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President's Message: Planning for the Future of ICA

Posted By Peng Hwa Ang, ICA President, Nanyang Technological U, Monday, May 1, 2017
When I ran in the elections to be the President of the ICA, I told our former President Sonia Livingstone (LSE) that had she inspired me to run for the presidency. The reason: When she was handing over the gavel, she play-acted that she was hanging on. I have never seen that anywhere. Most academics run away from committees; here was one who didn’t want to let go.
I can say that my 2+ years on the Executive Committee have been a growth experience for me. Amy Jordan (U Penn) in her own inimitable way said as much in her final column last year. 
Instead of looking back, however, I want to point forward to developments that are coming. 

First, I expect our field—what with the heightened awareness of communication in elections—and accordingly our membership, to continue to grow. Attendance at this year’s conference is on track to be larger than last year’s. And next year’s . . . well, I have yet to meet someone who says he or she is not hoping to go to Prague. 
It is in anticipation of this exciting growth that the ICA leadership—both the 40-strong board and the smaller Executive Committee—have been meeting to prepare ourselves for the future. At the heart of this growth are the two issues that are at tension: increasing our numbers while maintaining the best of our culture.  

As the Association grows, it will likely be difficult to maintain our hotel-as-venue meeting model. Instead, we will likely be compelled to go for a convention model, where we meet in a convention center and then head back to our hotels at the end of the day. How do we continue to be a warm and friendly association (with or without the glass of wine in hand) where senior professors are not snooty but ever willing to mentor and advise? It is not just good individuals coming together: structures, programs, and architecture can play significant roles. 

The culture of an organization is set at the top. So leaders can play a major role in preserving the positive culture. And I am pleased to say that I know the Executive Committee and the Chairs and other leaders of our Divisions and Interest Groups continue to work together in a collegial atmosphere. The warm and friendly tone is one aspect of our culture we should aim to keep even as we grow. 

A potential challenge, and one that might threaten our income, is the push towards open access publication. Currently, our journals contribute 40% of our revenue. But we are bracing ourselves for the looming threat of publications going open access—and considering the worst-case scenario, where our income from the journals evaporates.  

Having said that, publications in the near term still look very strong commercially. At a recent event, the managing director of an international publishing house said that revenues from traditional journal publishing were still climbing and they expect the trend to continue. 

The EC is taking the view that open access will come. We should prepare for that likely eventuality because when it does come, it has all the potential to be as disruptive to us as Uber is to a taxi company or Airbnb to a family-run inn.  

But we are not running scared. Because of our strong journals (thanks to members), we are exploring ways to husband those resources and offer more benefits to members. A key component is to increase visibility for our members. Our Associate Executive Director JP Gutierrez has gotten more media coverage of our research.  

One idea, which was suggested by the editor I mentioned earlier, was to let our conference papers stay on our site and to be removed by the authors when they want to submit them for publication. That way, all papers—published or not—have the chance of being used by members. 

This coming year, we will form a committee to gather input regarding some of these issues. What should we change? What should we not change but perhaps fortify?  

When Cynthia Stohl (U of California - Santa Barbara) stepped down from the Executive Committee, she said that the Association was in very good hands. I agree wholeheartedly. It is in very good hands—yours. 

See you in San Diego. 

Tags:  May 2017 

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