The business of being a community

By San Cannon | May 22, 2020

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since I took the reins of the presidency from the wonderful Tuomas Alaterä. This week should have been my turn to miss lunch to lead the annual meeting at the conference. The 90 minute event is arguably the least exciting thing about the weeklong get together which is why we generally bribe people with lunch to attend. While it may not be an electrifying event, it provides an important forum for our community and allows the leadership to share important information about the activities of the organization that may or may not be readily apparent to the members at large. It takes a lot of work to keep a group of more than 400 passionate data professionals organized and much of that work is done behind the scenes – or behind the listserv as it were.

However, like so much of the world right now, things are different. We are not in Gothenburg (yet!) and I did get to eat lunch. But the care and feeding needs of our data family go on and we want to share that information with those who are the beneficiaries as well as the contributors. So the General Meeting of the IASSIST community went online this year. As has happened to much of our daily work in this pandemic-induced, socially distanced world, we stared at a screen with faces in little boxes and did the business of keeping the organization running. Along the way we got to see the faces of friends and colleagues that have been distant this past year (or more for those unable to join us in Sydney last year). All in all, more than 100 IASSISTers tuned in to hear about what we are doing and how things are going. No lunch bribery needed. This is what they heard.

  • Postponing the conference was a tense and painful decision that was the right thing to do. Instead of being in Gothenburg this week, we’ll be there 7-9 April 2021. The Program and Local Arrangements committees are already working hard to shift the presentations, workshops, and entertainment to the new week. Many thanks to Stephanie Labou, Stephanie Tulley, Louise Corti, and Iris Alfredsson!
  • We have a new and updated website! But you probably noticed if you are reading this blog post. We had a tight deadline because our hosting company was ceasing operations, but our great web team got it done. Kudos to Tuomas Alaterä, Zac Painter, Harrison Dekker, and Abay Israel!
  • We are hosting our first regional workshop! Also postponed until 2021, the first IASSIST Africa regional workshop will be held on 11-13 January at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. A lot of excellent work was done on this by Winny Nekesa and colleagues in East Africa.
  • We are financially sound. There are still some outstanding issues involving payments to the Canadian government and the need to make changes to our European financial operations (including the appointment of a European Regional Treasurer) but so far we are good.
  • We have lots of information available (GA2020 documents) about our Membership, Professional Development, and Fellows Committees. The latter two have new co-chairs to help with all the important business. Congratulations to Bobray Bordelon and Sarah Young! Our interest groups also submitted written reports so members can see what has been happening with Qualitative Social Science & Humanities, Geospatial, and Health Data Interest Group. Many thanks to Richard Welpton, Jennie Murack, Amanda Tickner, Sebastian Karcher, and Alesia Montgomery for leading these efforts.
  • Regional secretaries highlighted member accomplishments, government promises, and buzzword initiatives in Africa, Europe, Canada, and the US. Thanks to Winny Nekesa, Anne Sofie Fink Kjeldgaard, Carol Perry and Stephanie Tulley for their work and the updates.

Selfie of Sam Guss, who was the Kahoot trivia champion, with a certificate.

Champion's smile

Once the important business was done, it was time for trivia! Our amazing secretary Lynda Kellam led us in a Kahoot session to see who could identify conference locations and years, banquet venues, and guest speakers. Congratulations to Sam Guss who was the trivia champion!

Now that the formal business is done, most of us will return our focus to the community and the future. 2021 is an IASSIST election year where the membership will choose a President, Vice President, and Treasurer along with many regional representatives. This is an opportunity for people to get involved and help shape what IASSIST will look like on the other side of the coronavirus madness. Please consider who you’d like to have in those roles and when the call goes out in the fall, nominate those who you believe will be best positioned to help run the business of our community. Most of them will even get to eat lunch at the next business meeting.

Much heartfelt thanks to everyone who tuned in. If you weren’t able to join us live, the recording is on the YouTube channel. Here are the smiling faces of those who had their camera on. (Apologies if I missed anyone and bonus points if you can identify the duplicate – my photo editing skills aren’t that great.) Stay safe and healthy. Stay connected to this wonderful community. We’ll see you on the other side of these challenging times, hopefully in Gothenburg for the best IASSIST ever.

San Cannon

Group photo of many IASSIST members who participated the virtual General Assembly 2020 on Zoom.

The best virtual IASSIST General Assembly ever.