Joseph T. Tennis wins ALISE/Bohdan S. Wynar Research Paper Competition

iSchool Assistant Professor Joseph T. Tennis’ paper, “The Strange Case of Eugenics: A Subject’s Ontogeny in a Long-Lived Classification Scheme and the Question of Collocative Integrity,” was awarded best research paper in the annual competition conducted by the Association of Library and Information Science Education (ALISE).

Papers submitted to the panel of judges were reviewed based on the significance of the research problem, the presentation of the relevant literature, design and conduct of the study, along with the analysis and presentation of the data and the appropriateness of the conclusions.

“It is an honor to win the ALISE/Bohdan S. Wynar Research Paper award,” said Tennis. “Wynar was an award winning librarian and scholar of cataloging and bibliography.  His Introduction to Cataloging and Classification is a classic in the field.”

In his winning paper, Tennis examines the Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) of classification and notes that ‘while many theorists have concerned themselves with how to design a scheme that can handle the addition of subjects, very little has been done to study how a subject changes after it is introduced to a scheme.’ Tennis uses eugenics as an example of a subject which has changed over time. Eugenics was once classified under biological science is now absent from that classification and found instead under a policy of thought or an ideology akin to racism.

How does this change affect the ability of people to find information? How can those who work with the DDC and other classifications accommodate these kinds of shifts in subject classification to keep the integrity of the system itself? Although Tennis suggests eugenics is a ‘strange case’ he believes it is a good example when considering implications for searching and browsing.

Tennis will be honored at the 2013 ALISE annual meeting. He is the second award winner from the UW Information School, as Allyson Carlyle received the award in 2000 for her paper, "Developing Organized Information Displays for Complex Works: A Study of User Clustering Behavior."

About Joe Tennis
Joseph T. Tennis is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington iSchool. In addition to teaching in the master of library and information science, Tennis conducts research in classification theory, a subfield of Information Science concerned with the evaluation of classification practices and structures. Classification theory critiques these processes and structures in order to improve existing systems and future system design. Theorists can critique these systems from a number of viewpoints. Tennis looks at how systems change over time, compare with one another when diverse design requirements are invoked by different communities, and how systems can interoperate in the web environment. He is particularly interested in ethics of information organization, and novel ways to evaluate structures in diverse and varied work practice contexts and discourses. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington Information School.

ALISE (Association for Library and Information Science Education) is a non-profit organization that serves as the intellectual home of university faculty in graduate programs in library and information science in North America. Its mission is to promote excellence in research, teaching, and service and to provide an understanding of the values and ethos of library and information science. ALISE serves 500 individual members and more than 60 institutional members, primarily in the United States and Canada.