With the ICA annual conference a few weeks away, I’m delighted to share with you a final set of updates and reflections on this year’s efforts and initiatives (and a sneak peek as to what is on the horizon).
International partnerships, conferences, and growth
Last year, during ICA’s annual conference in Prague, I met with Rafael Obregon and Charlotte Lapsansky, two colleagues from UNICEF, as well as Radhika Gajjala of Bowling Green State University, who is also affiliated with the Global Alliance for Social and Behavioural Change. Our conversation that afternoon revolved around possible collaborations between UNICEF and ICA– perhaps a student fellowship or a faculty sabbatical of sorts. How could each organization benefit from such formal ties? What could each bring to the table?
Conversations about developing such institutional linkages were not the first between representatives of our respective associations – nor will they be the last (ICA president-elect Terry Flew is continuing these discussions). Regardless of who sits at the table, potential initiatives can emerge organically as organizations find natural allies in a given arena, and sometimes they stem from a happenstance meeting of individual minds or interests. With members who are geographically dispersed and engaged with communication phenomena from all corners of life, ICA is fortunate to be able to leverage resources that allow for growth – especially in parts of the world where the communication discipline has a less visible footprint.
This past year is a testament to that. In October 2018, the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies at Universiti Teknologi MARA in Selangor, Malaysia, hosted an ICA regional conference, “Media Transformation: Shifting Paradigms and Global Challenges.” The following month saw another regional conference in Accra, Ghana. Organized by the School of Information and Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, this meeting focused on African digital cultures, with an eye toward emerging research, practices, and innovations. ICA also lent its name to an affiliated conference held in Germany, the Open Social Science Conference (OSSC19), held in January 2019 and organized by the Mannheim Center for European Social Research.
On the near horizon, scheduled for October 2019 in Bali, Indonesia, is our next regional conference, titled “Searching for the Next Level of Human Communication: Human, Social, and Neuro (Society 5.0).” And another ICA-affiliated conference, the International Conference on Trends in Media and Message, will convene this November 2019 in Dubai, UAE. We are grateful for the efforts of individuals both within and outside of ICA who have taken the initiative to spearhead such intellectual efforts.
ICA is also taking steps to strengthen ties with its association members, institutions that have some intellectual kinship with us – for instance, the Chinese Communication Association, Media Ecology Association, and the International Environmental Communication Association, to name but a few. As part of their membership fee, association members are invited to host one panel session during the annual conference, and we will have nearly 20 such sponsored panels this year. In Washington DC, the Executive Committee will be meeting with representatives from these associations to identify common interests and build stronger ties and partnerships that will allow ICA to grow its disciplinary and geographic presence.
Enhanced visibility and impact of journals
If a professional association can be anthropomorphized, the heart of ICA’s intellectual being is the scholarship that appears in its journals. ICA’s six journals span the broad swath of theories, methods, and approaches embodied in communication scholarship, and the five-year impact factors for the ranked publications range from a robust 3.3 to nearly 6.5. Though some eschew impact factors (indeed, they are only one – and increasingly less frequently deployed – way of assessing visibility and impact), these figures point to the longstanding desire to get research “out there.”
With open access at our collective doorstep, ICA’s task force on this issue will delve into how our members and publications will be impacted. Given how Plan S will require publicly funded European research to be published in open-access journals as early as 2020, the task force will be collecting data to map the terrain and identify how publication constraints vary across funding agencies, institutions, and countries. The task force’s remit also includes reviewing business models, the viability of specific levels of article-processing charges, potential open-access initiatives, and how open-science practices can tie into open access.
Amidst these shifts in the publishing landscape, ICA journals remain in capable hands. This past year saw an editorial transition at Journal of Communication, from Silvio Waisbord (George Washington U) to R. Lance Holbert (Temple U). Lance joins an impressive team of ICA journal editors: Sarah Banet-Weiser (London School of Economics) and Laurie Ouellette (U of Minnesota), who are at the helm of Communication, Culture, & Critique; David Ewoldsen (Michigan State U, Annals of the ICA); Eun-Ju Lee (Seoul National U, Human Communication Research); Rich Ling (Nanyang Technological U, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication); and Karin Wilkins (U of Texas, Austin, Communication Theory). Karin’s term ends next year, and the Publications Committee, chaired by Robin Nabi (U of California, Santa Barbara), has selected her replacement; this decision will be announced in Washington, DC.
Bolstering ICA, Supporting its Members
Behind the scenes this past year at ICA were key efforts to further strengthen the association. After all, the health of any organization should never be taken for granted; hence ICA’s call for engagement this spring. With an online mechanism by which members can express an interest in serving on a committee or task force. we now have a larger pool of volunteers – one with ostensibly greater intellectual, institutional, and geographic breadth – from which the incoming president can draw when filling committee vacancies. This call for engagement worked extremely well and we are eager to see even more names come over the transom in the years to come.
ICA’s standing committees work on a host of areas, including awards, publications, membership and internationalization, and others. Alongside these committees are task forces constituted around specific charges. The Visual Identity Task Force, chaired by Anthony Fung (City U of Hong Kong), has been working with a design company to create a consistent, globally recognized visual identity for ICA. In addition, the sustained efforts of the Task Force on Ethical Considerations, cochaired by Lee Humphreys (Cornell U) and Eve Ng (Ohio U), have been revising ICA’s Code of Ethics. Integrating input from numerous stakeholders, this team has grappled with sensitive issues ranging from codes of conduct to ethical considerations for social-media use. The newly formed Strategic Planning Task Force, cochaired by Cynthia Stohl (U of California, Santa Barbara) and Karin Wilkins (U of Texas, Austin), will start its work this year to determine how ICA can best move forward given its multiple spheres of activity, its growing membership, and a continuously evolving discipline.
We are heartened by the professional-development opportunities that await conference attendees in Washington, DC. The program boasts eight preconferences devoted to graduate-student research as well as Blue Sky Workshops on topics as varied as work-life balance for young scholars, multimodal research, and preregistration. ICA appreciates the integration of workshops in regional and affiliated conferences: The Accra regional conference included a student mentorship session, while the OSSC19 conference ended with a workshop on research transparency and reproducibility.
ICA’s successes do not rest on the efforts of a single individual, and our accomplishments are the result of effective teamwork. This past year, I have witnessed the Board of Directors, committees, and task forces keeping the trains moving, sharing creative ideas, and raising trenchant questions, all of which have been instrumental in strengthening ICA. Similarly, I’ve had the immense pleasure of partnering this past year with an Executive Committee that appreciates diversity of thought, carefully assesses benefits and risks, and thinks strategically. Alongside ICA executive director Laura Sawyer, past presidents Amy Jordan (Rutgers U), Peng Hwa Ang (Nanyang Technological U), and Paula Gardner (McMaster U), president-elect Terry Flew (Queensland U of Technology), president-elect-select Claes de Vreese (U of Amsterdam), and treasurer Peter Monge (U of Southern California) have been invaluable partners at the table.
Whether through their own research and/or volunteer efforts, ICA members have evinced great commitment to the larger enterprise. The advancement and sustaining of any community must come from within, so these individual and collective efforts are vital.
Thank you all, and see you in Washington, DC!