Letter from the Executive Director, February 2024
Much like a seed at planting, at the launch of any new endeavor, one never knows how it will go, whether the idea will take root and be sustained. Five years ago, NISO staff and the NISO Board of Directors were hopeful but cautiously optimistic that the new concept for a conference would take hold in our community. We started with the premise that we should engage more in face-to-face settings and eschew the traditional “sage on a stage” approach to events. We also wanted to orient the event toward creating meaningful outcomes, not simply a more educated audience. We thought if we could make the two things happen simultaneously, by engaging the participants and focusing them on goal-oriented outcomes, we might be able to make real advances in the community.
One traditional fifth-anniversary gift is wood. Supposedly, it symbolizes strength and durability as well as flexibility. There is also an element of growing roots and establishing a firm footing. With the return of NISO Plus as an in-person event in its fifth iteration, this symbology makes some sense. We have had to be adaptive and flexible with the changes presented to us over the past four years since our first gathering, but I believe we have taken root and flourished.
Despite the curveball that hit the world in the shape of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NISO Plus model has proven a useful and distinctive approach to organizing meetings. The goal of the meeting is to bring people together to discuss their ideas and concerns. Those discussions lead to ideas for solutions, which we then vet and try to create projects to advance those solutions and solve problems. The first meeting generated a lot of excitement and energy, which led to advancing several practical output project ideas, including enhancements to the KBART recommendations, improvements to digital content structures, and identifying gaps in how data citations appear in publications.
Then, as people were unable to travel, we reconfigured the model as a global virtual event in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Although the structure had to change, we were pleased with the increased international and diverse engagement that was possible online. It was satisfying to find that the model still functioned in a digital forum, despite having been explicitly designed to center on in-person conversations. These events led to more initiatives, on controlled digital lending and retractions, as well as other developing projects. In 2022, we began to return in person in a modest fashion with the introduction of the NISO Plus Forum events. These narrowly organized conversational forums were structured world-café style around a single topic. The outputs of these forums fed into the main conference for topics on metadata and artificial intelligence (AI). Now we are able to return, in person, back where it began, in Baltimore.
While we have pivoted and innovated and reformulated, we have tried to focus on the core elements of our model: Discussions lead to ideas, becoming outcomes that lead to projects, then onto solutions. As we return to our original model, I want to express my deepest gratitude to the number of volunteers who have helped support this effort. We have had several great teams of Program Committee members helping to organize the events. Many dozens of speakers and session shepherds have helped lead the conversations and capture the outputs. Our Topic Committee members have invested hundreds of hours in considering, vetting, and discussing which project ideas to advance. Then there are the Working Group members, who have been working to bring those ideas to reality. Finally, I want to thank all of the members of the NISO team, led by Director of Strategic Initiatives and the chair of the NISO Plus project, Jason Griffey, who have deftly executed these events.
I expect the conversations will be lively and thought-provoking. The program is full of great topics, engaging conversation leaders, and of course, fascinating keynote speakers. Based on some initial discussions about themes, I am extremely excited to engage in conversations about AI and trust, generative AI and intellectual property, and AI and ethical issues, as well as the sessions about the role of identifiers in research and in evaluation. It will be exciting to see where the discussions go and what ideas people may have for new projects.
We look forward to seeing many of you next week, when things kick off. For those not able to be there for the live event, we will be organizing the outputs and bringing those ideas forward to the community after the meeting. As in previous years, you can look out for a report from NISO later this spring. As I’ve said previously, that’s when the real fun begins!
Executive Director, NISO