Informing Science Institute

The founders of the Informing Science Institute consider how to ensure that their all-volunteer research and educational institute can be sustained into the future.

It was late on a Friday evening and the “big” question had raised its ugly head again. Husband and wife, Eli Cohen and Betty Boyd, were slowly sipping their second glass of their favorite merlot and debating how to make the Informing Science Institute (ISI) into a sustainable organization. They had founded ISI, an academic association, in 1998 to foster the development of a scientific discipline called Informing Science.
According to the ISI website: “Informing Science is a transdisciplinary quest to discover better ways to inform” (“About ISI,” n.d.). It studied the issues surrounding the informing process and researched how the process could be improved. By being transdisciplinary, Informing Science crossed disciplinary boundaries to transfer knowledge from one field to another. Eli felt it was an exciting and new scientific field which welcomed researchers from every scientific discipline.

They had built a platform to encourage and disseminate research on this new field. Together they had dedicated a substantial portion of their lives to making ISI a highly respected institution. Eli and Betty had spent almost 100 percent of their time performing the day to day activities required to make ISI successful. They had made all of the small operational decisions and had worked with the Board of Governors on the strategic issues.

But as they grew older, both now in their 70’s, they could not continue to maintain the frenetic pace and heavy workload. Increasingly, their late-night discussions were focused on how to make ISI sustainable. They also realized the need to develop a succession plan outlining leadership continuity. In just two months, they planned a meeting with the ISI’s Board of Governors to discuss next steps.
As they prepared for the Board meeting, they considered what decisions needed to be made. The decisions they wrestled with included: How would they plan for their own succession? Were changes required in ISI’s mission statement and economic model? What were the risks involved in transitioning leadership, and how did they assure that their life’s work would continue to prosper and didn’t die with them? Together they had faced many important decisions, but ISI’s long-term continuity and sustainability might be the greatest. Yes, Eli thought to himself, these were not going to be easy decisions for them to make.

Authors:  Christian Koch, Jeff Johnson


Cite as:Koch, C. and Johnson, J. (2018). Informing Science Institute Muma Case Review 3(6). 1-26.