The name doesn’t say it all

For the third consecutive year, the NISO Plus conference delivered what its name suggests. Held virtually over 3 days, February 15-17, 2022, it delivered an informative and thought-provoking multinational survey of the roles collaboration, conversation and standardization play in our ever-changing global information environment.

Global Conversations–Global Connections

The theme for this year’s conference, like last year, was Global Conversations–Global Connections. In his February 15 keynote address, NISO Executive Director Todd Carpenter highlighted the link between conversations and connections. He steered the audience towards ‘active’ sharing and away from ‘passive’ learning, saying every voice should be heard. He urged participants to adopt a results orientation, considering how the ideas shared could be put into practice and especially what role NISO could play. Attendees seemed to take these principles to heart, and the wide diversity of attendees demonstrated the global reach of the conference. This year’s total attendance – more than 630 – was down from last year, but diversity was up. Attendees represented 28 countries and 28% were from outside the United States

Plenary sessions

Immediately following Carpenter’s welcoming remarks, author and scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan delivered the keynote address, “Welcome to the Metaverse: The Profound Consequences of a Science Fiction Vision”. including Copyrights and counterfeits: the rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity (2001) and The Googling of Everything and Why We Should Worry (2011), warned against the ambitions of technology and social media companies to grow and monetize the emerging cyberworld, adding cryptocurrencies to virtual and augmented reality in order to dominate it.

The second day’s plenary session featured the announcement of two winners – Laurie Kaplan of ProQuest, who won the Ann Marie Cunningham Service award, and Oliver Pesch of EBSCO Information Services, who won the NISO Fellow award – the nomination of 13 NISO Fellowship recipients (more on that later) and the annual Miles Conrad Lecture. This year’s speaker was Patricia Flatley Brennan, Director of the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). Brennan’s remarks, titled “The Role of a Library in a World of Unstructured Data,” focused on NLM’s mission and strategy, celebrated its accomplishments, and outlined its current initiatives and challenges.

The program for the last day was enriched by two radically different keynotes. First, “The collaborative society needs institutional support”, given by Dariusz Jemielniak, professor of management at Kozminski University in Poland. He pointed out that leading companies in the so-called sharing economy are actually hindering true sharing. People use Airbnb to rent out apartments they bought as investments, but they don’t share their spare rooms, for example. Uber’s ubiquitous taxi service prevents people from asking one friend to go to the airport, for another. Jemielniak then explored the nature of true sharing and the factors that make real collaboration possible, supported and assisted by technology. He presented examples in which outdated legal, regulatory and institutional structures have hindered new modes of positive collaboration and concluded with a plea for the development of “ways in which collaborative society initiatives can receive appropriate support in areas where they will never be truly good: certification, auditing, [and] legal support. …”

The closing speech was “Research Infrastructure for the Pluriverse”, presented by Katharina Ruckstuhl, Associate Dean and Senior Fellow at the University of Otago School of Business. Ruckstuhl, who is a member of the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe, began by reciting a Maori creation story, which led to a discussion of the colonization of cyberspace, replicating the colonization of the planet. She pleaded for the application of the principles FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and CARE (Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, Ethics) (#BeFAIRandCARE) to create a cyberenvironment in which Indigenous knowledge plays a role and various approaches to organizing knowledge and defining people’s relationship to the physical world can all be included.

Scholarship program

Another element of the organization’s global influence is NISO’s scholarship program, now in its third year. Fellows benefit from free registration to the NISO Plus conference, as well as free and reduced registration rates for other NISO programs and the opportunity to participate in the organization’s committees and working groups. With 13 fellows added this year, 40 members of underrepresented groups participated. This year’s winners came from eight different countries, including seven from outside the United States. Several of last year’s winners took part in a session where they answered questions (chosen by themselves) about their experiences over the past year. Unsurprisingly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to counter misinformation were common themes. Sharon Whitfield of Rider University in New Jersey summed up a common perspective on the pandemic, saying it “really made my physical world a lot smaller. However, it really made my virtual or online world tenfold.

Program sessions

Between plenary sessions, 40 large-scale 75-minute sessions made up the bulk of the program. Here are summaries of a few.

A panel on multilingual scholarly communication, made up of publishing experts from the Netherlands, India and Canada, reminded English speakers to be aware of content published in other languages. Jasmin Lange, publishing director at Dutch publisher Brill, noted that her company has published works in a variety of languages ​​and character sets since its founding in the 17th century, and that today works in English only represent 63% of its production. Harini Calamur, director of Impact Science, reminded the audience that the dominance of English is a recent phenomenon: Albert Einstein published his first four articles in German and Marie Curie in French. Jessica Clark, Project Coordinator at Coalition Publica, reviewed barriers to publishing in languages ​​other than English, as well as ongoing initiatives to improve multilingualism.

Speakers on the role of AI in creating scholarly knowledge expressed consensus that it is a valuable tool, but mostly useful as an aid and time saver. subject to human scrutiny, not as an independent production strategy. Freelance software engineer and librarian Andromeda Yelton reported on several interesting applications, including the use of computer vision to identify possible matches of the same person across multiple photos in a collection of photos of black life in Pittsburgh. in the first half of the 20th century, taken by Charles “Teenie” Harris.

Three sessions were devoted to progress reports on NISO working groups and initiatives. Four initiatives from last year’s conference were among the 11 projects: the Interoperable Controlled Digital Lending System; Communication of Retractions, Deletions and Expressions of Concern (CORREC); Integrate publisher and repository workflows to improve links between research data and articles; and NISO’s leadership in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.


Several speakers and session leaders lamented the inability to convene a physical conference and expressed hope that next year’s would be in person. There is a risk to this, however. The NISO Plus conference went well. The schedule accommodated multiple time zones and no one was jet lagged. Connections with speakers around the world seemed to work seamlessly. Technical issues, when they arose, were dealt with efficiently. Both synchronous and asynchronous dialogue were supported, although not always used as extensively as one might like. Everything was recorded, so the programs were available for review afterwards. And the most important point is that this virtual event was a truly diverse global conference. The challenge for any future in-person conference will be to maintain this diversity and the other benefits of the virtual event and not simply revert to the old normal.

Comments are closed.