A Review of ALISE Annual Activities and a Call for Volunteers

Due to the unusual circumstances of this year, the 2020 ALISE Annual Conference was held in a virtual format. This variation meant that the meeting, usually an annual touchstone to reconnect with colleagues from around the country, explored divergent mechanisms to recreate the same camaraderie and productivity we’ve come to expect from years past. We are happy to say, of course without any bias, that the information ethics and the information policy SIGs pulled both elements off with excellence. We can happily report two outstanding panel presentations—one live and one pre-recorded with speakers on hand for Q&A—and an exceptionally fruitful business meeting. 

To Merge or Not to Merge?

First, at the business meeting, held jointly this year as it was in 2019, the main item on the table was the decision to merge the SIGs into one. The benefits and pitfalls of this decision were presented to the membership. The primary benefit would be an official recognition of the excellent working relationship that the two SIGs have created over the past years within the frequent overlap of their interest areas. The SIGs share many common members and often explore similar veins of inquiry. The merger into a new, bigger, possibly stronger PIE (policy and information ethics) SIG seemed like a good fit and likely the way that the members were going to vote. 

However, if the SIGs had merged, they determined that they may, in fact, be limiting their reach. ALISE typically allows one business meeting and one presentation slot for each SIG at the annual conference. Merging into one SIG may have seemed beneficial to member relations, but would have had the problematic side-effect of decreasing our space on the schedule. To address this, a third option was presented: to operate as two separate SIGs, but to continue our productive working relationship. After voting, this was the unanimous decision. We will still (technically) be distinct groups on paper, but operate as PIE in practice.

Seeking Volunteers

The business meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss leadership opportunities and volunteer needs. Margaret Zimmerman was elected as the Information Policy SIG Convener and Kyle Jones was re-elected as the Information Ethics SIG Convener. The membership thanks Jenna Kammer and Nicole Alemanne for their service as co-conveners for the Information Policy SIG from 2018-2020. The membership also thanks Awa Zhu, John Burgess, and Margaret Zimmerman for volunteering their time in 2019 to plan for the annual conference and develop this new website other information infrastructures in support of the ALISE PIE efforts.

The membership in attendance decided on a new leadership framework going forward for the foreseeable future. Annual conveners will now be paired with co-conveners to learn about PIE efforts and development. Co-conveners will then take over for the convener following ALISE Annual.

In addition to the need for co-conveners, the membership has a need to fill the following volunteer posts:

  • Communications: Support the ongoing development of the website alongside the convener leadership team and establish stronger connections with existing members and potential members via social media (Twitter).
  • Outreach: Develop webinars and other activities to support the membership’s teaching and research of information policy and ethics.
  • Conference planning: Develop and facilitate ALISE Annual SIG panels.
  • Resource library: Build a Zotero-based library of resources and documentation to archive PIE activities and support the PIE membership (e.g., relevant books and articles, conference proceedings pre-prints, business meeting notes)

Members of all types—doctoral students to senior faculty, adjuncts and lecturers, anyone!—are welcome and encouraged to volunteer. We would especially welcome doctoral students and junior faculty to consider volunteering.

Conference Presentations

As mentioned above, the SIGs also hosted presentations related to each of our themes. The Information Policy SIG presented a panel focusing on the intersection of information ethics and policy. The purpose of this session was to present actual strategies and resources for addressing ethics and policy in LIS courses, and to engage the audience in discussions about the implications of ethics and policy in LIS instruction and research. The presentations in our panel provided diverse perspectives on the nature of information policy and ethics, and the relationship between them- highlighting the role of ethics in policy and including real-world examples highly relevant to LIS education.

Lucy Santos Green and Melissa P. Johnston spoke about the ethical issues in academic publishing and how to educate new scholars about common pitfalls such as editorial misconduct. A.J. MIllion and Johanna Bleckman considered the possibility of a crisis in science surrounding issues of research study replication with movement toward increased data sharing being a possible solution- touching upon the impact on librarians. Leslie Farmer explored the process and ethics encountered by information professionals taking on fake news, including how to educate consumers. Michele Villagran and Suliman Hawamdeh presented their findings from a content analysis using Latent Dirichlet Allocation and data analytics of library science publications to provide a better understanding of information ethics in application to LIS and how these ethics are viewed through a multicultural lens. Finally, Dian Walster discussed using student created scenarios in her classroom to teach information policy and professional ethics. 

Two days later, the Information Ethics SIG hosted a panel conversation entitled “Where do we Stand? Working Toward an ALISE Position Statement on Learning Analytics in Higher Education.” John Burgess and Kyle Jones were joined by Toni Samek and Michelle Kazmer. Kyle began the panel with a talk on “Learning Analytics: Foundational Statements and Privacy Issues” to set the groundwork about learning analytics. John progressed the panel forward with his talk “Situating Ethical Principles in the Discussion of Learning Analytics” to raise particularized ethical approaches and issues. Michelle followed with a focused on “An institutional perspective on learning analytics,” which drew from her administrative experiences. And Toni ended the panel with “Connecting the Why and the How in a Plan for Action,” a presentation about possible pathways forward for addressing learning analytics in LIS education. The panel was followed by a structured group activity with attendees.

***This post was written by Margaret Zimmerman with some support from Kyle Jones.

ALISE Co-Signs “Ethics in AI Statement”

The Association recently signed on to an “Ethics in AI Statement” with the Association for Information Science and Technology and the iSchools in the wake of Dr. Timnit Gebru’s firing from Google. The statement follows:

Recent events surrounding Dr. Timnit Gebru, formerly the co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI) team, have shed light on the importance of unbiased research into the ethical issues surrounding the use of AI and the need for diverse voices to be part of the discussion. As the preeminent global voice of information science and technology research and its implications for practice, the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) is joined by the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) and the iSchools in strongly advocating for rigorous and thorough research into the use of AI to ensure its ethical application in all aspects of society. ASIS&T, ALISE and the iSchools support the work of researchers, such as Timnit Gebru and others, who seek to identify potential flaws and biases in the algorithms used by AI that may disproportionately impact diverse populations. As an association that embraces the diversity of voices contributing to scholarship in the information science and technology field, we encourage continued research into the ethical use of AI and transparency in the dissemination of the results of such research. ASIS&T, ALISE and the iSchools recognize the importance and need for organizations to consider both the positive and negative effects of AI and to find ways to mitigate, if not prevent, the negative impacts of AI while achieving AI’s benefits. Importantly, diverse voices are needed in such discussions.

The permalink for the statement is: https://ali.memberclicks.net/alise-statement-on-artificial-intelligence–ai–ethics