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Content accessibility, Metadata & Discovery take center stage at NISO Plus 2021

Posted by Richard Kobel, Vice President, SPi Global


Posted on 23 March 2021



Content accessibility, accessibility, NISO Plus conference


The second NISO Plus conference was a huge success with 850 participants from 26 countries. The conference, virtually held from February 22-25, hosted 167 speakers and moderators at 52 sessions. As the ‘nuts and bolts’ of scholarly and technical research communication become increasingly complex, I think NISO Plus is quickly becoming one of the most popular conferences for the scholarly research content market.  Therefore, it did not come as a surprise to me when the follow-up survey of attendees revealed that 98% of participants found the speakers and content either valuable or extremely valuable.

“NFAIS was always one of my favorite meetings,” said Adrienne White, Associate Director of Digital Content for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, referring to the predecessor conference from which NISO Plus was derived. “It’s more technology-driven, more nuts and bolts and practical applications, as opposed to other high-level conferences.”

Making content accessible is now imperative

One of the more popular sessions included content accessibility.  Panel leader, Barry Bealer of CodeMantra, noted that of the 285 million people globally with visual impairment, 91% of them would leave a brand if it’s content is not accessibility friendly. He also noted that only 1% of web pages are considered to be accessible. Another panelist cited the ever-changing nature of assistive technologies, as well as authoring tools. In my opinion, the message was loud and clear. Content producers will now have to continually evaluate their content for accessibility as technologies change.

Evolving need for Metadata & Content Discovery

Metadata and discovery was also discussed widely. As discovery systems become larger and more complex, metadata at the collection and title level is crucial for findability.  The content provider’s role is important in ensuring consistency and considering varying international requirements for MARC records and cataloging in different languages. Enhanced and bespoke metadata is also valuable — existing classification systems do not always suffice, thus new classification systems that are content/topic specific help, as do certain types of user-generated metadata.

White said she was impressed with the speakers, excited to learn more about enriched metadata, as well as a video and audio metadata working group created by NISO.

The keynote speakers also received a 90% value rating. Cory Doctorow, the well-known science fiction author, activist, and journalist, was one of them. Others included Dr. Margaret Sraku-Lartey, Heather Joseph, Zeynep Tufekci, and Dr. Norihiro Hagita as well. Recordings of four of the five keynotes are now publicly available.

Additionally,  the conference provided several key takeaways for the organizers. “We saw that with good community support and input, as well as careful planning, it is possible for a tiny organization like NISO to hold a virtual conference that most attendees enjoyed and valued as much as an in-person one,” said Alice Meadows, Director of Community Engagement for NISO. “Going virtual supported our goal to be more diverse and equitable in our engagement with the information community by enabling much broader and deeper participation.”

All of this is great news for NISO Plus organizers, who have already begun pulling together ideas for follow-up workshops — identifying some of the most popular topics and ideas as the basis for a series of virtual workshops, to be held in the next few months, according to NISO Plus blog.

As a leading provider of accessibility and data solutions to the scholarly communications market, SPi Global recognizes the challenges faced by content providers and continues to develop practical solutions with a combination of robust technology and subject matter experts to ensure the most efficient, highest quality output. I think the application of NISO Standards and Best Practice recommendations is fundamental to our solution development, and we highly value the important guidance NISO provides. SPi Global was one of the sponsors of the conference.

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