented as Embodying discontinuity (1991, Section KD) and Patterning disagreement (1991, Section KP) were omitted in that form from the 1994-5 edition. Some of the themes are now developed in Section TZ. and others in Section SZ.

13. Metaphors (1991, Section M)

The sub-sections omitted are Patterns of concepts (1991, Section MP) and Symbols (1991, Section MS). The themes continue to be developed in the explanatory notes to that section (Section MZ) and in those of other sections (notably Section TZ).

18. Transformative approaches (1991, Section T)

Although the sub-sections have been omitted the themes are developed in the explanatory notes (Section TZ).

19. Abstract problems (1991, Section PA)

The function of this section has been effectively taken over by that on negative values (Section VD).