ECIS AIS Institutional links
Since its inception in 1994, AIS has been working with various groups in furtherance of its aims to become "The premier global organization for academics specializing in Information Systems". To this end, since 1998 it has been one of the official sponsors of the ECIS doctoral consortium and has been represented on the ECIS standing committee.
AIS has always been keen to offer its range of institutional services (electronic library, conference organisation facilities, review management software, conference insurance, sponsorship opportunities etc.) to ECIS.
The standing committee has taken no view on formal institutional links with AIS in such matters and has left it to each local organiser to decide what facilities they wish to take advantage of. Typically, this has involved use of the AIS review management system and inclusion of AIS membership in ECIS registration fees. In all cases, ECIS has included the AIS logo and links to the AIS website in its advertising material.
It has been noted that some of these AIS services have had problems. In particular, the review management system for ECIS in Bled failed to operate and all reviews had to be handled manually and Turku used a version of the AIS review management system that was no longer being updated and this inability to tailor the software to their particular requirements caused many problems. However, AIS reports that the new, ASP version of the reviewing system is now fully operational and has been used without problem for both AMCIS 2004 and ICIS 2004.
The issue that has caused the most problem, however, has been the automatic inclusion of AIS membership in the conference registration fee (for those attendees who were not already members of AIS). It would appear that there were a number of elements to this issue. The first would appear to be some confusion as to how this would be implemented, for example, would it be a "discount" for AIS members, or would AIS members effectively pay the "true" cost of the conference whilst non–AIS members would pay the true cost plus AIS membership fees. The latter is currently the arrangement that is in force, but this is not clear to all those involved. Further concerns arose about the compulsory nature of this fee and the effect it could have on attendees by raising the cost of the conference.
At the planning meeting in Turku, this issue came to a head, with concerns about the compulsory nature of the fee being an issue of principle. In the end, a compromise was reached whereby AIS membership was optional but strongly encouraged.
Academic participants 500 550
Academic participants, including AIS* membership 530 580
Academic participants, already AIS* members 460 510
Non-Academic 550 650
Ph.D. students 400 400
Doctoral Consortium students 270 270
Accompanying persons 270 270
* For the benefits of membership in the Association for Information Systems (AIS), see AIS Benefits. To qualify for the AIS discount for ECIS2004 conference, the membership needs to be current at the date of the conference, i.e. June 2004. Instructions for checking AIS membership expiration can be found at AIS member information.
It would appear, however, that making AIS membership optional has had a significant effect on the take up of AIS membership. For example, by early May 2004 for this year’s ECIS, of the 250 registrations, 53 were already AIS members, 35 had chosen to join AIS and 160 had declined to take up AIS membership.
As individuals, members of the standing committee are strong supporters of the AIS, having been long standing members, members of AIS Council and organisers of local AIS chapters. The issue, however, is not of individual support for AIS, but rather that of institutional links with AIS.
Further complications arise from the feelings of some members
of AIS Council that ECIS is a net recipient of 4000 Euros per annum for the
doctoral consortium, yet the conferences typically "break even" (the
standing committee is holding a surplus of only £4360 after over a decade of
conferences); so, despite the espoused academic goals associated with AIS
supporting the doctoral consortium, there is a reluctance on the part of some
Council members to continue to contribute financially to ECIS, if AIS membership
is left optional.
It is hoped that the use by ECIS conferences of the AIS standard financial report template will help alleviate these concerns.
It would appear that there are a number of possible options available:
1) That the ECIS standing committee formalises its links with AIS and has ECIS become one of the AIS family of conferences. There has already been some discussion of the likely implications for such an arrangement, for example, in 2002, the following exchange took place with AIS council members:
"If ECIS became part of the family of AIS conferences (in the same manner as AMCIS), AIS would likely ‘expect’ (perhaps ‘hope for’ is a better phrase), though not necessarily require, that each ECIS produces a surplus to enable AIS to continue to support the range of member and student activities it currently does. But then as ECIS would also be a ‘full member’ of AIS (if that term fits), AIS would also take responsibility for conference losses. (I do not wish to reduce the benefits of an ECIS / AIS formalisation here to purely money but that’s where we are focussed in this discussion.) ... AIS would participate in setting the budget for a conference and pay the appropriate bills but would, within reason, I expect, be strongly guided by past ECIS practices. Thus a major benefit to future organizers of ECIS is that AIS assumes the financial risks involved."
Against this option, some have expressed concern about the potential co–ordination problems of the AIS office in the US liaising with local hotels, caterers, coach companies etc in diverse locations like Naples, Turku and Regensburg (although the AIS Office has run conferences in both Barcelona, Spain, and Brisbane, Australia, in recent years). Such concerns are heightened by the problems organisers have faced with previous AIS services (particularly the review management system).
If this option is accepted, more detailed discussion would need to take place about when the handover would take place etc.
2) That the standing committee explicitly rejects any further formalising of links with AIS along the lines of option 1 and continues its current practice. It would then be up to local organisers to decide, for example, if they wish to automatically include AIS membership in the conference fee, or if they wish to make use of other AIS facilities.
Against this option is the risk that AIS might wish to reconsider its sponsorship of the doctoral consortium and this might require alternative funding for the doctoral consortium to continue.
3) That the standing committee explicitly rejects any further formalising of links with AIS along the lines of option 1 and continues with its current practice but does automatically include AIS membership in the conference fee.
Against this option is the matter of principle about compulsory membership raised at the Turku planning meeting, plus the underlying issue that it would appear that AIS membership is not particularly appealing to a majority of AIS attendees and enforced membership of AIS may provoke a backlash against ECIS.