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Volume 25, No. 5

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June / July 1999




Inside ASIS

ASIS President-elect Proposes Name Change

Dear Member,

Please find below a proposal from Eugene Garfield, incoming president of ASIS.  He is suggesting that we change the name of the society from American Society for Information Science (ASIS) to American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST). This proposal was first posted to ASIS-L on April 13, 1999.

Richard Hill, Executive Director

L ast fall I was asked to run for the ASIS presidency even though I had not been active in society affairs for some time. In my published election statement, I pledged to change the downward course of ASIS membership from a peak of 4,000 to 2,500 at present, not including about 800 student members.  I proposed, by 2001, that membership should significantly increase in order to generate enough revenue to sustain an effective national office and to conduct society activities at an optimal level. Otherwise alternative forms of revenue must be found or operating costs must be reduced.

Ten years ago, a majority of the ASIS membership voted to change the society's name to ASIST -- The American Society for Information Science and Technology. Since the ASIS constitution requires three-fourths of the membership to approve such a change, the proposal was not adopted.

Since then, ASIS has lost hundreds of members frustrated by our perceived abandonment of applied information science. Nevertheless, I believe that the remaining and newer ASIS members would support the change to ASIST, provided this symbolic step were accompanied by concrete actions which demonstrated that practical information technology based programs will be aggressively addressed in our publications and meetings. To increase membership, we must be able to serve the needs of practitioners as well as academic researchers and educators. The theory of information science is an essential underpinning to our professional work, but information technology provides feedback and nurtures theory. (Price, D.J. de Solla, "Of sealing wax and string" Natural History, 84(1): 49-56, 1984)

There is a real sense of deja vu in again proposing this much-needed change of name. I was one of the radical proponents of the original name change from American Documentation Institution (ADI) to ASIS. To say the least, discussions in those days were rancorous. But eventually, it was recognized that the word documentation had lost its cachet. The then seemingly amorphous and controversial term information science was adopted.

Nevertheless ASIS programs were usually equally divided between theory and practice. I myself began my career as an "information engineer" and was proud to call myself an "applied information scientist." Over the years most schools of library science added the term information to their titles. For a few decades the name ASIS served us well and ASIS was the primary professional affiliation for most members. That no longer seems to be the case. The newer information technologies, and bio-informatics in particular, have spawned dozens of new information related societies. While ASIS has declined in membership, most other library and information societies have grown, primarily by catering to the practical, technological needs of their members.

Those in favor of a name change for ASIS recognize that this step alone is not sufficient. For this added focus on technology to have real meaning and impact, we must simultaneously reorganize, redefine and rename many of our SIGs. This is a complex but necessary process. If and when we agree to change our name, we should be ready to present to the outside world a dynamic group of SIGs and working focus groups that reflect the current world of information science and technology -- its theory and practice. These issues will be discussed at the Mid-Year Meeting in Pasadena.

Unless we choose to take steps to increase membership, aging and competition will reduce ASIS to a virtual "Society for the History of Information Science." As ASIS we can choose to remain a small invisible college or we can become a new, reinvigorated ASIST with the potential to become a highly visible and prestigious society working collaboratively with many other information-minded societies.

As was predicted in 1962 (Garfield, E. "Who are the Information Scientists?" Current Contents, August 7, 1962. Reprinted in Essays of an Information Scientist, Vol:1, p.2, 1962-73., it will be increasingly more difficult to differentiate future laboratory and clinical scientists from information scientists and specialists. The growth of informatics in chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering and library science demonstrates that information science and technology are crucial to these professions. ASIST could provide the leadership to fellow scientists and scholars increasingly drawn into the new information age and exert a significant effect on future information policy.

Eugene Garfield
ASIS President-elect
Founder and Chairman Emeritus
Institute for Scientific Information
3501 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

News from ASIS Chapters

The Simmons College Student Chapter of ASIS has awarded its annual Outstanding Student in Information Science award to Jean Maguire in recognition of her academic record and contributions to the chapter.  She was cited for, among other things, organizing chapter events, co-creating the chapter's Web site and providing energy and enthusiasm to the chapter during its re-energizing period.

The Northern Ohio ASIS Chapter (NORASIS), in a joint meeting with the Cleveland Chapter of the SLA in late February, met at Rainbow Babies' and Children's Hospital for a tour of the Department of Pediatrics Learning Center and a demonstration of the latest video conferencing technology. Michelle M. Foss, director of the center, conducted the session and described how pediatricians and researchers incorporate technology into their daily medical practices.

Then in March, NORASIS offered a presentation by Dick Harris, president of Responsive Database Services, which produces electronic information resources for use by public, academic and special libraries and by business professionals.

The ASIS Potomac Valley Chapter planned a dinner meeting for April at which Candy Schwartz, ASIS president, was to discuss the role of ASIS today, and Matt Koll of America Online was to talk about how early information retrieval pioneers had ideas that are now being utilized in networked discovery and retrieval.

One week later, the Potomac Valley Chapter sponsored (with other local organizations) Managing Web Access in Libraries, the 1999 Joint Spring Workshop. Among the scheduled speakers were David Allison, Smithsonian Institution; Sean Crumley and Mimi Hernandez, DC Public Library; Christopher C. Reed and Scott Stebleman, George Washington University; and Frank J. Locker, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Southern Ohio ASIS Chapter (SOASIS) and the Indiana Chapter (I-ASIS) held their first joint meeting in March. Duncan S. Coleman from NCR explored the common elements of knowledge management and discussed the notion of "ontology" as a theoretical foundation for integrated knowledge management of the future. Among the guests at the special meeting were former ASIS presidents Debora Shaw and Charles Davis and former ASIS board member Steve Hardin.

In May, SOASIS met in Dayton, where Don Steiner of LEXIS-NEXIS discussed markup languages (including HTML, SGML and XML), writing an XML document and the XML Family of Standards.

The ASIS Delaware Valley Chapter discussed Digital Information in Distance Learning: Striking a Balance at its April dinner meeting. Bonnie Lawlor, Chescot Publishing, chair of the NFAIS Information Policy Committee and former member of the ASIS Board of Directors, was the featured speaker.

The Central Ohio ASIS Chapter (COASIS) planned a discussion on The Library Channel: Development & Implementation Policy for its May meeting. Don Barlow, director of the Westerville Public Library and developer of the Library Channel, was the scheduled speaker.

News About ASIS Members

Mike Crandall, formerly with Boeing Technical Libraries, has accepted a new position as Knowledge Architect Manager at Microsoft Library. He is responsible for developing systems and taxonomies for internal knowledge organization and access to information inside Microsoft at the corporate level.

Several ASIS members were scheduled to participate in the May 1999 LACUNY Institute sponsored by the Library Association of the City University of New York (CUNY). Former ASIS president Clifford Lynch, executive director of CNI, was to discuss Electronic Publishing, Digital Documents and the Library of the 21st Century. Richard Hulser, IBM, and Colleen Cool, Queens College of CUNY, were to participate in a panel discussion entitled Racing Toward the Future .

Lixin Yu, assistant professor, School of Information Studies, Florida State University, has received a grant from the Council on Research and Creativity for a proposal entitled, Musical Representation of Information in Geographically Referenced Data Analysis. Myke Gluck will work with Yu on the project.

At the Rutgers Symposium on Digital Libraries, sponsored by the Rutgers Distributed Laboratory for Digital Libraries, Paul Kantor, director of the laboratory, was to speak to the assembled crowd on the topic, Synergies. Ian Witten, professor in the department of computer science, University of Waikato, New Zealand, was also scheduled to participate in the symposium, speaking on the topic, Browsing Around a Digital Library.

Charles R. McClure , formerly of Syracuse University, will be the first Francis Eppes Professor of Information Studies, a newly created endowment, at Florida State University.



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@ 1999, American Society for Information Science