Bulletin, February/March 2007

Edie RasmussenPresident's Page

Edie Rasmussen

2007 ASIS&T President
Professor and Director, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies
The University of British Columbia
Suite 301, 6190 Agronomy Road 
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3
E-mail: edie.Rasmussen<at>ubc.ca

Like many research and professional associations, ASIS&T has a public identity through the publication program that it conducts for the benefit of its members and the greater information science profession, producing publications in a variety of styles and formats. One of the responsibilities of your Board is to ensure the intellectual and financial integrity of the Society and these publications. As we know, these are complicated times for publishers. The Web has dramatically changed the publishing landscape, and the movement toward open access has changed the way authors view their work and its distribution. In this new landscape publishers are struggling to find an economic model that works for their products and are often cautious about liberalizing access. Society publishers like ASIS&T are no exception; in fact, they may be in a more difficult situation than a purely commercial enterprise, since they often receive, and rely on, revenues generated by their publications for their general operations. They must balance this need against their responsibility to their members (who are also authors) and to the profession to disseminate innovations in their field. With publishing undergoing such a rapid change this is a critical time for ASIS&T publications, and several important issues are being examined at present by the Board, the Publications Committee and several task forces.

Publishing is a major service that ASIS&T provides for its members and for the field of information science. The Society’s hallmark publication is the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), published in its current form since 1950 and acknowledged as one of the top journals in the field of information science. JASIST is published 14 times a year and produces annually about 125 papers plus shorter publications and book reviews. It is currently published under contract with John Wiley & Sons, though the editor and editorial board report to the Society, which retains ownership of content. Another highly ranked ASIS&T publication is the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, which provides a set of high quality, state-of-the-art research reviews every year in topics of interest to ASIS&T members and the field at large. The Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology is a bimonthly publication that serves as a less formal vehicle for communication. It provides members with shorter articles on current topics of interest and news of the activities of the Society and its members. ASIS&T also has a Monograph Series published through Information Today, Inc., and of course the Proceedings from the Annual Meeting (published most recently in CDROM format). Much of this material is available to members who choose the electronic option through the ASIS&T Digital Library, hosted by John Wiley and indexed by Access Innovations. 

The ASIS&T Board, ASIS&T publication editors and their boards, the Publications Committee and several related task forces are currently dealing with a number of issues related to ASIS&T publications. One of these issues is the long-term stability of JASIST, currently published under contract with Wiley. As this contract nears its end in 2010, we need to consider what our next steps should be, particularly in view of the global changes in publication and delivery mechanisms. One of the tasks of the Publications Committee is to consider what issues and questions should be raised as we establish a new Society-publisher relationship and lay the foundation for negotiations for the next decade of JASIST. This process is critical to the future of the Society’s major publication.

In addition to ensuring the financial stability of the Journal, the Board also needs to insure that its publications have the intellectual leadership they need for the coming years. Editorial direction and succession planning are general issues for all ASIS&T publications. Several of them have been led and shaped by editors who served for a period of over 20 years: for example, Martha Williams for ARIST, Donald Kraft for JASIST. With Don’s retirement in less than two years, a JASIST era will come to an end, and a new editor will lead the Journal. The Board is considering how this transition should occur. How should editors for ASIS&T publications be chosen? How long should they serve? Some journals comparable to JASIST, for instance, have three- to five-year, one-time renewable, terms for editors. An editor’s mandate is to develop and strengthen the journal, and, in a rapidly changing field, that means envisioning the next five to ten years of the field and taking the journal in the right direction. We want a process that ensures that ASIS&T publications have the right balance of stable leadership and a regular infusion of new ideas, and we are working to develop a policy governing editorial terms. 

I hope that most of you know that in addition to the Bulletin you receive in the mail, you also have access to an electronic version on the ASIS&T website. In this electronic age, is the time for a printed and mailed membership bulletin over? The ASIS&T Board feels that it is, not least because of the production and mailing costs associated with print, and has notified Bulletin Editor Irene Travis and her Board that production will switch to an electronic-only Bulletin in the near future. We hope that we can take advantage of this new format by offering a distribution mechanism and new features that will serve the membership better. Developing the online Bulletin may be an iterative process as we find out what works, and we look forward to receiving your feedback on the electronic Bulletin.

There are also several emerging issues around access to digital content. The ASIS&T Digital Library, introduced in 2005, was a positive move in this direction. Further expansion of the available digital content is one issue – though our current publications are available in digital form, the same is not true of all the back files. This limitation reduces accessibility and undermines the credibility of a society that prides itself on its technological currency. Another issue is the stance of the Society on open access, or perhaps, determining the flavor of open access that will work best for its authors, members, the Society itself and the field we serve. Like many journals, JASIST has taken a cautious approach to open access, and at their meeting last month the JASIST Editorial Board asked that its policies be liberalized to meet the desire of authors to post their articles on websites (including institutional websites). A task force is currently exploring options to find a position that will satisfy the Editorial Board, the membership and the Society and its publisher.

In this column I have raised more questions than answers, but I hope that by the end of the year we have made some decisions about these important issues and have a better sense of how to resolve them. It is safe to say that the future of ASIS&T publications will be an area of active discussion for your Board, the Publications Committee and various task forces in the coming year.