Interview with current Chair Isabella Peters and past Chair Lai Ma
Adam: Could you tell me a little about the history of the European Chapter, especially recently?
Isabella: The European Chapter is characterized by a diverse group of members spanning across a large geographical region which not only include European countries but also e.g. Israel. This makes it sometimes difficult to connect and exchange – face-to-face meetings are almost impossible. Social Media (i.e. Facebook) helped a lot in this regard. We are very happy that we could maintain a certain amount of activity within the chapter during the years. At the moment we have a very active European Student Chapter and we also supported ASIS&T with the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Chapter.
Adam: Does the Chapter focus mostly on research activities, on the practice of information science, or a combination?
[Our] main focus is to learn about each other and get to know the specialties of the different locations. Also, we aim at bridging the gap between the several national societies and at enhancing collaboration.
Isabella: The chapter aims at connecting European information scientists and fostering their exchange. Information science in Europe is built on a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, e.g., philosophy, communications and media, linguistics, and business information systems. Thus, since the chapter’s foundation it has been its main focus to learn about each other and get to know the specialties of the different locations. Also, it aims at bridging the gap between the several national societies and at enhancing collaboration.
Lai: We are also looking into redesigning the Chapter web site to include a calendar of conferences and events, as well as job opportunities for both academics and practitioners in Europe.
Activities and Events
Adam: What activities does the European Chapter engage its members with? What kinds of speakers or discussions could one expect to see, hear, and engage in if they attend chapter events?
Isabella: The chapter events are mostly virtual and activities are supported via our mailing list or our Facebook page and group. This is due to the geographical situation. We also try to meet in person twice a year: always during the ASIS&T Annual Meeting and one other information science related conference in Europe, for example the International Symposium of Information Science. Every second year we also hold a European Chapter Workshop which just took place in Osijek, Croatia.
Adam: Does the Chapter involve itself in any activities at ASIS&T Annual Meetings, the US/Canada and Euro IA Summits, or the RDAP Summits? Are there any plans or ideas for ASIS&T 2016 in Copenhagen (so exciting!) that might involve the Chapter?
Isabella: The European Chapter has sponsored several panels at the ASIS&T Annual Meeting, e.g., on the Future of Information Science in Europe. The chapter is also very active in promoting and contribution to the Oral History Project of SIG HFIS.
Regarding the ASIS&T 2016 Annual Meeting in Copenhagen we are also very excited. As the chapter already stated in the Bulletin of the ASIS&T (October/November 2014) we would like to assist in the following activities:
- Offer translation services both before and during the conference.
- Recommend European journals and organizational websites on which to advertise and promote the conference. Provide translations services (as above) for this promotion, as required.
- Submit a panel proposal on IS organizations in Europe. Invite representatives of these organizations to participate and explain their structure, membership and purpose.
- Submit a panel proposal on the EU equivalent of the National Science Foundation related to funding for LIS science research in Europe.
- Apply for funding for workshop(s) to be determined.
- Appoint a committee/working group to provide this assistance and other as required.
Of course, we are well-connected with the HQ to discuss further opportunities and we are looking forward to receive our colleagues in Copenhagen and provide a truly European ASIS&T experience.
Adam: What do you feel is the most important benefit European Chapter members receive by becoming involved in Chapter activities and engaging with the Chapter?
Isabella: The main benefit of being an ASIS&T member is getting a sense of “I am not alone”. ASIS&T is very good in bringing people together and including new perspectives. The entry barriers are pretty low: people who’d like to engage get the opportunity to do so very fast. Also, it’s easier to get in touch with people when you can state: “Hey, we are both ASIS&T members – let’s do something together”. It is also very attractive that all the “big names”, that students and researchers mostly know from the textbooks, are also members of ASIS&T. It’s awesome to meet these guys during the Annual Meeting and have a drink with them.
ASIS&T is very good in bringing people together and including new perspectives. The entry barriers are pretty low: people who’d like to engage get the opportunity to do so very fast. Also, it’s easier to get in touch with people when you can state: “Hey, we are both ASIS&T members – let’s do something together”.
Adam: What benefits do you feel an ASIS&T member who joins your Chapter would receive that they would perhaps not get from the main organization?
Isabella: Same as before but the European Chapter naturally provides more regional connections (and, of course, it is more likely that you meet European colleagues at European conferences or events).
Online and Social Media
Adam: What online or social media venues (such as a Web site, Facebook page or group, Twitter feed, etc.) do you offer? What can members find you posting there? How successful do you feel this is with engaging members with the European Chapter and with ASIS&T as a whole?
Isabella: The European Chapter has a web site and, as mentioned earlier, two Facebook presences: our page and our group. The Facebook page and the web site are mainly used for announcing events or ASIS&T activities, whereas the Facebook group as well as our mailing list is used more for internal discussions and private exchange between chapter members. The web site also published reports on chapter events and general information on the chapter. The Facebook presences really help in reaching and joining members, although also the mailing list is quite active and valued. This was also recognized by ASIS&T when we received the Chapter of the Year Award in 2013.
Adam: Has your Chapter worked collaboratively with other Chapters (student or regional) in the past? Have you worked with any of the SIGs? If so, what on? Would you look to collaborate with other Chapters or SIGs in the future, and if so, how would you like to see that happen?
Isabella: The European Chapter maintains a vibrant relationship to its Student Chapter. Members of the main chapter are actively advising the students and take part in webinars organized by the student chapter. We also had several chances to sponsor student chapter activities (e.g., a video contest) by awarding successful contributions with free student memberships. We also sponsored poster awards, e.g. at the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference.
The European Chapter maintains a vibrant relationship to its Student Chapter. Members of the main chapter are actively advising the students and take part in webinars organized by the student chapter. We also had several chances to sponsor student chapter activities, and we also sponsored poster awards at the LIDA conference.
Adam: How does the European Chapter interface with the broader ASIS&T organization?
Lai: The European Chapter currently operates as a local chapter like chapters in the States. However, as Isabella has stated, the European Chapter covers a broad geographical area and our members speak different languages and are from various backgrounds. So we are working with the International Relations Committee and hope that our events and activities will be more supported by the broader ASIS&T organization.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to add that you think ASIS&T members should “get to know” about the European Chapter?
Lai: It’s a lot of fun to learn more about information science(s) in different regions in Europe and I am sure that the exchange of ideas will lead us to a better future of the field!
Thanks again to the European Chapter and to Isabella and Lai for being willing to be interviewed and allowing us to provide this quick take on the chapter! If this post has raised your interest in the European Chapter or other regional chapters of ASIS&T, we encourage you to engage with us in the comment section below and to check out their web site for further details. We also — as ever — welcome your feedback and thoughts on our continuing “Get to Know” series via the comments.