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UKAIS President's Message
President's Message September 2012
Professor Ray J Paul
It is an honour to be elected as the new UKAIS President. I would like to extend our thanks to Guy Fitzgerald as the outgoing President, wish him well in his continued recovery, and look forward to working with him as a member of the UKAIS Board.
Information Systems (I.S.) are a major problem all over the world, and even if the label ‘I.S.’ were to fall into disuse, the problem would remain presumably with a new label.
I.S. are Information Technology in Use
The latter two words imply that people are part of the I.S. because as they use the Information Technology (I.T.), making the ad hoc decisions necessary for the organisation to continue to work, so their decisions become part of the I.S. And so it follows that the I.S. changes with time, having a short life at any point in time before becoming a newer version.
How many I.S. are being developed with the above simple description of what an I.S. is being used in practice? This is important, because if an I.S. were built with this recognition of what it is, then the question of what tasks should be handled by the I.T. and what tasks should be handled by the users can arise. I.T. is fast and accurate. People are adaptive, flexible problem solvers. They are not very good computers. So developing I.S. should be about giving responsibility accordingly on a continuing basis. This would require a lot of different thinking about controlling people and building systems as a project.
But if this is not done, the problems of I.S. will continue. I will endeavour to reinvigorate I.S. to its rightful position in organising our Societies. As promised, I stated that If you elect me, you are committing yourself to joining me in doing battle for the future health of I.S.
Previous President's Messages
Professor Guy Fitzgerald 2011
President’s Message - February 2011
Professor David Wainwright – President 2008 - 2010; Vice President 2011
YouTube Video Clip: Professor David Wainwright talks about the UKAIS
Professor David Wainwright talks about the UKAIS
I have now served as the UK Academy for Information Systems (UKAIS) President for just over one and a half years and my term of office will soon end in December 2010. The election process will soon be underway and we there will be call for nominations for Board Membership and President Elect in September. It is now an opportune time to reflect on the progress UKAIS has made over the last few years and also outline its future strategy and direction.
UKAIS has maintained a healthy financial position sustained by membership fees which we have deliberately kept very low and also from annual conference surpluses. The strategic move to reposition the annual UKAIS conference at a prestigious and central UK venue, Oxford University, (St Anne’s and Oriel Colleges in 2009 and 2010) has proved very successful and has received excellent feedback from the community. This has attracted significant interest from not only our own UK based HE university sector community but also from an international audience. The UKAIS conference is now truly an international event which has attracted seminal internationally renowned researchers as keynote presenters including: Professors Michael Earl, Frank Land, David Avison, Robert Galliers, Shirley Gregor, Ray Paul – to name but a few. We have also broadened our remit to include top practitioners such as Paul Stevens (an ex CIO from GSK) and Karen Price (the CEO of E-Skills UK). The UKAIS conference proceedings are fully refereed and now published in the AIS E-Library. These are available to a worldwide audience as well as selected papers for the last 5 years being published in a special section of the International Journal of Information Management. The conference now has a dedicated organising and programme committee and is currently in full swing organising the next Oxford based conference in April 2011. Research and impact is central to our agenda and the new theme “IT in its many uses’ builds on our adopted simple definition of IS from Professor Ray Paul “I.S. is I.T. in use”. We are confident that the conference will go from strength to strength – this is vital as it is the main UK based Information Systems academic event that also incorporates a very popular and important PhD consortium.
UKAIS has strengthened its Board membership through co-opting senior scholars up to Professorial level. Our most senior and esteemed scholar, Professor Frank Land (emeritus professor at the LSE) has now officially retired from the Board but luckily for the community has agreed to remain actively involved especially with respect to sharing his vast knowledge and expertise wherever we meet new challenges. The current Board members can be viewed on the new website. This is still in prototype mode but enables us to have a more advanced capability for content management and active update by established members of the community. This now links to a UKAIS Facebook site and we hope that our new web based facilities will offer a platform for informed, topical, challenging and relevant debate.
As an official nominating body (professional and learned society) we have submitted a position on the scope of new sub-panels for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise. UKAIS sought feedback from its members and argued for Information Management and preferably Information Systems to be named as a component of the new sub-panel 36. A similar position was argued by professional associations for Library, Information and Records Management. The outcome was seen to be a compromise where Information Management has been re-inserted into sub-panel 36 which is now called ‘Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management’. Other academic colleagues from the Council for Information Systems Professors (CISP) argued more strongly for Information Systems to be represented in the sub-panel 19 for Business and Management Studies but with additional representation in sub-panel 36. Active researchers in IS will obviously be constrained by whatever their senior HE management dictates. This mainly depends where they are located: in a Business School, School of Information Studies/Sciences or Computer Science/Informatics. Our situation is influenced by the Association of Business (ABS) which ranks academic journals with starred ratings from 1 to 4* and the fact that academic staff have a tendency to publish tactically. Information Systems research is often published in excellent journals outside those determined by this list – and we could take an opportunity to re-appraise the existing rankings within the list which rewards business and management mainstream journals with higher ranked status. Only two IS journals are ranked as 4*, both American, namely Management Information Systems Quarterly (MISQ) and Information Systems Research (ISR), which have very distinct publication requirements that some view as based on a very instrumental and positivist philosophy. Some commentators may interpret this as being reflective of the dominant ethos in Business Schools. The UKAIS reflects a more European research philosophy that recognises complexity, change and the social constructionism of technology resulting in research approaches that are often more interpretive or often critical in nature. It is therefore natural to publish in more eclectic journals that may reside outside the accepted business and management mainstream. The UKAIS will debate and provide a position on journal lists, rankings and their role in the next REF exercise.
Nominations are now underway for REF sub-panel membership and UKAIS is willing to endorse senior IS academics for this role acting as a bridge between the Business and Management Studies (19) and Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management (36) sub-panels.
The information Systems academic community has many major challenges ahead. UKAIS is very well positioned to facilitate the community to collaborate, debate, research and disseminate the innovative work arising from our research, teaching and practice based activities. It is time to put the angst of the past behind us concerning ‘Discipline Status’ and concerns over the scope, relevance and legitimacy of IS. Professor Ray Paul as a senior editor of the European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS) has provided countless editorials on this subject and invited position papers from leading scholars over a number of years. It is time to stop ‘navel gazing’ and get on with matters in hand – there are so many challenges and fascinating issues concerning Information Systems, its management, the effects/impact on users and on society – how they can have agency and dictate our lives – and how this will only become even more important in the future. The UKAIS makes a call for IS academics and practitioners to refocus and make new efforts to address all these challenges for the future. This applies whether we are situated in Business Schools, Computer Science, Information Sciences, Design or Sociology. The fact is that Information Systems are ubiquitous but also highly complex, difficult to understand and have amazing potential to transform our lives. It is certainly not all about profits and the bottom line and certainly not resident just in business and management.
UKAIS now needs to progress, increase its membership, and provide a more potent platform for informing business, governments, society and the public of the importance of understanding how we can design, develop, use or misuse, manage, resource and innovate better and more effective Information Systems. We are developing a strategy to enable this but need enthusiastic volunteers to help with our cause and run activities. We will also work more closely with affiliated bodies such as the Association for Information Systems (AIS) which has a large global membership – but we will remain independent to serve the specific needs of our academy in the UK.
In a recent UKAIS conference at Oxford university, Professor Ray Paul powerfully advocated his position for a new and simple definition of Information Systems: “I.S is I.T. in use” (this can also be seen in a recent series of editorials in EJIS). UKAIS fully endorses this definition. Ray also talked about the metaphor or image presented by the graphic painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by Théodore Géricault in the year 1819 which depicted the despicable acts of a cowardly naval captain and 15 crew to take the only lifeboat of a sinking ship and leave the other 150 crew and passengers to cling to the wreckage, starve and die – this can be seen in the Paris Louvre gallery. This painting was seen as revolutionary in its time as it shocked society to view events in terms of reality rather than romanticism showing Gods, Kings, Beauty and Heroes which was the dominant paradigm of arts and society. UKAIS we hope will act as a forum to speak out and represent the reality of Information Systems research, its current practice, teaching and impacts on business and society. We invite contributions to the community and our debates either through the website, our regional upcoming events and/or the annual conference.
As the incumbent President I am proud to have represented the community and look forward to the future. The next step will be the elections and we look forward to your involvement to help design, shape and progress the future of the Information Systems Discipline for everyone’s benefit.
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