Reflections on ISIC 2018 in Kraków

isic2018_logo-1So I’m sitting on the balcony of our apartment in Kraków reflecting on this year’s ISIC conference. I had the opportunity to participate in both the doctoral workshop at the start of the conference and also the main event itself (by means of a poster presentation). This is exactly what I did last time I participated in ISIC – only two years later and two years further on with the PhD (my paper submission to ISIC was just not meant to be due to data catastrophe but at least I get to present at ASIS&T next month!).

This year doctoral workshop was organised by Dr Nicola Parker and Dr Camilla Moring and they did a great job of the day too. I was a little sceptical about the doctoral workshop as I was unsure of what it would bring. I am currently in my write up phase of my research so the trauma of things such as theoretical decisions, methodological choices and data collection are far behind me for now. That being said, I was looking forward to talking about my work with the other students and getting some feedback on what they thought. The day comprised a student-mentor session, story board creation and then a panel session with some of the mentors who had given us feedback earlier in the day.

7We started our day with a session with our mentors and I was in a group of three students (plus two mentors). Our mentors were Professor Heidi Julien and also Professor David Allen, both experts in the field and both willing to give honest opinions on our work(s). I approached the workshop with more practical questions about the write up phase and my decision to study part time to enable me to start a new job and these were answered fairly quickly and fine. However, both Heidi and David did have some concerns about my work, and I was back in the situation of wondering what on earth to do. You see, for the doctoral workshop application, we had to write about our work and my mentors expressed concern over it all. I was told that I had collected too much data, that I do not have (visible) information science contributions and that I will not be able to defend this work in information science when it comes to the viva next year. They advised something quite specific and this is pretty much what (they think) I should do. I should put information science at the heart of my PhD, forget that other domains exist (as my research overlaps with employment and organisational) and make my thesis my own to defend. In doing this, I will be able to explain what I have done and the contributions this thesis makes to the information science field. With this in mind, questions arose about the relationship with my external funders and the thesis itself. Heidi, in particular, suggested that I separate the two and have the information science focus within the thesis (and defend it) and then have the employment related information and practical applications for my funders. It is well known fact that the funders will often not read a student’s entire thesis and all they want to know is the ‘so what does this mean for us?’ For me, if I focus on the information science nature of my thesis, the practical applications and employment context can then be relayed back to my funders in other ways (e.g. reports, meetings and presentations). This way, everyone wins – I can defend and information science thesis and my finders benefit from the analysis/findings etc.

Another issue which came up is that I have far far too much data. My PhD comprises three different case studies, three different geographical locations and three different data collection methods within them so I completely agree with this point. At this stage of my PhD the mentors could not advise that I change what I have done (although they nearly tried to at one point). Instead, they advised that I possibly cut out some of the research questions (possibly the less relevant ones) and focus on the ones that lead to highlight the contributions in my information science work. As well as this, they advised that when I cut some of the information out, this will help to narrow down a main focus and give the thesis one main point (or focus).

This feedback will now be a focus of the next supervision for me, I can assure you that!

9I also enjoyed one keynote in particular, and that was the Keynote by Professor Lisa Given. She focused highly on impact of research, what we should be doing and what we are not. It was interesting to see the different ways in which impact is assessed across the world and the schemes in place. For example, both the UK and Australia have a formal assessment of impact (e.g. REF in the UK) and this has forced academics to take account of the research, document the processes involved and make sure they know the pathways to impact. However, countries such as the USA do not (Lisa talked about this from her own experiences of moving from Canada to Australia where she went from no formalised assessment to the introduction of one). Lisa also highlighted the need to support doctoral students to consider this in their work as we are the ‘future of information behaviour’ and people that are experienced academics should probably support us through this process to get us used to what we will need to do in future academic roles. This was something that I liked as the presentation not only focused on the experienced academics but acknowledged that students need to do this too. As I am an ESRC funded student (i.e. a person working a project from an ESRC grant awarded to my supervisor), we need to show the impact activities and outcomes of our work each year. So this means I have to record the activities, events, type of activities carried out and who this reached (e.g. the audience) and whether any impact can be seen from it. I also record some of this information on my own blog page here. Quite often, the pathways to impact not need to always be a journal article written up and published.

The final thing that Lisa emphasised was this:

Information can change the world. So can you…”

This emphasised finding your own research narrative and findings ways to tell the word about what you do (as this helps with impact). To this end, this is my effort to change the world through my own PhD blogging! 😉

One interesting panel session that I attended on the Wednesday was entitled: Profound and transcendental information experiences. The panellists were Elysia Guzik, Anh Thu Nguyen, Tim GorichanazJarkko Kari and Kiersten Latham. The focus of the session was the experiences of others and the use/relationship of information in this. For example, the speakers talked about spiritual experiences, emotive experiences (e.g. seeing exhibitions in museums that spark emotion) and also some exercises relating to how we think, feel and relax. This spread much discussion of experiences of others, methods used and where to go for publications in relation to these areas. Although not my area of research interest, it was quite a good session to be in in terms of participating in a panel session that I did not have a lot of experience or knowledge about.

During the rest of the programme for ISIC, there was a session especially for us doctoral students (immediately after the above panel session). This session was an opportunity for the other delegates to get to know who we are and what we had gotten out of the workshop earlier in the week. On Monday we all made a story-board panel as part of our groups and we used this on Wednesday to tell our indivual stories. Our group introduced ourselves and then we told the conference about our workshop journey. I told them that at the last ISIC conference I was told that my PhD would not survive if I did not change it to focus more on information science. This got a few laughs as I was pretty much told the same thing in this ISIC conference too, albeit with a little more focus on my write up.  It was nice to hear that the other students got a lot out of the workshop and many of them had feedback as I did two years ago in the initial stages of their journeys. That being said, the advice given to me is still valuable and I will be making some changes to my plan for the next few months in order to facilitate the defence of my PhD somewhere down the line next year.

19Immediately after the doctoral session, the poster session began. I presented my own poster this time (again, as I did in 2016!) but it focused on one of my case studied instead rather than just an overview of my doctoral work. I found that (unlike last ISIC conference) my case study was acknowledged by a lot of academics and many people asked me questions about it too. This does go to show that when my work is focused on information science related themes (e.g. the role of information literacy in the learning of innovative work behaviour) academics welcome the research and also engage in much more conversation when they know it is relevant to the conference themes. So a quick thank you to all of those who took the time to come and see my poster and those who asked me about it too!

On Thursday morning I attended a session on Information behaviour of specific groups of users. Chaired by Kirsty Williamson, we heard about 4 papers (speakers hyperlinked):

  • Małgorzata Kisilowska and Anna Mierzecka. Emotions, experience, identity – motivations of the teens’ information behaviour in the area of culture
  • Alicja Pawluczuk, Hazel Hall, Gemma Webster and Colin Smith. Digital youth work: youth worker’s balancing act between digital innovation and digital literacy insecurity
  • Jenny Lindberg and Åse Hedemark. Meaningful reading experiences among elderly: some insights from a small-scale study of Swedish library outreach services
  • Madely du Preez. The consulting industry as an information behaviour context: consulting engineering as an example

It was quite interesting to see the mixture of specific groups of users. For example, Małgorzata and Anna talked about an information behaviour model of culture that they had developed with a sample of teens and Alicja discussed her research on digital literacy and youth work and during the presentation and follow-up questions focused on both the youth workers themselves and the youth they work with. Jenny and Åse, however, highlighted their study of elderly people and explored their study of reading experiences amongst their sample. Finally the user group in Madely’s study was not age specific and focused on the context of the study (e.g. a group of construction engineer). This is still a user group for sure, and more related to my work. The user group for my study would technically be employees of the organisations. However, mien would then be specific to each organisaional as I know the sample make-up of each case study can be different in terms of role and participants used. It is so great to see the variety of work presented under one conference umbrella theme!

60Whilst attending the conference, I did get some time to explore Kraków too. I visited the Old Town and the Market Square which were not too far away from or apartment and the conference venue so it was definitely a practical place to do. I really did like the architecture of the buildings I saw and even some of the history too. Explored one of the large shopping centres that we had to walk through every day to get to the conference venue and that gave me a taste of the shopping there too.  Id notice that there were a few sops that I recognised, some of which had gone out of business in the UK. For example, I saw a C&A shop that was in the UK when I was a young child but it suddenly disappeared off the high street!

It has been a good experience overall, with some minor delays in terms of travel and language misunderstandings. However, I have once again enjoyed my participation in the ISIC conference and I now do not know if this will be my last (we shall see how the new job pans out!).

You can see more of my pictures in the two slideshows below:

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