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Looking to the Future at iConference 2017
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Posted On April 25, 2017
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iConference 2017, the 12th annual conference of the iSchools organization, was held March 22–25, 2017, at the Wuhan University School of Information Management in conjunction with Sungkyungkwan University’s Library & Information Science and Data Science departments. The first iConference to be held in Asia, its theme was Effect • Expand • Evolve: Global Collaboration Across the Information Community.

Keynotes: iSchools of the Future and the Web of Science

Four actions for the future expansion of iSchools were presented in the first keynote speech, “iSchools—Our Time is Now!” by Mike Eisenberg (dean and professor emeritus at the University of Washington Information School and one of the founders of the iSchool movement). (See Figure 1.) He proposed the following:

  1. Open the field to include departments and courses outside of conventional library and information science.
  2. Welcome related fields, including information management, communications, and musicology.
  3. Collaborate on campus and develop formal partnerships with other departments.
  4. Open the field to all students. This may require increasing class sizes and recruiting more staffers. (Some universities have criteria that prevent students from entering iSchools.)

David Fenske (dean emeritus and professor at Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics and former iSchools executive director) commented after the presentation that the iSchools organizational structure, “which began as a club,” should be changed by creating a new dues structure and a new business model. He observed that the iSchool is “going through a maturation period and is maybe now at puberty.”

Another keynote speech, “Web of Science Big Data—Powering Next Generation Discovery & Science of Science,” by Jason E. Rollins (senior director of innovation for Clarivate Analytics), focused on Big Data and the Web of Science, which now contains more than 65 million records dating from 1900. Rollins presented several case studies performed with universities that used the database and discussed a scholarship honoring the late Eugene Garfield, the Web of Science’s founder. (See Figure 2.)

Counseling for iSchool Acceptance

Eisenberg and Fenske provided specific counseling to Swedish attendee Koraljka Golub (an associate professor in Linnaeus University’s department of cultural sciences). (See Figure 3.) Golub traveled halfway around the world to determine the requirements for her university’s library and information science program would need to meet to be accepted as an iSchool. They reviewed the organization, staff, and funding of her program and made several recommendations for changes that would lead to acceptance, including building interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral educational initiatives and doing research and collaborating with international iSchools and external departments. Golub noted the advantages of being accepted: externally, for international recognition and access to collaborative opportunities in the field; internally, for strengthening collaboration with other programs and departments.

Award Winners

The Lee Dirks Award for Best Paper went to “An In-Depth Analysis of Tags and Controlled Metadata for Book Search,” by Toine Bogers (Aalborg University Copenhagen) and Vivien Petras (Humboldt University of Berlin). The award honors the late Dirks, a longtime friend and supporter of the iConference and includes a prize of $5,000 from Microsoft.

The Most Interesting Preliminary Results Paper was “CORA: A Platform to Support Citation Context Analysis,” by Bei Yu, Yatish Hegde, and Yingya Li (Syracuse University).

The Best Poster Award went to “Wikipedia Based Automatic Diagnosis Prediction in Clinical Decision Support System,” by Danchen Zhang (see Figure 4), Daqing He, and Sanqiang Zhao (University of Pittsburgh), along with Lei Li (Nanjing University of Science and Technology).

The Best Chinese Paper (written in English) was “Digitizing Dunhuang Cultural Heritage: A User Evaluation of Mogao Cave Panorama Digital Library,” by Xiao Hu, Eric M.Y. Ho, and Chen Qiao (University of Hong Kong).

The Doctoral Dissertation Award, with nominations solicited from more than 80 schools worldwide, went to “It’s Not Rocket Library Science: Design Epistemology and American Librarianship,” by Rachel Ivy Clarke (assistant professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies).

Odds and Ends

The Asia Pacific Chapter of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) led a session titled Professional Organizations in Career Development and awarded 20 memberships to conference student volunteers and those selected by a random drawing. ASIS&T members discussed all aspects of the organization and membership fees, which are now significantly reduced for developing nations. Incoming chapter chairman José Miguel Baptista Nunes (Sun-Yat-sen University) led a discussion on the formation of a Chinese Student Chapter.

The conference included more than 60 peer-reviewed research papers, 45 Chinese research papers, workshops, interactive sessions, special panels, and 65-plus research posters. There were 535 participants from more than 30 countries.

The official proceedings of iConference 2017 will be published in the IDEALS open repository. iConference 2018, with the theme Transforming Digital Worlds, will be hosted by the Information School at the University of Sheffield and the iSchool at Northumbria University in the U.K. from March 25 to 28, 2018.


Emil Levine is an American information science and library consultant living in Vienna. He has been a member of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) for 40 years.



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