What is Knowledge Organization?

The study of logic by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle led to the development of formal ideas of classification which have been used for centuries by physical libraries, and which have advanced still further in electronic repositories. The use of Knowledge Organization (KO) can also be seen in ground-breaking advances such as Linnaean taxonomy in biology and Mendeleev's periodic table in chemistry. Good KO helps people find things, and even organize their own thinking.

Now KO techniques are used in all sectors — business, industry, health, education, cultural heritage and more — for mission-critical purposes. KO has applications in everything from websites to postcodes, from supermarket shelves to Amazon, from GPS to demographics, and from advertising to the Semantic Web.

At the personal level, we test our KO skills as we try to keep abreast of our emails, or search among last year’s files on our desktop computer, or follow links across the World Wide Web. In society, democracy and the administration of justice should be supported by well organized databases of statistics and forensic evidence. Scientific progress currently generates terabytes of data, quantitative and qualitative, in all the media known to technology; but this is useful only when it is available to diverse researchers.
At the corporate level, organizations must keep track of what they have done in the past, as well as their commitments to partners and customers; they need immediate access to their intellectual resources — whether documented, or in the memories of employees. In government, the delivery of services such as education, health and social care requires records to be kept accurately, while secure and easily available. Most cultural activities increasingly organize and draw on a heritage of precious resources, physical and intellectual.

Who we are

ISKO UK is the UK Chapter of ISKO, the International Society for Knowledge Organization. We are a not-for-profit scientific/professional association dedicated to promoting the theory and practice of Knowledge Organization through the pursuit of four key objectives:

  • To establish an active membership of people with an interest in Knowledge Organization (KO), whatever their background or qualifications
  • To explore the scope and role of KO and its value to society, to publicize the results and to spread the understanding that emerges
  • To enable members to develop a community of interest and to build bridges between those working in different sectors, particularly between researchers and practitioners.
  • To encourage and support the next generation of KO researchers and practitioners.

Our Mission and objectives

Our mission is to promote the theory and practice of organizing knowledge and information.

Objective  1

 To establish an active membership of people with an interest in       Knowledge Organization (KO), whatever their background or             qualifications.

Objective 2        

 To explore the scope and role of KO and its value to society; to publicize   the results and to spread the understanding that emerges.

Objective 3

 To enable members to develop a community of interest and to build     bridges between those working in different sectors, particularly between   researchers and practitioners.

Objective 4

 To encourage and support the next generation of KO researchers and   practitioners, with attention to continuing professional development as   well as basic education and training.

Objective 5

 To communicate the value of KO to senior decision-makers across the   public and private sectors.

Objective 6

 To support ISKO at the  international level and collaborate with other   Chapters and related institutions and groups.

Objective 7

 To ensure the efficient administration of the Chapter according to its   constitution.


The International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO) was founded in 1989. Currently it has more than 500 individual and corporate members and a worldwide reach, with 14 Regional Chapters. Every two years members come together in an international conference, of which the latest was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Members' subject fields include information science, philosophy, linguistics, computer science and other specialist domains such as medical informatics, and their interests are reflected in the journal Knowledge Organization.

The ISKO UK chapter was established in February 2007. Our UK emphasis is to build bridges between the research and practitioner communities across the field. For the benefit of society at large, we want to see timely KO research feeding into sound practice, and ideas for research coming from practitioners.

Activities and collaboration

We hold regular meetups and sometimes longer meetings on topical subjects, attracting excellent speakers and a large following. Occasionally we also arrange a workshop or tutorial. Upcoming events are shown on the Events page , followed by recent past events and a link to our ISKOmedia repository, where you can find the slides, audio recordings and sometimes full write-ups of the presentations given at our events over the last twelve years.

Every two years the Chapter arranges a conference in London, which typically attracts many members from other Chapters, as well as our UK following of members and non-members.

Since the Knowledge Organization community has close links with others working on topics such as knowledge management, information retrieval, artificial intelligence, metadata, the semantic web, etc., we collaborate with several other professional bodies and often arrange joint meetings. Take a look at our track record of collaboration , and do contact us if you can see opportunities for working with on common interests. 

Grants and Awards

To encourage students and fresh graduates taking up our field, we offer small research grants and conference grants. The research grants apply to any undergraduate dissertation or postgraduate project that is relevant to knowledge organization. The aim of the conference grants is to help students attend events where they can hear and develop contacts with leaders and colleagues in the field. Each of these will cover the registration fee of a KO-oriented conference, and may contribute also to travel expenses.

Together with UKeiG (UK e-Information Group) and IRSG (Information Retrieval Specialist Group of the BCS) we also support and promote the Tony Kent Strix Award, which is presented annually in memory of the pioneering information scientist Tony Kent. This annual award recognizes an outstanding contribution made to information retrieval - the prime application area for knowledge organization. All enquiries about the award should be sent to


ISKO UK is governed by an Executive Committee with the following officers who can be contacted by email:

  • Chair: David Haynes (chair[@t]
  • Vice Chair: Aida Slavic (vicechair[@t]
  • Hon. Secretary: Sylvie Davies (info[@t]
  • Hon. Treasurer: Duncan McKay (treasurer[@t]

Additional members of the Executive Committee are:

  • Helen Challinor
  • Dave Clarke
  • Tara McDarby
  • Ian Synge
  • Judi Vernau
  • Simon Wilson

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