The iSchools were founded to establish broad recognition of the iField and its importance to society. In this role, they sought to position a group of academic institutions to identify, clarify, and speak to the major issues, challenges, and driving questions at the nexus of information, technology, and society. While a relatively small number of universities took the lead in establishing an organization with this goal, those who share the goal and contribute to its achievement go far beyond the small collection of organizers. The defining characteristics of iSchools (whether iCaucus members or not) include:
- an interest in the relationship between information, technology, and people;
- a commitment to learning and understanding the role of information in human endeavors;
- a recognition that expertise in all forms of information is required for progress in science, business, education, and culture; and
- a belief that this expertise must include understanding of the uses and users of information, as well as information technologies and their applications.
The collective efforts of the iSchools (e.g., the iConference, the web site, and special projects) are managed by the iCaucus. Members of the iCaucus pay an annual fee and have one vote on iCaucus decisions. The iCaucus charter specifies its membership criteria. Candidate memberships are reviewed by a membership committee and voted on by the full iCaucus membership. While not rigid, iCaucus members are expected to have substantial sponsored research activity, to engage in the training of future researchers (usually through an active, research-oriented doctoral program), and a commitment to progress in the information field. Each iSchool’s representative to the iCaucus (usually a dean) is expected to report to the chief academic officer of the parent institutions.
The iSchools sponsor the iConference as a forum for faculty, students, and researchers to share their work and to develop their extended network of colleagues. The conference runs 3-4 days and the program typically includes a doctoral colloquium, poster and paper sessions, panels, roundtables, and social events. The first iConference was held at Penn State in September 2005. Subsequent iConferences were hosted by the University of Michigan and UCLA.