Religion, Non-human Animals, and Critical Research: Reflections on ASIS&T 2023

Dr Rachel Salzano was one of Edinburgh Napier University’s delegates at ASIS&T 2023 Annual Meeting, presenting her poster on community validation as a method to establish trustworthiness in qualitative LIS research. In this post, Rachel reflects on her other experiences at the annual meeting.

The ASIS&T 2023 Annual Meeting in London had over 100 paper and panel sessions. It was often difficult to choose between concurrent sessions, but three panel sessions stood out to me on the schedule.

Spiritual and religious information practices: lessons from the field

I was intrigued by the session because of its connection to my research on cultural factors and information practices. One of the central questions of the panel was ‘What ethical challenges do researchers encounter in undertaking spiritual and religious information practices research, and how can they be effectively addressed?’ A definitive answer to this question wasn’t decided in the panel. However, there were themes of acknowledging positionality, reflexivity, and reduction of power differentials. A main takeaway for me from this panel is the importance of incorporating these themes into the research planning stage.

Multispecies Information Science

What caught my eye in this session was one of the presenters, Niloofar Solhjoo, who I had met previously. The panel discussed how work with non-human animals relates to information science as a discipline. A particular focus was on the ways researchers can work with non-human animals, particularly when considering consent. The main takeaway from this panel for me was the importance of a holistic view of the information environment. I would also relate it to the work by Marcia Bates on what constitutes ‘information’ and what this means for the discipline. 

Strategies for conducting critical research in information science by designing social justice research Informed by intersectionality

A key aspect of this panel was the focus on putting lessons learnt into practice. As a result, there were more practical takeaways for me. Panel members Dr Laverne Gray and Dr Robin Brewer, for example, highlighted the importance of community connections, especially when working with traditionally underrepresented groups towards social justice. My takeaway from this panel mirrors those from the other panels. There is a need in research to consider the positionality of the researcher and to take a holistic view of the topic being researched.

This is a snapshot of my reflections on the ASIS&T 2023 Annual Meeting. My conclusion of this small snapshot is that phenomena do not exist in isolation. Nor does information. Not acknowledging the interconnectedness inherent in information science may result in research that is more biased than it could be. My overall takeaway? Think. We must think about connections and about where we sit within them throughout a research project. In this way, we ensure that the biases in our research are not so easily hidden. 

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