AI Takes Center Stage at NISO Plus 2024 in Baltimore

With the information community abuzz with speculation about emerging technologies and their potential impact on scholarly communications, AI was a natural choice for a session track at the February 13–14 NISO Plus 2024 Baltimore meeting. During the conference, speakers and attendees—representatives from libraries, publishers, tech providers, government agencies, and more—tackled this topic together, exploring ways not only to address ethical concerns raised by this rapidly evolving technology, but also to leverage their potential for increasing efficiencies and addressing challenges .

Because the NISO Plus conference brings professionals from across the information community together, participants brought a wide range of AI-related interests and needs to Baltimore. Many were excited about the new opportunities offered by AI and machine learning, especially to improve discovery and accessibility of scholarly research, identify fraudulent research, and remove some of the barriers to publication for researchers who speak English as an additional language. Some participants were more focused on managing specific concerns such as ethical implications (for example, biases in AI models), privacy concerns, AI and the potential for job loss, and legal questions about AI and content licensing. Others attended with the goal of better understanding how generative AI works and what it can and can’t—or should and shouldn’t—do. 

NISO Plus offered something for all these attendees, with meeting content ranging from the introductory to the visionary. A pre-conference kicked off the week with an introduction to AI and machine learning in scholarly communications, facilitated by Andromeda Yelton of ITHAKA and attended by almost half of all conference participants. The following day, NISO Plus officially opened with Thomas Padilla’s keynote, “States of Open AI,” which explored different models of “open” artificial intelligence, models that Padilla argues should be reusable, transparent, accountable, affirmative, and sustainable. After the opening keynote, individual sessions in the AI track focused on a range of topics, including tools, the prospects for transparency and trust in an AI world,  educating patrons at the library about the use of AI, discovery and search, and generative AI and IP issues. Finally, a closing plenary panel addressed “AI Futures,” looking ahead to how AI might transform our community and how we work over the next 10 years.

What makes NISO Plus unique is the interactive format, in which speakers and attendees are asked to point out opportunities for collaboration as they work to address some of the challenges faced by the broader information community. This aspect of the event not only ensures attendees can learn from one another, but also helps the NISO team to identify ideas for further development—ideas that in some cases could lead to future projects. To that end, participants took notes in every session and highlighted several community needs:

  • guidelines for data sharing and AI
  • an outline of core elements of policies for using AI in both publishing organizations and libraries
  • guidelines for transparency and disclosure in the use of AI in scholarly communications
  • training for staff in how to use AI and machine learning effectively and ethically

In the coming months, we’ll review outputs and ideas from all the conference tracks and develop some of them further at NISO Plus Global/Online, our virtual NISO Plus event scheduled for September 17–18, 2024. We will post information on the program and registration as it becomes available, so save the date and keep an eye on the conference site!