Meeting in a time of lock-down – ISKO UK’s experience

Many of us have been adapting to life in lock-down, including groups such as ISKO UK, which I have the honour of chairing.  We are a small, specialist and very active group that promotes the science of knowledge organization.  As part of an international network of societies, the UK chapter is particularly interested in the interface between research and practice.  The opportunity to work with IRSG and others on the UKeiG Tony Kent Strix Award has been beneficial to members of both groups.

ISKO UK’s principal activity is organizing events: a conference every two years, one-day and half-day meetings, training sessions and evening meetups using the network.  This year’s meetups started in January with evening sessions at the Canada Water Public Library in London.  With the sudden emergence of the pandemic and the lockdown in March 2020, the organizing group very rapidly decided to run the rest of the evening meetings as online Zoom sessions.  The Meetup infrastructure is used to publicise the meetings and register participants.  Password-protected Zoom sessions are used to deliver a short talk followed by discussion.  One of the themes was ‘Knowledge organization everywhere’ where invited speakers spoke about their experience of using knowledge organization techniques in their work.  The autumn series of meetings will focus on techniques for organizing information.  The September meeting will include talks by ISKO UK members about the use of mind mapping, automatic clustering software and other techniques for developing taxonomies.

Zoom has worked well for our purposes – it works from a browser and does not require participants to install an app or subscribe to a service.  We make use of features such as polling and the chat line for managing questions.  The password feature allows us to control numbers – our subscription currently allows up to 100 participants for a meeting.  We can record sessions, which provides an on-going educational resource – something that a number of iSchools make use of.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of virtual meetings is that we have been able to become much more inclusive.  Our online meetings are attended by 40-50 participants from both the UK and abroad.  It has also allowed us to invite speakers from abroad to give a talk without the enormous financial exposure that would normally result.  ISKO UK has been considering organizing webinars for some time but were it not for the pandemic lock down we would have not embraced online meetings so quickly and to this extent.  Although we hope for a return to face-to-face meetings, I think that the virtual meetings will become a permanent feature of the offerings of ISKO UK.

For details of our current programme of meetings and for slides from previous meetings visit:

David Haynes, Chair of ISKO UK


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