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President’s Column

Let’s BE the change!  In my fourth Message from the President, I want to bring attention to the word BE in “We are ASIS&T: Be, Belong, Become,” my three-pronged plan for organization and social transformation. I write this while around the world we have been witness to the George Floyd killing, another victim of police brutality and institutional racism, and the call for change. Is such injustice only a problem of the United States?  Do we even have to worry about this in the information science and technology context?

Is information ever neutral? In information science and technology, what systems of power are in place that dehumanize and disenfranchise sectors of our community, and consider them the Other? How do we conduct research for the social good? How do we value research using quantitative methods with the power to “explain” vs. qualitative research with the power to “explore and understand”? What research will inform practice and teaching that results in healing? At the “Information Science Trends: Health Information Behavior” conference (June 8-10, 2020), organized by the ASIS&T European Chapter (EC), I spoke about trauma and the legacy of trauma experienced by African-Americans, especially Black men, and in other communities and countries resulting in chronic adversity (e.g., racism, poverty, discrimination, etc.), and invited our community to consider new data sources and approaches to conduct exploratory research that is affirming and restorative.

While it is important to document our inactions to drive change, it is also important to acknowledge our actions. At our upcoming, and first ever, virtual annual meeting, we plan to acknowledge our members (personal or institutional) whose research, teaching and/or professional work addresses the conference theme: Information for a Sustainable World: Addressing Society’s Grand Challenges. Soon we will announce a call for submission of pledges and completed actions that advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These will be acknowledged during the President’s Opening Program and Reception (October 25, 2020; 7-8 pm CT) and on the ASIS&T webpage on “Information for Sustainability”. This soon to be published webpage will communicate actions and ideas on information for sustainability and understanding society’s grand challenges, developed with my advisory group, Kendra Albright, Jia Tina Du and Bharat Mehra.

The ASIS&T Statement on Injustice and Standing with George Floyd, issued by the Board on 4th June 2020, described current work “to ensure the most welcoming and engaging environment possible for our stakeholders.” (ASIS&T Diversity Statement) I invite our community to examine two documents which are important in holding up a mirror to our culture and guiding our future:

While some things are not in our control to change, dismantling systems of injustice, and ensuring equity of information access and an inclusive culture are within our grasp. Please continue to stay safe and connected. We are ASIS&T: Be, Belong, Become.


Return to Inside ASIS&T, June 2020