A Brief History of IASD

On our 40th Anniversary


The idea that would become the International Association for the Study of Dreams was born in the early 1980s when six prominent dream professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA began exploring the idea of a conference to promote dream research, dreamwork and the importance of dreams. In 1983 they formed the group they named Dream Workers International, later that year changing it to Dream Research Society, then Association for the Study of Dreams. The word “International” was officially re-added in 2004, but we have always welcomed members from around the globe. We now have around 600 members, on every continent except Antarctica.

The fledgling organization’s first conference, in San Francisco in June, 1984, was limited to 100 attendees; lasted two days; and featured a single track, with a number of well-known dream experts speaking. The 1985 conference in Charlottesville, Virginia established the pattern that we still enjoy: a five-day multi-track conference including dream workshops, a Dream Telepathy Contest, and a costume Dream Ball. The Dream Art exhibit because a feature of the annual conference as of 1988, in Santa Cruz, California. The first annual conference held outside the USA was in London in 1989.Since then Annual International Dream Conferences have been held in Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and nearly every region of the USA. They now draw about 400 participants.

IASD now has more than 50 regional representatives, representing nearly 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Southeast Asia. IASD encourages members to host regional conferences and meetings large and small, and helps with funding and logistics. During the past decade regional conferences have been held in Canada, Europe, Australia, and throughout the USA.

As of our 20th Anniversary in 2003, we’d just embraced a new way of meeting: online conferences, beginning with the PsiberDreaming Conference in the fall of 2002, which focused on psi dreaming and enabled participants to interact with presenters and one another in concurrent discussion threads, drawing some 200 attendees for two weeks every year through 2018 and attracting many new members to IASD. In 2016 our first Online Research Conference brought together dream scientists from around the world. When a global pandemic began in 2020, IASD was ready to quickly convert the next two Annual International Dream Conferences to successful online events: partially and on an ad hoc basis in 2020, with 2021 planned from the start to be fully online as needed. The annual online Many Worlds of Lucid Dreaming conference began in 2021, with a format similar to that of PsiberDreaming, adding technological advances such as live video. In 2022, the Annual International Dream Conference was once again joyously in-person, with a new hybrid in-person/online research track.


In 1983 the new organization’s founders established its enduring vision, but debated how it should be run. In 1984 it was incorporated as a nonprofit under California law, with essentially the same bylaws that we have today. At first it was staffed entirely by volunteers working out of their homes. By the early 1990s a Central Office was established – first in Virginia, later California – and out of financially perilous experiments with different administrative structures there evolved the team of a few paid positions and many volunteers doing the work today. We still have an all-volunteer Board of Directors (listed here along with all Presidents since 1983), and more than 20 Committees devoted to various aspects of IASD’s work: Arts, Research, Regional Events, Membership, Ethics, and Social Networking, to name a few and give a sense of their range of missions.

On the occasion of our 20th Anniversary, the then-incoming President noted that when the Board held periodic goal-setting sessions, three practical themes persistently dominated: financial solidity, membership growth, and conference attendance. Then he found the minutes of one of the earliest Board meetings, in 1984, where a consultant presented the exact same three goals! These are still priorities in 2023. The Development Committee, Membership Committee and Conference Committee steer this vital work, keeping IASD viable and vibrant.

for the Study…

A print newsletter called Dream Network Bulletin announced the new organization in 1983. By our 20th Anniversary in 2003 we had our APA research journal Dreaming and our popular magazine DreamTime, both now available in hard copy or electronically; and e-News, which in 2008 became Dream News, emailed monthly to nearly 5000 people today. We also had our website, first developed in the mid 1990s. Since then we’ve added social media to our online presence, including a very active Facebook page, plus Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Twenty years ago we had several “online study groups,” informal discussion forums in which participants could converse about the group’s topic with well-known experts and other interested explorers. We now offer several online courses, each consisting of a series of video lessons by subject matter experts, that students pursue according to their own schedule. The interactive Dream Study Groups Program has cadres of students who can discuss the lessons online together; some have even taken the initiative to schedule Zoom sessions and invite the lessons’ presenters.

To stimulate original dream research around the globe, in 2006 we joined with a donor, the DreamScience Foundation, to create a Research Grant which today offers three to five small grants per year. Shortly thereafter we added annual Student Research Awards.

…of Dreams

In the 1980s IASD embraced the idea of a “Rainbow Coalition” in which all dream appreciators would be honored regardless of profession, degree, or where they worked. In 2020 IASD went beyond international to become actively, intentionally multicultural, forming a Diversity Task Force Advisory Committee to recruit and promote people, papers, programs, presentations and perspectives reflecting the rich diversity of traditions in dream studies worldwide (IASD Dreams and Ethnicity Portal). We created a Dreams and Ethnicity conference track to explore dreams through traditional worldviews; and added a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion category to our annual Research Grant and Student Research Award, for research that relates to cultural diversity and researchers who identify as members of ethnic groups that have been underrepresented in dream research.

What exciting new developments will we celebrate 20 or 40 years from now? It’s up to you! – all of you dreamers worldwide who are fascinated by the potential of the dreaming mind.

Compiled by Joy Fatooh, Board Chair, 2023