After serving in different positions over several years in two Association of Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Associate Professor Awa Zhu was recently elected to serve as the Deputy SIG Cabinet Director for ASIS&T. She will transition into the role at the end of the upcoming ASIS&T Annual Meeting, which is being held both virtually and in-person in Salt Lake City Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2021.
For Zhu, this is an opportunity to transfer knowledge she’s picked up working in positions such as chair, co-chair, treasurer, and more, in her two SIGs, which are SIG-Social Informatics (SI) and SIG-Information Ethics and Policies (SIG-IEP). She gained a lot of experience particularly with SIG-SI in planning the program for its annual research symposium, which is essentially a mini-conference held each year either before or after the ASIS&T Annual Meeting.
“It’s a lot of fun. We call for papers, we review papers, and select papers for presentation and interactive discussion at the symposium; and the cool thing is, we also collaborated with other SIGs to hold the workshop together, like SIG-IEP and SIG-Social Media,” she said.
In her new role, she will be a liaison between SIGs and the ASIS&T board, communicating any feedback or concerns between the two. She will also take care of issues that arise among the SIGs, and assist them in navigating various processes and challenges.
As with any volunteer roles, Zhu said one of the challenges of SIGs can be maintaining the engagement of both leaders and members, all of whom are busy professionals.
“I look forward to working with more SIGs since in the past I’ve been involved with just the two SIGs. I look forward to helping the SIG leadership officers who have challenges, or officers who are unsure of how to evolve their membership, with their planning and programming and budgeting,” Zhu said.
Besides hosting workshops or meetings adjacent to the annual meeting, SIGs have their own events throughout the rest of the year. These include webinars, workshops, awards, and other opportunities for the SIG’s members. Zhu said her SIG involvement has been a great boon to her own research and networking.
“I sometimes encourage my students to attend SIG meetings, I tell them that SIGs are a group of people who have the same interests or want to do more networking and want to serve the profession by developing programs at events for people with the same interests,” she said.
In fact, Zhu is in the midst of co-editing a book, “The Usage and Impact of ICTs during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” that is the result of a collaboration that arose out of SIG networking and will be published by Routledge in winter 2022.
She also noted that her SIG network makes it more likely that people will respond to calls for papers, which makes it easier to collect quality work for events such as the SIG-SI research symposium and for her book. All in all, SIGs have been a vital link for her research and professional career, so it’s a natural fit for her to step into this new position at ASIS&T.
“SIGs have been an important part of ASIS&T organization and I’m looking forward to helping the SIGs overcome some potential challenges and maybe develop some kind of guidelines to help SIGs in times of difficulties,” Zhu said.