Letter from the Executive Director, March 2023
When NISO set out on the journey of hosting a reformulated annual conference in summer 2019 and was planning for the vision of what would become NISO Plus, we had several goals. One goal was to engage the community in a new type of event, centered not around education and information sharing (though that would certainly be part of the idea) but rather on gathering the collective wisdom of the participants.
We wanted to orient the meeting around actions and outputs—not so much about what happened between the opening and closing sessions, but what would happen afterwards, in the days, weeks, and months after the program ended. Core to achieving that was asking the question: What tangible actions could we as a community take to improve the state of content creation, dissemination, use, and preservation? The success of the conference could be measured then not by how many people attended, by what income the meeting generated, or even by people’s positive experiences—though each of these are critically important assessment criteria that we indeed track—but more importantly, by whether the meeting is making a DIFFERENCE. Are we positively affecting the community by bringing it together, and is it generating real-world results? Can we point to ideas brought up, discussed, and suggested at NISO Plus and then have actionable outcomes we can drive forward? One can’t know this immediately in the same way you can assess a profit and loss statement or the results of an attendee survey. These types of impacts take time to foment, organize action behind, and begin work on, then complete, and eventually, with standards, implement in the community.
Even after four annual meetings, we haven’t yet completed this process following our first conference. The pandemic slowed our progress down, but advancing a standards project from idea germination to final output and implementation takes a significant amount of time under any circumstances. Initial indications are certainly positive that the NISO Plus initiative is moving itself in the right direction. As measured by traditional metrics, one could easily say we have exceeded all expectations. From selling out space at the first in-person meeting, to holding a now-online event drawing more than 600 participants in each of the past three years, to the diversity and inclusivity of people engaging from more than 30 countries on six continents, all while being financially sustainable, NISO Plus is exceeding our goals on those traditional metrics.
As for achieving our larger and deeper goals, it’s still too early to say, though all indications are positive and encouraging. As an idea-generating activity, the NISO Plus conference is outstanding. Each conference has generated dozens of ideas, far more than NISO could undertake. This has allowed us to be selective in the ideas that do get moved forward, and the work on several of those projects is advancing. We’ve also secured funding to support two projects, one on controlled digital lending and the other on communicating information about retractions.
We’ve begun the process of collecting the ideas from this year’s conference, and, again, there are some potentially impactful ideas to be considered in the coming months. There were ideas about improving the workflows of open access and about developing a national strategy on persistent identifiers, as well as supporting non-English content through metadata and distribution, to name just a few that I noted among the sessions I participated in.
To all of the people who engaged in the conference and suggested their ideas, we are so grateful that you feel confident enough in NISO and our processes that the effort of standardization and consistent practice will add value for the community. This hard work begins now and will continue for the years to come. The conference has been a starting point on a larger and longer journey. We appreciate all of those who have helped us along this path and who will continue to support our work moving forward.
Executive Director, NISO