[Note: this post was originally written for and published in the Winter 2014 edition of Informer]
The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the role and impact of groups such as ours, and ask the question ‘why are we here?’ For many of us on the IRSG committee, the answer is simple: to promote the dissemination of IR knowledge and best practice in all its forms, and to create connections between communities so that research results are visible to practitioners and challenges faced by practitioners are visible to researchers. But are we delivering on this objective? Do our activities and outputs truly reflect the interests of our members? And how far should we go in understanding those interests?
Perhaps we should start with ourselves, i.e. the committee itself. We’ve always been a very academic bunch, which of course is no bad thing in itself, and no doubt reflects the vibrant IR research community across Europe. But did you know that the composition of the membership tells a different story? A brief review of job titles in the IRSG members’ database would seem to indicate that the proportion of academics may in fact be as low as 10%, with practitioners making up 70% or more (the remaining 20% did not list a job title).
I’d often suspected that practitioners may indeed be the majority, but never to this extent. Which rather begs the question: does our programme of activities and outputs adequately recognise this composition, or does it perhaps reflect our own individual preferences? In particular, does our events programme (e.g. ECIR, ICTIR, FDIA, Search Solutions, etc.) align with the interests of the majority? Or does it not matter, as long as those that do step forward act to promote our goals in whatever way they can? Either way, it feels like a missed opportunity if we don’t at least try to understand better the need as interests of the wider membership, and to take those into account when planning our activities for 2014 and beyond.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether we’re getting it right. In particular:
- Does our events programme reflect your interests?
- Would you like to see us host other events? If so, what sort?
- Does Informer cover the right range of topics, and in the right manner?
- What other topics would you like to see us address?
- Are we, as a committee, sufficiently accessible and representative?
- If you are relatively new to the IRSG (or can remember such a time), what were your first impressions?
As I mentioned at the top, this post is also published in this month’s Informer. However, we’ve had to switch off commenting there due to the overwhelming amount of spam. Here we have spam filtering in place, so feel free to add your thoughts below or just email me direct at irsg AT bcs.org. Let us know what you think!