Social and Friendly Atmosphere at the International IASSIST Conference

Published: 2019-11-20


Olof during IASSIST 2016
Olof Olsson (in the back) with participants during IASSIST 2016 in Bergen, Norway.

IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology) is an international organisation with members from all over the world, and their well-attended conference rotates to a new host country every year. In 2020, IASSIST comes to Sweden and Gothenburg, with SND as host organisation. We asked SND’s IT architect Olof Olsson about why you should visit the conference, and what to expect as a new participant.

IASSIST strives to promote knowledge exchange between data-related professionals, in order to support research and teaching. IASSIST is a constantly growing network, with some 300 active members from around the world. Members come from, for instance, data archives, statistics bureaus, research projects, libraries, public authorities, and non-profit organisations. As a member, there are many ways to get involved, depending on what you find interesting and important. You can participate in discussions, join action groups, interest groups, or committees. The annual conference is an opportunity for members, and other interested parties, to meet, discuss, and share experiences in person.

Olof Olsson is a frequent visitor to the event, with a total of nine conferences. He is also a part of the local event committee for the coming conference in Gothenburg.

IASSIST has an emphasis on the social sciences. Does that mean that it is targeted at professionals in the social sciences?

—I wouldn’t say that it’s only about the social sciences, but about all forms of data. One of their main target groups is data librarians, and there has been substantial focus on the environment and technology. The humanities are also mentioned more frequently. DDI Alliance are always represented, and talk about data and metadata standards. There are also quite a lot of delegates from other continents, like Latin America and Africa, partly thanks to IASSIST’s travel scholarship. So it’s geographically well-represented.

What can you expect as a new participant in the IASSIST Conference?

—Expect a very social and friendly atmosphere. My experience is that new participants are looked after and integrated in the group very fast, and that there are generally many conversations and exchanges. As an example; during the banquet, guests are divided into groups and you get an opportunity to talk to new people. You will always end up with someone who has been coming to the conference for decades and who is eager to you tell stories and ask questions. You learn as much during as in between sessions. A long-standing tradition is that new participants sing a song at the end. But you can dodge the singing. I did…

What is the best thing about the conference?

—I’d have to say the social. Everybody tends to be open to staying on and going to a bar or grab a coffee; people usually want to continue the conversation. You also get a chance to meet colleagues from other countries, which means you have more exchanges than you would in Sweden. It’s a very good place to widen your network.

Is there anything you shouldn’t miss?

—It depends on what you’re interested in, but I’d really recommend the workshops. Going to them is like going to a full-day training. They usually have very small groups, so you can ask a lot of questions and have discussions. You really don’t want to miss that.

Do you have any advice to someone who is thinking about visiting IASSIST 2020?

—If you’re considering attending, you should read the abstracts and have a look at the programme. It shows you where the focus lies, and there’s always something interesting. And you don’t have to attend all of the days; choose the day that seems the most rewarding.

IASSIST 2020, on the theme ”Data by Design: Building a Sustainable Data Culture”, is hosted on 19–22 May in Gothenburg, Sweden. Until 6 December you can contribute to the conference by proposing to give a presentation or workshop. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the registration, which opens in the beginning of February.

You can read more about the conference on the IASSIST 2020 website. Keep up with important news by signing up for the conference newsletter.