Prognostication is a messy business. On January 1, we don't know exactly where things will be at the end of the year. As William Gibson purportedly said, "The future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed." Which trends will finally push through and catch everyone's attention? Which technological innovations will spark excitement, enthusiasm, or outrage? Will policy or political changes cause trends that had been building to stall? As much as we can resign ourselves to fate and let fortune carry us where it may, we have an opportunity to drive momentum and the changes we would like to see.
Many things on our horizon that seem to me to be priorities. Two of these are security and privacy. These ideas are inextricably tied and one shouldn't take precedence over the other. NISO has supported work on privacy and continues to encourage the library and technology communities to build solutions with privacy in mind from the outset, as this is is key in creating a trusted information ecosystem. Meanwhile, information systems are not nearly as secure as they could or should be. The IP-based authentication that most publishers and libraries use to provide access control is both insecure and faulty in terms of the user experience it provides to patrons. It is about time that it is changed, and now finally there is some momentum behind developing new authentication methods. NISO and the communities with whom we work have begun positioning ourselves to advance an alternative solution; see here for more information on the RA21: Resource Access in the 21st Century initiative, first launched by the STM Association but now opening up to broader participation. This project is only a first step in what will be a long road.
Improving behind-the-scenes interactions between machines is a more challenging priority for NISO; we aren't quite at the point of undertaking related activity, but we're aware that it is an area worthy of concentrated study. Some time ago, I wrote about archiving the "live web,"but since then, ever more of our interactions with content are customized to individuals' contexts, behaviors, and changes in external information. This makes replicating one's online findings multiple times difficult; it is also likely that others' views or experiences of material vary from ours.
The simplest example of this complexity is telling someone to search for something on the web after doing the search yourself, and finding that two sets of top search results are different. However, the complexities go far beyond that, especially when replicating scientific discovery and when considering preservation of online material. What does it mean to preserve content when information is constantly being added, deleted, and amended? There isn't a hard copy to which someone can refer and even the electronic copy you're viewing is ephemeral and subject to change. This is doubly troubling in an era when it is increasingly common for people to deny they said or did something, despite concrete recorded evidence to the contrary. In a "post-factual" world, the maintenance of a version of record becomes even more valuable and the skills our community possesses in that regard should increase in importance.
A third trend is that content providers are increasingly diversifying their portfolios to include much more than content, with most of the major publishers and many smaller providers offering services as well as products. Work by Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer at the Utrecht University Library to catalog and classify these services has provided some useful insights. The proliferation of these new business lines leads inevitably to a greater need for underlying standards to interchange information between services and tools, or between tools, should a user choose to migrate from one product to another. Integration (of the various tools) could simplify the work of researchers and students and speed the sharing of results. If they lack a foundation of standards and interoperability, the new offerings could force communities to share networks that create more barriers than they solve. Traditionally, content providers have built materials around interoperable standards so as to ease distribution and the moving of users from item to item. However, software providers are often driven by competitive pressures to lock users into a proprietary solution. One hopes that as content providers move more toward provision of services and content, they will continue to support interoperability and the standards that make that possible.
In the words of Yoda, "Always in motion is the future." NISO, too, is in motion, with much work ahead of us, but prepared for the future. We're looking forward to another active and successful year.