I attended the 79th Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) Annual meeting last week in Copenhagen, Denmark, supported by a grant from the John Campbell Trust. This was the first time the ASIST meeting has taken place outside of North America, making it a wonderful opportunity for myself and other European-based academics to attend a popular (traditionally) North American event.
Like many people, I look forward to attending conferences because I am excited to hear presentations on papers and current research. However, this conference was more than that for me. This was an opportunity to meet with other academics to discuss my research, our common research interests, and potential collaborations. In fact, my overall goals for this conference were aimed at building my academic confidence and further my researcher networks.
In preparation for the conference, my PhD supervisor (Professor Hazel Hall) and I created a flyer detailing the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) at Edinburgh Napier University. This way, I had something (other than a business card) to share with people who were interested in potential collaborations with me or others in the CSI. It was also a useful hand-out for the night of the University Reception, where Hazel and I (wo)manned an information table for the CSI that we shared with two other Scottish universities (University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow).
The Scottish Contingent (l-r): Ian Ruthven, Diane Pennington (both from University of Strathclyde), Professor Hazel Hall, Frances Ryan (both from Edinburgh Napier University)
I made a successful application to the Doctoral Colloquium that was held during the event, too. As part of the application process, I was paired with an academic mentor, Dr Henriette Roued-Cunliffe. Dr Roued-Cunliffe is an assistant professor at the Royal School of Library and Information Science, University of Copenhagen. I had hoped to meet with her when I started to plan my trip, as I am interested in her work with everyday life information seeking, so I was doubly pleased to have been paired with her.
Dr Roued-Cunliffe met a couple of times over the course of the conference and she provided me with some great insights (leading to increased confidence!) for how to explain different aspects of my research. There are a few parallels to our academic journeys (which are quite different!) and it was refreshing to hear the views and opinions of someone who seems to have a good understanding of some of my concerns. I was so grateful for her input at the conference and am even more grateful that she has agreed to keep in touch, should I have any future questions or challenges that I want to run past her.
The rest of the colloquium session was quite useful in a “general” PhD manner. Whilst we didn’t speak directly about our individual research projects or thesis-related questions, we did engage in some useful round-table discussions about life as a researcher and academic life in general. In addition to the doctoral students, there was a good group of established academics with a range of experiences. The one-on-one meetings with Dr Roued-Cunliffe were probably more useful in the short-term, but the discussions (and, importantly) the connections with other academics and doctoral students will certainly prove to be invaluable in the longer term. (I’m too focussed on the short-term right now, as I am preparing for my major write-up time!)
I attended a variety of paper sessions and talks over the course of the conference, too. Whilst they were all quite interesting, my favourite sessions were (1) Digital Sociology and Information Science Research and (2) New Takes on Information Behaviour. The first session was a great opportunity to talk about the changing climate of information studies, with inclusion of “digital” interests in other domains (in this case, sociology). It helped to remind me that there are many crossovers from information science into other disciplines—something I have long known, but I still struggle to fully appreciate. The second session was about information behaviour, but my main take-away was new takes on methods of investigation for information behaviour studies. And when I think about the two sessions combined, I think that it would have been very interesting to have a round-table discussion about digital sociology’s role in information behaviour. (Just think about the interesting research methods you could come up with there!)
The conference was also a very social one. There were lunches and evening receptions each day, but as most people were staying at the conference hotel, even breakfast was an opportunity to meet with other conference-goers. In fact, some of my greatest networking moments happened whilst waiting in the queue at the omelette bar!
Yes, I’m the awkward one who got the students together for an #ASIST2016 student picture! (And a couple of non-students, for good measure!)
The last social event of the evening was the Sig-CON meeting which is meant to be a bit of a laugh. Thanks to my supervisor’s great suggestion, I was able to “open” the event with a YouTube screening of my Bright Club comedy gig from this past February. It was also at the Sig-CON that the winners of the OCLC Storify competition were announced. The competition was open to students attending the conference. They were asked to share their ASIST adventure online, pulling everything together into a single Storify entry. And you know that I’m only telling you that because I was one of the (five) winners!
ASIST really was a great event for me, and I am so pleased to have been able to attend. I have come away from the conference feeling a bit more confident about my own place within the international Information Science family. I have also come away with some great ideas and insights for how best to explain some of my research in my thesis. And I owe it all to Cilip and the John Campbell Trust!
I won’t be attending any more conferences until next year now, but I do have a few lectures and one-day workshops and training sessions to look forward to. Of course, there’s also a question of that pesky PhD thesis that needs (a great deal of!) my attention. I am pleased to say that I am feeling very motivated at the moment though, so hopefully I will manage a great deal of writing over the next few months.