22 June 2014


I have been thinking about becoming a member of the International Association for Social Sciences Information Services and Technology (IASSIST) for many years, since Robin Rice (@sparrowbarley) from the University of Edinburgh first told me about the organisation. 

Last night I finally took the plunge and sent them my $US50 (bargain!) via PayPal for the 2014-2015 membership year. The thing that swung it for me was the superb program of the fortieth annual IASSIST conference, which was held in Toronto in early June. I didn't go to the conference but followed on the conference hashtag #iassist40 (which is well worth checking out). There were presentations from some of the organisations whose work in this space I really admire (including the Universities of Edinburgh, California and Michigan, Purdue University and the UK Data Archive), the theme was well-chosen (Aligning Data and Research Infrastructure) and many of the talks were on topics that really interest me (such as policy, skills development, and strategies for confidential data).

For those who don't know much about IASSIST, the website describes it as
...an international organization of professionals working in and with information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences. 
Its 300 members are from a variety of workplaces, including data archives, statistical agencies, research centers, libraries, academic departments, government departments, and non-profit organizations.
The majority of the membership is split between Europe and North America but there seems to be a small contingent of people from the Asia-Pacific too. The benefits of becoming a member include an email list, membership directory, jobs service, and the opportunity to join various committees and action groups. The organisation seems to be very grassroots in terms of its history and the way it works, which might distinguish it from more top-down initiatives such as the Research Data Alliance which are funded by government agencies and institutions, rather than by individuals.

Realistically I am not sure how much I will be able to contribute (other than financially through the membership) or what to expect from the various forums run by IASSIST. But I am looking forward to being part of a bigger network of international professionals with an interest in research data management, and see this as a good opportunity to interact with some new people (off Twitter anyway) and to gain more of an insight into what is happening in other national contexts. The only professional associations I have been a member of previously have been the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA). Joining IASSIST means, I think, identifying myself - after only eight years of work in this field! - as a data professional as well as a librarian.