Elaine Toms is currently Professor of Information Innovation & Management, Management School, University of Sheffield, UK. She previously held posts at the iSchool, University of Sheffield; the Faculty of Management, and School of Information Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; and the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, also in Canada. She was the first information scientist to be appointed to a Canada Research Chair. Over the course of her career, she has held multiple administration roles (e.g., Director of Teaching Quality & Enhancement, and of Research); been actively engaged in professional associations including ASIST (serving on the Board of Directors); has served as program chair for multiple conferences (e.g., ASIST, Hypertext, and JCDL); and currently serves on the editorial board of IPM and is an associate editor of JASIST.
She completed her PhD at Western University (Canada) from which she went on to examine multiple facets of the information interaction problem from interface issues to interruptions and task, with a particular focus on evaluation. Her work has been funded by multiple groups on both sides of the pond (e.g., both the science and social science research councils in Canada, OCLC, Heritage Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Horizon 2020). She has been an investigator with multiple research networks (e.g., NECTAR, Network for Effective Collaboration Through Advanced Research; PROMISE (Participative Research labOratory for Multimedia and Multilingual Information Systems Evaluation).
ASIST is a highly respected, distinguished organization that has enjoyed the support of a loyal membership who appreciate everything from the quirky (you have to be a member to understand) SIGCON to its collaborative special interest groups and chapters. But ASIST is challenged by the context in which it operates. Information, arguably the lifeblood of the field as well as society in general, is everywhere, anywhere and nowhere, which is diluting the impact of both the field and the Association.
I have always thought of ASIST as a well-oiled machine internally, but I believe more effort needs to be spent in extending its reach and influence, and thus securing its future. I foresee:
- Working on its external perception to increase and demonstrate impact, and in doing so also facilitating knowledge transfer by engaging with the various consumers of our research. It is very much about external exposure using a snowball like effect, and dissemination using all available channels;
- Negotiating collaborative initiatives with organizations that share common ground. We are much more powerful and influential united than operating as disparate groups;
- Continuing to extend the global reach of ASIST; as a citizen of two continents I have been exposed to the subtle cultural differences and understand the challenges of penetrating into different areas.
- Augmenting ASIST membership by expanding into emerging related areas that share our research agenda and are informed by our work, such as the embryonic digital workplace (in much the same way that information architecture was embraced). It is in these related areas in which the Association’s growth will take place.