History of ISJR

Early steps towards the establishment of ISJR were taken when the social psychologist Melvin Lerner accepted the Cleveringa Chair at the University of Leiden in 1984. His visit and the exchanges it facilitated led to a First International Conference on Social Justice in Human Relations, organized by Riel Vermunt and Herman Steensma in Leiden in 1986. Many worldwide scholars from different disciplines (including sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, political scientists, educational scientists) attended the conference. Conference contributions and their subsequent refinements were later published in the two-volume title “Social Justice in Human Relations” (1991), edited by Riel Vermunt and Herman Steensma.


In 1987 a small group meeting on justice was held at Leiden. Among them were the psychologists Morton Deutsch, Dave Messick, and Leo Montada; the sociologists Kjell Törnblom and Karen Cook; and Mel Lerner, Riel Vermunt, and Herman Steensma as organizers. During one of the meetings the idea of a justice research center was raised. An initial center at Leiden had a budget and was supported by secretariat of the Social Science Faculty of the University of Leiden. Mel Lerner founded the journal Social Justice Research in 1987, then published by Plenum Press.


A Second International Conference followed in 1988, again organized by Riel Vermunt, Herman Steensma, and the sociologist Kees Schuyt in Leiden, at which the idea of a research center took further shape, with the details developed in particular by Melvin Lerner, Herman Steensma, and Riel Vermunt. In 1989, a Center for Social Justice Research was formed cooperatively between the Universities of Leiden, Waterloo and Utrecht, with Melvin Lerner as director, and Piet Hermkens and Riel Vermunt as associate directors.


Further International Conferences were held in Utrecht, Netherlands (1991), Trier, Germany (1993), and Reno, NV, USA (1995), before at a sixth conference in Potsdam, Germany, in 1997, Leo Montada was charged with transforming the scientific network into an institutionalized association: the International Society for Justice Research. Founding members of ISJR were Ron Cohen, Karen Cook, Ron Dillehay, Russel Hardin, Melvin Lerner, Gerold Mikula, Leo Montada (founding president), Tom Tyler, and Riel Vermunt.


The First International Conference on Social Justice in Human Relations, Leiden, 1986
The First International Conference on Social Justice in Human Relations, Leiden, 1986