Charting Success: An Exciting Voyage with ASIS&T

By MD Anwarul Islam posted 01-24-2024 11:41


I thought I should take some time to reflect on my journey since my Ph.D. days in Japan. I am now a Professor at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. If I have learned and achieved much during this time, I think a huge part of that is because of ASIS&T. Below, I talk about how I joined ASIS&T, my first annual meeting, starting the South Asia chapter, and what I have gained through all of this. Perhaps, students and new researchers could get something from it. If I could do it, they surely can.

In mid 2013, when I was a Ph.D. student at the School of Knowledge Science, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, I was actively looking for knowledge Management (KM) researchers. KM as a research area had already flourished in the west, while in Asia, it was growing. I cannot count how many emails I composed and sent for possible research collaboration. As my supervisor’s primary research area was not KM, he encouraged me to look for KM experts in my field of library and information science. I received a few responses from individuals interested in collaborating, but not much came of that. Eventually, I lost my energy for emails. However, Naresh Agarwal from Simmons University responded positively and agreed to meet me online. At that time, Skype was the only available communication tool for research collaboration. Starting in September 2013, we started research collaboration in the Knowledge management area. We transitioned to using GoToMeeting and later Zoom for our meetings. During one of our meetings in 2014, he suggested that I should join the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). Inspired by him, I got interested to know more and also learnt about ASIS&T’s Special Interest Group on Knowledge Management (SIG KM) that connected many professionals including some of the leading researchers in the field of KM and Information Science.

My Ph.D. supervisor helped fund my registration and travel expenses from his research grant to attend the ASIS&T Annual Meeting in 2015. By joining the annual meeting, I received ASIS&T membership for one year. During the 78th ASIS&T Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2015, I had the opportunity to present a co-authored poster and meet my collaborator Naresh in person, with whom I had published several papers by then. He is a kind-hearted individual who played a pivotal role in helping me broaden my perspective. I had the opportunity to meet some outstanding Knowledge Management (KM) professionals, including Kimiz Dalkir. Meeting her in person was a thrilling moment for me, especially as I had been reading her seminal book on KM for my Ph.D. coursework. Observing the excellence of individuals around me was highly motivating, yet it also instilled a bit of fear. The people, programs, SIGs, chapters, committees, and apart from ASIS&T, the country USA itself, were all unfamiliar to me, as it was my first trip there. I was asked to come for the Membership Committee meeting and immediately invited to join as an officer. Believe me, I did not know what I had to do, but started working closely with the committee members, and served two years. At the Annual Meeting, participating in the plenary sessions, panels, various paper sessions and coffee chats with great Information Science researchers were all thrilling experiences for me. With wonderful experiences and memories, I returned to Japan with lots of motivation to further engage with ASIS&T.

Later, I joined the Asia Pacific Chapter as a country representative and began promoting ASIS&T activities within my community. Through this role, I got to know many people in the Asia Pacific region and contributed towards organizing a number of events. In the membership committee meetings, among the various ideas discussed in a running document for member recruitment and retention in ASIS&T, the Chair proposed starting a new chapter in South Asia as one of the ways for ASIS&T to increase member recruitment and engagement in a populated region with 8 countries and one-fourth of humanity. During our weekly research meetings, Naresh and I spent a lot of time brainstorming how to establish this chapter. In 2017, when I was awarded the New Leaders’ Award with Naresh as my mentor, we agreed to make the formation of the South Asia chapter as my New Leader’s Project. At the 2017 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., we both met with Professor Kanwal Ameen from Pakistan and discussed forming the chapter, and actively recruited members from our universities after the conference. In 2018, we drafted the petition and by-laws for the formation of the South Asia (SA) chapter, got member signatures, and sent it to the ASIS&T Board for approval. The Board approved the formation of the chapter in the second half of 2018. While the chapter started its journey, Professor Kanwal Ameen served as the Chair and I as the Co-chair (2018-2019). The following year, I served as Chair (2019-2020) and the chapter won the best chapter award. The Chapter bylaws requires the chair and the chair-elect to be from different South Asian countries. Since 2018, we have had chairs from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan. Currently, the chair is from Nepal and Chair-elect from India. The chapter membership has grown substantially aided largely be the complimentary membership provided, which is now limited to the first two years for new members from South Asia.

Since then, I have served in several roles at ASIS&T. This included chairing SIG Knowledge Management, Co-Chairing SIG International Information Issues, and being a poster Co-Chair for the 2021 Annual Meeting. Currently, I serve as an advisor to the South Asia Chapter, as member of the SIG-USE Award committee, and the jury chair for the Lois Lunin Award. I have published and presented several papers and posters at the ASIS&T annual meetings, regularly serve as a reviewer for ASIS&T paper submissions, and mentor my students, colleagues, and collaborators in Bangladesh and other countries to submit papers. All of these experiences have contributed to my winning several awards at ASIS&T, including the 2017 New Leaders Award, the SIG-III International Paper Contest in 2019, and the 2021 James Cretsos Award. At the 2023 Annual Meeting in London, the moment Professor Isto Huvila announced ‘This year the Lois Lunin Award 2023 goes to Md. Anwarul Islam’ still rings in my ear. I now hope to guide and mentor more and more students and new researchers in their own journeys. I would like to see many young researchers win such awards.

As I reflect on what I have gained from ASIS&T and whom I should be grateful to, I must acknowledge my gratitude to my Ph.D. supervisor for supporting my initial participation. Additionally, I am deeply thankful to my mentor, Naresh, who has consistently guided and propelled my dreams, helping me in many ways to reach my destination. Our collaboration across 10 years and hopefully many more can serve as a guide to other researchers to find the right people with whom you can form lasting relationships, and ASIS&T provides a fertile ground to do that. The funding from the New Leaders Award enabled me to travel and attend the annual meetings. Without it, I might have had to end my journey at the initial stage. I believe ASIS&T should promote the New Leaders Program more actively by inviting more individuals to come on board. This program provides a platform where someone from the global south, like myself, can envision their dreams and establish a presence in this association. I have collaborated with a number of people worldwide because of networking made possible by ASIS&T. Whenever I needed recommendation letters, for Fulbright scholarship, fellowships, faculty positions, etc., I could reach out to my ASIS&T colleagues. Without adequate funding, I sometimes had to spend a significant amount of money to travel internationally from Bangladesh to participate in the Annual Meeting. I felt propelled to do this so that I could meet my wonderful community who is caring, loving and are ready to support me to excel my research activities.

There are several benefits to becoming an ASIS&T member. Once you become a member of ASIS&T, you cannot overlook the frequent updates you get through weekly emails, webinars featuring vibrant research topics, newsletters, and informative updates through iConnect. Regular conference information, faculty hiring notices, postdoc opportunities, and open PhD positions at universities, along with news of information science research keeps you actively involved. Access to ASIS&T's digital library, ASIS&T proceedings, JASIST journal, Information Matters, ARIST, and the Bulletin, enriches your knowledge in the information science research domain. Whether you are already a leader or aspiring to become one don't let doubt and hesitation hold you back – join ASIS&T and contribute to creating a world where your value is recognized by others.

My gratitude to ASIS&T for all its support aiding me on my growth journey! I hope to pay it back by mentoring younger members!