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Buenos Aires at the Crossroads of STS – Part II

Updated: February 17 2014

Since 1980s, the landscape of STS in Latin American has changed. A process of academization of the field took place vis-à-vis an increasing participation of STS scholars in government planning and policy making. Endowed with theories and methods (usually coming from Europe and the United States), academics were more concerned with rigorous empirical analysis which put aside more essayist-like approaches that had characterized the previous stage. As a consequence, ‘the structural interest (…) that had founded the field at regional and international levels, was displaced by micro-institutional and technocratic issues’.1

These microanalyses of science (with a focus on institutions, research groups, or even theories) paralleled a growing interest in a social history of science, critical of previous internalist perspectives. Additionally, externalist studies of technology begun to develop, especially at the Centro Interunidade de História da Ciência (CHC), at Universidade de São Paulo. Interestingly, these analyses allowed Latin American scholars to recognize important limitation of the theories received from the North. ‘On the one hand, previously accepted topics were revised from different perspectives (…) On the other, some – though a few – critical works were written in order to question the proficiency of new relativist concepts as explanatory mechanisms of local dynamics’.2 In a way, these studies contributed to extend a tradition of critical appropriation of foreign knowledge that had begun in the previous decades under the umbrella of the Pensamiento Latinoamericano en Ciencia, Tecnología y Sociedad school. Accordingly, the reflection about the peripheral condition of Latin American science and technology continued during this stage (with relevant contributions from scholars such as Hebe Vessuri, Renato Dagnino, Hernán Thomas, Pablo Kreimer, Marco Cueto, Leonardo Vaccarezza, and Pablo Zabala), along with other more policy-oriented themes, such as technological innovation (Judith Sutz, Rodrigo Arocena, Rosalba Casas, and Jorge Charum), and policies on science, technology, and higher education (Mario Albornoz, Enrique Oteiza).

Unlike the previous phase, institutional development become fundamental at this one. Linked with postgraduate programs in STS, most research in the field has been produced at the Departamento de Política Científica e Tecnológica (UNICAMP, Brazil), Departamento de História da Ciência (FIOCRUZ, Brazil), Departamento de Estudios de la Ciencia (IVIC, Venezuela), Instituto de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (Universidad de Quilmes, Argentina), Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (UNAM, Mexico), and Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, as well as Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco (Mexico), Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), with an emphasis on its Programa de História das Ciências e das Técnicas e Epistemologia; The Research Group NECSO - CNPq /Núcleo de Estudos de Ciências - Tecnologias - Sociedade (Brazil); Centro de Estudios Peruanos (Peru), Universidad de La Habana (Cuba) and Universidad Nacional (Colombia). Without a bond with postgraduate programs, these institutions have also undertaken research on STS: Comisión Sectorial de Investigación Científica de la Universidad de la República (Uruguay), Centro Interunidade de História da Ciência (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil), Casa de Oswaldo Cruz (Brazil), the Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo Económico y Tecnológico at Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua (Mexico), the Grupo de História e Teoria da Ciência at Universidade Estadual de Campinas, the Sociedad Mexicana de Historia de la Ciencia y de la Tecnología, the División de Historia de la Ciencia at Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Físicas, Exactas y Naturales, among others.

The scholars from these institution were devoted also to creating spaces for interaction. As a consequence, some professional societies (such as Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología – ESOCITE – and Asociación Latino-Iberoamerican de Gestión Tecnológica) have regularly organized conferences since the mid-1990s. Other important institutions, such as UNESCO, International Union of Philosophy of Science, Latin American Studies Association, Organization of Ibero-American States, and the Ibero-American Program on Science and Technology (CYTED) also organized academic events in the region, giving rise to longstanding contributions, such as the Red de Indicadores de Ciencia y Tecnología Iberoamericana/Interamericana (RICYT), the Red de Investigación CTS+I and the Manual Latinoamericano de Indicadores de Innovación Tecnológica (Latin America Manual of Technological Innovation Indicators), known as the Manual de Bogotá.

Publications have also made it possible for scholars to interact, although the landscape of journals is complex because only a few publications have been able to appear regularly. These are Quipu (Mexico), oriented to history of science; Interciencias and Espacios (Venezuela), focused on science and technology management and, to a lesser extent, on social studies of science and technology; Redes - Revista de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia (Argentina), oriented to all areas of STS and especially to sociology of science. Occasionally, articles on STS topics can be found in Ciencia y Desarrollo (Mexico); Ciencia, Tecnología y Desarrollo (Colombia); Colombia Ciencia y Tecnología (Colombia), the institutional journal of Universidad INCCA (Colombia); Comercio Exterior (Mexico) and, since recently, CTS-Revista Iberoamericana de Ciencia, Tecnología y Sociedad (Argentina), which has been sponsored by Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), Organization of Ibero-American States, and the NGO Grupo Redes (Argentina).

By the turn of the century, STS in Latin American was institutionalized and more or less integrated to the debates of the field at international level. Postgraduate programs, mobility of students and scholars, and participation of STS academics in the policy-making process were determinant factors to strengthen the presence of science and technology in the public domain. However, there remain some challenges for the new generations of scholars. As Vaccarezza has pointed out, ‘the efforts of doing research and systematic theories were isolated and have had a low impact: be it on society as a whole, on public policies, on professional groups linked to technology management, on scientific community’.3 So a tension between groups with high academic pretensions at both theoretical and methodological level and groups involved in criticizing the development of science and technology through interventions outside the academic field seems to be a defining feature of the field in the beginning of the 21st Century. But we will reflect more on this issue in our next message.

1. Kreimer, P. Thomas, H., Rossini, P. and Lalouf, A. (eds) 2004 Producción y uso social de conocimientos. Estudios de sociología de la ciencia y la tecnología en América Latina, Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes Editorial, p. 44.

2. Kreimer et al, op. cit., p. 48.

3. Vaccarezza, L. 2004 ‘El campo CTS en América Latina y el uso social de su producción’, CTS Revista Iberoamericana de Ciencia, Tecnología y Sociedad, 2(1): 211-218, p. 215.

President’s Message #4

Updated: February 17 2014

Alert!: 4S digital publications! Please answer 15 questions today

4S is expanding its presence in digital publications, with Council approval and leadership by a Digital Publications Subcommittee.  Among the options considered are an open access journal, blogs, podcasts, videotaped lectures, reports and position statements, teaching resources, and links to projects of making and doing.

Please answer 15 questions about the kinds of resources you might find valuable for your work as an STS scholar and for building STS as a scholarly field. 

Digital Publications Subcommittee:  Wen-Hua Kwo (chair, National Yang-Ming U, Taiwan), Ali Kenner (Drexel U, USA), Abby Kinchy (Rensselaer, USA), Laurel Smith-Doerr (U Massachusetts, USA), Katie Vann (ST&HV), Kelly Moore (ex officio, Chair, 4S Publications Committee), Gary Downey (ex officio, President).

Announcing 4S Reports and Position Statements Committee

In a world of media outlets looking for quality content, official 4S reports and position statements could become one category of pathways for STS scholars to achieve effective critical participation (cf. December 2013 President's message) beyond the boundaries of the field.

To entice members to draft and submit potential STS reports and position statements, 4S now has a Committee on Reports and Position Statements, formerly the Committee on Public Engagement. 

Committee members are at work developing guidelines for groups of 4S members to produce draft STS reports and position statements, and for Council to vet them fully with the membership.  Note: such reports and position statements need not pertain only to controversies!

We hope to have guidelines formally approved by August.

4S Reports and Position Statements Committee:  Vivian Lagesen (chair, NTNU, Norway), Wen-Hua Kuo (National Yang-Ming U, Taiwan), Wes Shrum (Louisiana State U, USA), Steve Zehr (ex officio, 4S Secretary), Gary Downey (ex officio, 4S President).

Announcing a student member on the Nicholas C. Mullins Award Committee

For the first time, the Nicholas C. Mullins Award Committee includes a student member. The Mullins Award recognizes "an outstanding piece of scholarship by a graduate student in the general field of Science and Technology Studies."

After consulting with Council, I decided to add a student member to the committee for the following reasons:

Nicholas C. Mullins Award Committee: Sulfikar Amir (chair, Nanyang Technological U, Singapore), Abby Kinchy (Rensselaer, USA), Samuel Tettner (6S rep, Mahindra United World College, India), Claire Waterton (Lancaster U, UK)

Deadline!: nominate candidates for Council and President

As I described last month, Council now selects nominees for new Council members and the new President. Claire Waterton (Lancaster U, UK) is managing the process for identifying candidates for Council. I am managing the process for identifying candidates for President. We will complete the work soon.

Please suggest here potential candidates, including yourself, for Council, President, or both. To aid Council in its deliberations, include a brief description of each candidate's qualifications.

2nd chance!: nominate speakers for the Joint Presidential Plenary

"What Is STS For? What Are STS scholars For?: Mapping STS Today" is the title of the opening Joint Presidential Plenary in Buenos Aires.  

24 STS scholars (12 each from 4S and ESOCITE) will have 3 minutes each to respond to these prompts by describing what they do, how and why they do it, and what they seek to accomplish in the process. Speakers will present in one of the three official languages, accompanied by slides translating their presentations into the other two languages.

Here's your second chance to suggest to me one or more potential 4S presenters (other than yourself) who can share a line of STS scholarship that you find valuable, and do so powerfully, passionately, and persuasively.  Although not essential, I welcome your identifying yourself so I know from where the suggestion comes. I am seeking counsel from many directions.


Go to Paris April 17-20 for Ethnografilm, sponsored by 4S!

Come to Buenos Aires August 20-23 for the joint ESOCITE/4S annual meeting!  (And bring your books to display and donate to the silent auction--to support student travel).

Gary Downey


Introduction to Latin American STS, Part One

Updated: January 10 2014

4S going south for the first time in its history is, above all, an opportunity for members to engage with a long, rich, and fruitful tradition of Science and Technology Studies in Latin America. In this message, and following a historical account proposed by Kreimer et al.1 , I would like to offer you a short account of the beginning of this tradition, which we could arbitrarily situate in the 1960s. In order to organize this story, we could say that the beginning of STS in Latin America revolved around three actions in which academics were involved: (1) to make visible local scientists and their contexts; (2) to criticize lineal models of innovation, and (3) to recognize the limitations of mainstream social theories of science. As in other places, the origins of the field can be thought of as a continuum of individual (and institutional) interventions to transform reality, a conviction that many – in science and beyond – seem to have shared at that time.

Making visible Latin American science required academics (most of them historians) to highlight the life and work of preeminent local scientists (such as Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil and Bernardo Houssay in Argentina), focusing on their talent and vision. Others studied the institutional context and social conditions for science to develop, producing an externalist perspective that was complemented by scholars, such as José Babini in Argentina and Eli de Gortari in Mexico, who studied disciplines and gave birth to an internalist approach to science and technology. Both perspectives relied on theoretical frameworks proposed in the central countries.

At the same time, some engineers and scientists engaged in criticizing the lineal model of innovation and introduced a new vocabulary to deal with the role of science and technology in the area. What is now known as Pensamiento Latinoamericano en Ciencia, Tecnología y Sociedad (PLACTS)2 – Latin American School on Science, Technology and Society – explored topics such as ‘national projects’, ‘implicit and explicit policies’, ‘technological styles’, and ‘technological packages’ among others, with which they attempted to describe how science and technology had unfolded in Latin America. Amílcar Herrera, Jorge Sábato and Oscar Vasavksy (Argentina), José Leite Lopes (Brasil), Miguel Wionczek (Mexico), Francisco Sagasti (Peru), Máximo Halty Carrere (Uruguay), and Marcel Roche (Venezuela) are only a few of the scholars of this school of thought, which was more interested in action than in academia. Because of that, many of them played key roles in the development of national systems of research in their countries.

Finally, sociological and anthropological approaches to science and technology, influenced by structural-functionalist sociology, were hardly developed in the region, perhaps due to the criticisms received by this school as conservative. In a context of unstable political conditions in which social sciences were more focused on conflict and Marxism became mainstream theory to understand social life, Edmundo Fuenzalida (Chile), Simon Schwartzman (Brazil), and Marcel Roche (Venezuela) made important contributions to STS by focusing on the development (and constraints) of national scientific communities.

Between 1960 and 1980, these individual interventions did not translate necessarily into institutional design.3 Since 1980, however, the field of STS in Latin America has expanded and strengthened, but this will be part of our next messages.
  1. Kreimer, P. Thomas, H., Rossini, P. and Lalouf, A. (eds) Producción y uso social de conocimientos. Estudios de sociología de la ciencia y la tecnología en América Latina, Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes Editorial.
  2. For more information, see http://www.oei.es/revistactsi/numero4/escuelalatinoamericana.htm
  3. More about this phase of STS in Latin America, see Vessuri (1993) (http://sss.sagepub.com/content/17/3/519.abstract)

President’s Message, January, 2014

Updated: January 10 2014

Intro to Latin American STS!

I have asked our co-program chairs, Leandro Rodriguez Medina (UDLAP, Mexico) and Pablo Kreimer (CONICET [National Council for Scientific Research], Argentina), to prepare a series of brief introductions to Latin American STS. Most ESOCITE members know far more about 4S than most 4S members know about ESOCITE. Also, commitments to action have been a recurring theme across Latin American STS from which 4S members can learn, among other things. Leandro and Pablo offer their first contribution below.

Nominees for Council and President?

Beginning this year, Council as a whole will select nominees for new Council members and the new President. Claire Waterton (Lancaster U, UK) is managing the process for identifying candidates for Council. I am managing the process for identifying candidates for President.

Please suggest here potential candidates, including yourself, for Council, President, or both. To aid Council in its deliberations, include a brief description of each candidate's qualifications.

Thanks to Steve Zehr (U Southern Indiana, USA), 4S Secretary, for preparing the following descriptions of terms and responsibilities:

Council members serve a three-year term beginning immediately after the annual 4S meeting. Three members are elected annually from a slate of 5-7 candidates. Council members are expected to be available for two meetings annually – one at the annual meeting and the other during a two-day spring meeting. Council members also initiate and participate in regular 4S business throughout the year. Regular business includes considering and formulating policy, providing feedback to the President on matters of concern, discussing and formulating new initiatives, and other business as necessary. Council members also serve on one prize committee each year and additional committees as requested by the President. The workload is not onerous, but does require a 3-year commitment.

The President serves a two-year term after one year as President-Elect. All past Presidents are non-voting members of Council. The President is in charge of the affairs of the society. S/he serves as an ex-officio member of all committees and a voting member of the Council. The President organizes and presides over both annual Council meetings and the annual business meeting, oversees the work of committees, represents 4S in dealings with other organizations, helps formulate society policy, organizes a Presidential Plenary at each annual meeting, assists in developing new initiatives, and works with the Secretary and Treasurer in the conduct of regular business.

Speakers for the Joint Presidential Plenary in Buenos Aires?
"What Is STS For? What Are STS scholars For? Mapping STS Today" is the title of the opening Joint Presidential Plenary in Buenos Aires.

24 STS scholars (12 each from 4S and ESOCITE) will have 3 minutes each to respond to these prompts by describing what they do, how and why they do it, and what they seek to accomplish in the process. Speakers will present in one of the three official languages, accompanied by slides translating their presentations into the other two languages.

As you depart for the opening reception, we will challenge you to go meet someone you don't know, especially from the other society, and ask how s/he responds to these prompts.

I invite you to suggest to me one or more potential 4S presenters (other than yourself) who can share a line of STS scholarship that you find valuable, and do so powerfully, passionately, and persuasively. Although not essential, I would welcome your identifying yourself so I know from where the suggestion comes. I will be seeking counsel from many directions.

Come to Buenos Aires!
Gary Downey

President’s Message, December 2013

Updated: December 11 2013

As his final acts as 4S President, Trevor Pinch (Cornell U, USA) completed the 2013 governance review and restructuring process on November 15 by appointing three new 4S officers.  Please join me in both welcoming them and thanking them for their service! 

Stephen Zehr (U Southern Indiana, USA) is 4S Secretary.  Steve previously served on Council and currently also chairs the Handbook Subcommittee of the Publications Committee. The Handbook Subcommittee provides intellectual advice and oversight for the Handbook co-editors. 

Paige Miller (U Wisonsin-River Falls, USA) is 4S Treasurer.  Paige previously served for four years as Associate Treasurer. She arrives with full knowledge of the financial workings of the Society. [Note: Council agreed that the treasurer should be located in the U.S. since our banking is done there.]

Wes Shrum (Lousiana State U, USA) is now Program Officer, charged with meeting planning.  It is enough to tell you that, to formalize contracts in Buenos Aires, he spent 10 days there in November 2012, followed by 4 additional months of almost daily negotiations.  Without Wes, our meeting registration fees would go up by 50-100%.  More on the joint meeting below.

These appointments guarantee a smooth transition for 4S.  Position descriptions are still evolving, encouraging Steve, Paige, and Wes to bring creative agencies to bear in elaborating and fulfilling them.

Member participation in Council decision making

I expect to seek responses from members on all new Council initiatives.  In this message there are multiple links to an online survey where I invite you to provide input on matters facing the society.

The San Diego evaluation survey yielded 163 anonymous comments.  The survey results and these comments helped shape two-hour Skype meetings I subsequently held with all 9 Council members. It is clear that online comments can serve as one pathway for member participation in Council decision making. 

I generally expect to seek comments after Council has approved drafts from committees. Committees need freedom from interference while they do their work. In some cases, I'll share background information to alert you what proposals might be coming.  See next month. The default setting for comments is anonymity. Council will review comments before making final decisions.

4S Statement of Purpose

One outstanding task for Council from the governance review is to produce a new statement of purpose for 4S.  One Council member has been working on this.  I will be charging a committee to develop a draft statement.  I invite you to make suggestions on what the document might include.  I will invite you later to comment on the initial draft Council approves.

Spring Council meeting

As recommended by the Governance Review Committee, Council will experiment with a spring meeting this March.  SHOT's Executive Council does this and finds it essential.  We already have a sizeable agenda, headlined by planned initiatives in digital publications. We invite you to suggest items that concern you.  We are minimizing costs, and after the meeting will assess its value and optimal frequency.

Ethnografilm, April 17-20, Paris, France

Ethnografilm has 350 submissions! More than 100 are of academic origin.  A substantial proportion have STS content.

4S co-sponsors the event with the International Social Science Council and the LSU Video Ethnography Laboratory. Wes Shrum is the founding organizer.

Organizers need more reviewers to screen proposed films.  Contact Wes Shrum

Buenos Aires meeting to begin Wednesday morning

A few weeks ago, our second hotel cancelled its contract.  Rather than spreading the meeting across 3-4 venues located 2-5 blocks away, we decided to start the meeting Wednesday morning.

See below for a meeting update from the program chairs.

Critical participation

STS gained intellectual standing, in part, by critiquing the linear model of knowledge creation, diffusion, and utilization.  Yet 4S, as a professional society, has emphasized exactly that by highlighting the presentation of academic papers and the production of articles and books for academic audiences. STS scholars routinely extend themselves beyond the linear model, formulating and enacting myriad practices of making and doing. Might it be possible to extend the boundaries of 4S to more closely approximate what STS scholars actually do? 

The theme of my presidency is critical participation.  The term names practices of articulating research-based analysis with scholarly activities that draw on that analysis to critically inflect arenas beyond the field. 

Critical participation in STS frequently involves contesting locally dominant images of science and technology.  Every STS scholar arguably develops such practices, perhaps most commonly by helping students reflect critically on their expertise, identities, and commitments. Many STS scholars immerse themselves in practices of making and doing, scaling up STS insights through a multitude of projects.

Through successful critical analysis, STS generated for itself the responsibility to formulate, demonstrate, and enact scholarly practices that go beyond the linear model. Is it time for 4S as a professional society to grant greater visibility to such practices, to advance their scholarly contents and provide prominent occasions for talented scholars to better teach and learn from one another?

Gary Downey

President’s Message, November 2013

Updated: November 11 2013

Please join me in thanking Trevor Pinch (Cornell U, USA) for his superlative leadership as 4S President 2011-2013.   We have for the first time video links from the prize plenary, thanks to Wes Shrum (LSU, USA).  I detail some of Trevor accomplishments there.

Thanks and appreciation go to outgoing Council members: Laurel Smith-Doerr (Boston U, USA), Steve Zehr U Southern Indiana, USA), and Linda Layne (Rensselaer, USA).  Please consider forwarding your name to the nominating committee for election to Council.  It’s a good place to both learn about and contribute to building STS!

Hearty thanks and gratitude to Roli Varma (U New Mexico, USA) for her excellent service as program chair!

Finally, preliminary thanks to Wes Shrum for his 27-year service as 4S Secretary/Treasurer and new role as Program Officer.  More on this below.

Congratulations to our new Council members (2013-2016): Abby Kinchy (Rensselaer, USA), Claire Waterton (Lancaster U, UK), and Sulfikar Amir (Nanyang Technological U, Singapore).  And thanks to the other candidates who stood for election.  Thank you for your past, present, and future service, and please consider standing for election again!

4S Prizes

Highlighting the meeting was the Prize Plenary, held as a separate session for the second time.  Please join me in acknowledging these fine scholars.  Also, follow links to the available award presentations!

John Desmond Bernal Prize: Distinguished Contribution to the Field. Awarded to an individual judged to have made a distinguished contribution to the field.
2013 recipient: Sandra Harding (UCLA, USA)
Presentation by Paul Edwards (U Michigan, USA)

Ludwik Fleck Prize: Awarded for the best book in the area of science and technology studies.
2013 recipient: Isabel Stengers for Cosmopolitics I & II
Presentation by Donna Haraway (Emeritus, UCSC, USA)

Rachel Carson Prize: Awarded for a book-length work of social or political relevance in the area of social studies of science and technology.
2013 recipient: Tim Choy for Ecologies of Comparison (UC Davis, USA)
Presentation by Laurel Smith-Doerr (U Massachusetts, Amherst, USA)  

David Edge Prize: Awarded for the best article in the area of science and technology studies.
2013 recipient: Joan Fujimura (UW Madison, USA) and Ramya Rajagopala (UW Madison, USA) for “Different differences: The use of ‘genetic ancestry’ versus race in biomedical human genetic research
Presentation by Knut Sørensen (NTNU, Norway)

Nicholas C. Mullins Award: Awarded for an outstanding piece of scholarship by a graduate student in the general field of Science and Technology Studies.
2013 recipient: Nadine Levin for “Multivariate statistical practices and the  enactment of biological complexity in the metabonomics laboratory” (U Oxford, UK)
Presentation by Laurel Smith-Doerr (U Massachusetts, Amherst, USA)

2013 annual meeting, San Diego

As Roli Varma pointed out in her report, the San Diego meeting had 250 concurrent sessions over three days.  Its 1,200 registrants made it 4S’s largest stand-alone meeting.

The follow-up survey evaluation, our first, attracted roughly 300 responses, including 163 comments.

The main finding is that many things are working well.  These include abstract submissions, open panel submissions, online registration, online program, customer service, and mentoring program.  Most importantly, 76% percent of respondents judge the quality of presentations to be high. 

In each category, however, someone was made invisible or otherwise had unfulfilled expectations or desires.

The comments are revealing, mostly elaborating concerns.  Some highlights, with responses:

Changes in 4S governance

Council accepted the recommendations of the 4S Governance Review Committee (Wiebe Bijker [chair; Maastricht U, The Netherlands)], Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard U, USA], Mike Lynch [Cornell U, USA], Judy Wajcman [London School of Economics and Political Science, UK]) to modify 4S governance, as follows:

Bottom line: Wes is relinquishing his duties as Secretary/Treasurer after building the society for 27 years.  Come to Buenos Aires to participate in a more appropriate thank-you than an electronic communication!

Because the 4S is healthy, Council decided to focus on steady-state management.  This includes a judicious mix of new initiatives (e.g., possibly an electronic journal and 4S blog) and reduced income (e.g., by keeping registration fees as low as possible)

2014 joint meeting in Buenos Aires with the Sociedad Latinoamericana de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (ESOCITE)

News bulletin:  We recently lost access to our second hotel in Buenos Aires.  To avoid having to add four new small hotels two to three blocks away, we are adding an extra day to the meeting.   We will also need to rely significantly on roundtable sessions.

The joint meeting now begins Wednesday morning August 20!  More on this soon.

Thanks in advance to Leandro Rodriguez Medina (UDLAP, Mexico) and Pablo Kreimer (CONICET [National Council for Scientific Research], Argentina: ESOCITE) for serving as co-program chairs of this tri-lingual meeting.

Thanks to Ezequiel Benito (Maimonides U, Argentina) and Hugo Ferpozzi (Maimonides U, Argentina) for their extensive work in local arrangements.

Particular thanks go to the members of the 4S Latin American Network who used a 4S New Initiatives grant to undertake pre-planning for the 2014 meeting at a workshop in summer 2011.  The lead 4S representatives at this meeting were Christina Holmes (Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), Ivan da Costa Marques (U Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Rick B Duque (U Vienna, Austria). 

Critical participation

In my remarks at the 4S Prize Plenary, I announced that the theme of my presidency is critical participation.  More on this next month.

Come to Buenos Aires!
Gary Downey

Nominations Invited for the 2015 Fleck and Carson prizes

Updated: November 11 2013

Publishers, authors, and members of the Society may submit nominations (author, title, publisher) to the prize coordinator, Wenda Bauchspies (wkbauchspies@gatech.edu) by 1 February 2014. Eligibility: Each year the committee will review books with publication dates from the 3 prior years. For example, during the 2014 meeting, the committee will consider books with copyright dates of 2011 - 2013. Books may be re-nominated until their eligibility expires. Publishers are sent the list of nominations in February in order for review copies to be received by May 1, 2014. Authors are welcomed and encouraged to contact the prize coordinator in February for instructions on submitting books to the prize committee.

4S Seeks Secretary and Treasurer

Updated: October 17 2013

4S is seeking to appoint a new secretary and a new treasurer for a three year (renewable) period. Both positions will receive remuneration of $3000/annum. If you are interested in either of these positions please send a brief statement of interest to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by November 15. We hope to make these appointments to commence on January 1, 2014.

Handbook of Science and Technology Studies

Updated: June 11 2013

Call for Chapter Proposals – Due Aug. 15, 2013

Clark A. Miller, Laurel Smith-Doerr, Ulrike Felt, Rayvon Fouche

The editors of the next edition of the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies invite proposals for chapters to be included in the new Handbook.  This edition of the Handbook is expected to appear in 2016, some nine years after the last edition.  Much has happened during that interval: the advancement of STS theories and methods, the development of new ideas and the evolution of long-important themes, the engagement of STS with other disciplines and with the public sphere. We aim to capture an enduring snapshot of the ongoing creative activity of STS in the new Handbook, representing the core theoretical, methodological, and substantive concerns of the field and situating the field in its intellectual and historical contexts.

The STS Handbook is one of the most important books that the field produces. For STS graduate students, the Handbook offers a substantive and significant introduction to the field as a domain of scholarship, to its core ideas, and to exciting new areas of research. For scholars in the field, the Handbook can provide reviews of the key concepts and approaches across a range of subfields. For scholars in other fields, and for professionals more broadly in society, the Handbook can present a broad, deep, and nuanced view of STS scholarship. Our vision in this volume of the Handbook is to address all of these audiences. Chapter proposals must therefore be written so as to engage new graduate students in the field as well as more experienced researchers and professionals.

We are especially interested in soliciting a broad array of contributions to the Handbook drawing on geographically diverse authors. STS and the challenges that it confronts are global enterprises, and we invite authors from all over the world to submit abstracts. We particularly want to encourage chapter proposals from STS scholars in parts of the world that have historically been underrepresented in prior STS Handbooks, including Asia, Latin America, and Africa—and proposals that offer global and/or comparative perspectives. Strong proposals are likely to include more than one author and, especially, to bring together authors and perspectives from across two or more subfields of STS to offer new, synergistic insights. We expect all chapters to be fully grounded in relevant STS theory and to use empirical evidence to illuminate key ideas.

We currently plan the Handbook to have five major sections, with 5-10 chapters in each:

Section I. Core Ideas in STS

What are the core ideas that motivate and underpin STS as a dynamic field of inquiry? In this first section of the Handbook, we focus on the core lines of thinking that have accompanied and structured the development of STS as a research field. These chapters should reflect the evolution of debates in these areas over time. We regard it as essential for students of STS issues to understand their own field’s history of thinking as one deeply intertwined with societal change. The chapters should show how ways in which people decide to live in the world also tie into ways of questioning and/or reinforcing technoscientific developments, reflect on the impact that scholarship in these areas has had on multiple levels, and explore why, today, these ways of thinking about the world remain at the core of STS thinking. Some chapters that we would like to see include: knowledge as a social phenomenon; socio-technological systems; the transformation of life; the construction of ideas and identities; gender and race in science and technology; expertise and publics; living and working in technoscience; institutional structures of science and technology; classification and standardization; co-production of science and politics.

Section II. The Contributions of STS to Enduring Intellectual Problems

What has STS contributed to addressing central questions in the humanities and social sciences? We believe that STS has much to say to its neighbor disciplines, and we aim for this section of the Handbook to help engage scholars more broadly in the humanities and social sciences. We anticipate these chapters will offer a valuable entry point for graduate students entering STS from other disciplines who are looking for ways of connecting STS scholarship to broader intellectual traditions. In this, we are cognizant of the fact that many STS researchers are still trained within other fields of humanistic and social science inquiry. We are looking for authors to explore, through an STS lens, enduring intellectual issues of significance in humanistic and social science scholarship. Our desire is to see authors provide broad and deep reviews that demonstrate the value of STS scholarship to answering critical questions that concern multiple scholarly fields. Some areas where we believe STS has made important contributions: democracy; identity and difference; power and inequality; the body; culture; place; innovation; design; capitalism.

Section III. Advances in STS Theory and Methods

What are the most exciting areas of emerging scholarship in STS today—and what might be the most exciting areas tomorrow? In this section, we are looking explicitly for chapters that describe cutting edge areas of STS theory and methods. We are especially looking for new areas of research that meet two criteria: first, they have achieved sufficient attention as to deserve a thorough review of scholarship and future prospects; and, second, they are broadly relevant to readers in STS and beyond. The chapters will contextualize the intellectual histories of the work under review, explain its core ideas in accessible terms, and offer suggestions for where future research can continue theoretical advances. Some ideas for potential chapters include: globalization, the rise of biology, socio-technical constitutions, imagination; time, temporality, and the future; food and health; social media and information; vulnerability and resilience; and emerging technologies.

Section IV. Key Challenges for STS as a Field and a Profession

What challenges does STS face as a field of scholarship struggling for resources and attention in today’s academic environments?  In this section of the Handbook, we focus on key challenges, including both those that have emerged for the field of STS in recent years and those that have endured for decades. For the most part, these challenges are, at once, intellectual and institutional. They may result from tensions within STS or between STS and other fields of scholarship. They may result from the transformation of the university, as the context within which STS scholarship takes place. Or they may result from broader transformations in science, technology, policy, or society. Regardless of their source, we see it as important that students of and in the field understand the kinds of challenges the field confronts moving forward. The list below is admittedly partial, and we expect to fill it in through nominated contributions: disciplinarity and inter-/trans-disciplinarity; the transformation of the university and academic work; the search for normativity and policy impact; responsible and ethical science and engineering; engaging STS in the professions.

Section V. STS and 21st Century Grand Challenges

How can STS contribute to solving the most vexing challenges facing humanity at the outset of the 21st century? STS has had far less impact in many parts of the world in shaping humanity’s responses to these challenges than, arguably, the power of its ideas might suggest. At the same time, STS scholars and ideas have made important contributions to solving societal problems that should not be ignored. This section strives to review, most importantly, where STS has essential contributions to make in helping societies around the world address key social and policy problems. We also seek chapters that highlight where STS is already making significant contributions and where, with new developments in the field, it might be positioned to contribute in the future. Examples include, but are certainly not limited to: energy transformation; global environmental change; health and wellbeing; security and justice; poverty; food and agriculture; finance and markets; technological disasters; the human future/future human.

What to do?

Chapter proposals should include a 1000-1200 words abstract describing the proposed chapter. In addition to the abstract, proposals should also offer a paragraph explaining the importance of including the proposed chapter in the STS Handbook and for which thematic section it would be most appropriate. Proposals should also identify the proposed lead author and contributing authors and describe the relevant qualifications of the team in the chapter's field of coverage. Please include full contact information (including email addresses) and short bios for all authors.  Please send proposals electronically as pdfs, to clark.miller@asu.edu. More information can be found at http://stshandbook.com.

Conference Musings

Updated: November 30 2012

Dear fellow conferences attendees,

I want to start by stressing how much I have enjoyed and benefited from 4S conferences. This year in particular, I did not attended a single boring, obvious or simple per or talk, I did not meet anybody who was not researching something incredibly interesting; I was constantly moved, stimulated, intrigued and even entertained by all the people and things (let us not forget the food) that made this year’s event. In short, it was brilliant. However, (there is always a however) Trevor Pinch’s presidential talk and welcome remarks in the programme made me think.

During his talk he highlighted the uniqueness of our field, of our topics, and of our methods. This led me to question, what about our conferences? Have we not become slightly standardized and conservative in the way we present our work at our conferences? Then, he commented on how complicated the process of choosing which session to go to has become because the number of sessions and attendees had grown drastically since 1976. This made me remember what I had been hearing from fellow conference goers: “I can email them and get the paper” (which by the way will be more difficult this time since emails were not included in the booklet). This again led me to question if we could structure the conference in a different way.

Ruminating this ideas led me to think: While writing academic papers for academic journals in the way we do is important and necessary because we are addressing a wide public, when at the 4S conferences we are ‘at home’ within ‘family’ so we could have spaces and moments in which we could do things slightly less conventional; we could experiment with and among ourselves. Why not come up with alternative ways of interacting, of presenting our work and of commenting on it?

Clearly going to conferences is about much more than only listening to papers. Harry Collins pointed this out very clearly “...conferences are vital. The chat in the bars and corridors is what matters... Face-to-Face communication is extraordinarily efficient - so much can be transmitted with the proper eye contact, body movement, hand contact, and so forth. This is where tokens of trust are exchanged, the trust that holds the whole scientific community together" (Harry Collins, 2004:450).

This made me think that maybe we should be creating more opportunities for interaction, but a different type of interaction, something in between the informal social interaction that takes place at the bar and the formal conference interaction that takes place during the parallel sessions. I want to stress that by no means am I suggesting the elimination or transformation of the parallel sessions, I think they are great as they are, I am simply suggesting to add some new spaces for other types of interaction.These alternative interaction modes could be scheduled either on the first day before the opening keynote speakers, during lunch time or even before or after the ‘official’ conference dates.

With these vague ideas in mind I approached Trevor Pinch and, in conversation with him, some slightly more organised ideas emerged. Here I present these ideas with the intention of provoking and inviting all to think about new ways we can interact at conferences.

1. ‘Speed dating/presentation’ Like speed dating in which you have a few minutes to present yourself and exchange contact details, in this format we could present some brief elements of our work and arrange for future meetings. These sessions could be arranged around specific themes or topics, for example: methods, areas of research, theory, etc.

2. Round tables of work-in-progress. Like the ones that were experimented with at the Washington meeting. In these we present work-in-progress with the purpose of getting feedback. In this format, instead of presenting for 15 minutes and then having 5 for questions. The presentation is intermingled with the questions and with maybe handson work.

3. General presentation and then work in groups. Similar to the current sessions, the speakers present their work but in this case more briefly (max 5 minutes) and then move on to working tables where they assemble with those interested in their work to further develop the topic in a dialogue format.

4. Poster presentations Following on the traditional poster presentations used at medical meeting and other scientific conferences we could also have a poster presentation.

5. Experimental presentations. In several paper presentations I heard either the presenters or the discussants comment on how they would have liked to bringing stuff for us listeners to experience with (for example in the session Affective Ecologies both Kelly Ladd and Heather Paxson commented that they could have included chocolate fondue and cheese). Others did bring stuff but we had no time to play around with them (for example, Cameron Michael Murray & Alasdair McMillan who brought a monochord, I think that is what it was). In this format the idea is to have the opportunity of experimenting with the material the speaker is working with.

6. Workshops. These could be similar to things that take place during summer schools with topics related to the theme of that years conference or the place where it is being held (e.g. This year, we could have organised a workshop with the chefs of the New Nordic Food and the collectors of the wild herbs and fruits or with the COBE architect firm). These workshops could be scheduled before the conference begins.

These are just a few still very unstructured ideas. The main purpose of this letter is to invite all to think about new ways in which we could ake advantage of being all gathered in the same place remembering that some forms of communication can now be left for the digital realm while others still need the physical interaction of humans and non-human actors.

I again want to thank everyone for their interest and passion. Contrary to Groucho Marx, I like being part of this club.

Sandra P. Gonzalez-Santos, PhD.
Postdoctoral Researcher
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Copenhagen - Style, Design and Great Weather

Updated: November 07 2012

Meeting Summary by Trevor Pinch

October 24, 2012

If you're just  back from Copenhagen like I am - you're probably exhausted. But nice exhausted as when you've been to a great all night party!  We all wondered whether the CBS was big enough and could cope with the unprecedented numbers (over 1600 registered and many more showing up) The answer is yes they could! There was a worrying moment when we all lined up for beer at the first reception - would we ever get served? what if they ran out? what if there was a riot? But we did get served and so the party started - it has started already if you were at the earlier sessions but I was busy at the 4S Council meeting. And I would like to welcome three new people elected to Council - Kelly Moore, Wen Hua Kuo and Vivian Lagesen. I would also like to welcome in our new president elect, Gary Downey. Also I would like to thank everyone who stood and didn't get elected - there is always another time and our rules don't prevent you standing again. We really appreciate you being willing to serve.

As the organization grows we really depend upon our council members. One of the things they do is work on prize committees. We gave out the prizes this year as part of the plenary and nearly everyone I spoke with preferred it that way - so we will do it that way next year in San Diego, and with fewer prizes (we are not meeting with EASST) we will get more time for a substantive plenary. The prize winners this year were: Mullins Prize, Joeri Bruyninckx,  "Sound Sterile: Making Scientific Field Recordings in Ornithology"; Edge Prize A.B. Edmonds "Learning to Love Yourself"; Carson Prize , Stefan Helmreich, Alien Oceans; Fleck Prize, Hugh Raffles, Insectopedia, Bernal prize, Adele Clarke. Congratulations!!!

Thanks in particular to Maya Horst and her team and Alan Irwin of the CBS for making the meeting possible. It set new "design standards" for food, drink and organization. The weather cooperated and as I walked around on Saturday afternoon amongst the groups of people sitting on the grass and benches (or in one case taking a nap) I thought that maybe I had reached STS heaven. Everyone was talking STS it seemed. It was the place to be!

Mullins Prize Presentation 2012

Updated: October 24 2012

As the Chair of the Nicholas Mullins student paper award committee, I would like to thank the other members of the prize committee, particularly Steve Zehr, for his work in reviewing the many excellent student papers we received last year—66 papers in all.

The winning paper, by Joeri Bruyninckx, entitled “Sound Sterile: Making Scientific Field Recordings in Ornithology” was about birds. I quote from Joeri’s beautifully written paper, which was about: "…how ornithologists made conscious decisions on what to record and how to record it. These decisions were structured by recording …technologies. …[T]he spectrograph represented cascading technologies of increasing control over sound, exemplified by a silenced and white background. It is through this sterile environment that the field site connects to the laboratory, as unwanted sound is intentionally eliminated."

While the birds are also important actors in the network, it is really about the ornithologists and the recording technologies. This is an excellent paper and well deserving of the 4S Nicholas Mullins student paper prize. So please do join us in congratulating Joeri Bruyninckx on winning this award. --Laurel Smith-Doerr

Handbook of Science & Technology Studies, Volume 3

Updated: September 18 2012

The 4S Council has authorized the planning of a fourth volume of the Handbook of Science & Technology Studies for publication in 2015. The Handbook series has drawn together an extensive array of research syntheses with an eye toward defining, or perhaps better, mapping the major intellectual geographies of the field.

In this, the fourth official volume of the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, we continue this tradition, while also expanding on it. Our aim is to continue to highlight key emerging terrains and major intellectual problems within the field, while also placing a new emphasis on defining the relevance of the field for other disciplines and for tackling the deep and widespread challenges confronting humanity in the 21st century.

As part of the planning process, the editorial team would like your input and feedback. Please visit http://stshandbook.com to find out more about the project and to provide your thoughts.

4S Announces New Journal Editor

Updated: December 23 2011

The new editor of Science, Technology & Human Values was announced at the 4S meetings in Cleveland. Professor Edward Hackett, Arizona State University, will assume editorial duties effective Summer 2012. Professor Hackett brings a wealth of experience to the position. He was formally on the faculty of the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and most recently is Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. He also has served as Program Officer, Science and Technology Studies Program and Director, Division of Social and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Professor Hackett was an editor of the 3rd edition of the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. He takes over editorial duties from Geof Bowker who has done an excellent job of strengthening the journal during his tenure.

4S Announces New Council Members, Prize Winners at 2011 Meeting

Updated: November 18 2011

New Council members 2011-2014: Leandro Rodriguez Medina, Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Kenji Ito

Bernal Prize: Evelyn Fox Keller

Ludwik Fleck Prize: Marion Fourcade, Economists and Societies: Discipline and Profession in the United States, Britain and France, 1890s to 1990s. (Princeton, 2009).

Rachel Carson Prize: Lynn M. Morgan, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos. (University of California, 2009)

David Edge Prize: Wen-Hua Kuo, “The Voice on the Bridge: Taiwan’s Regulatory Engagement with Global Pharmaceuticals.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal, vol.3 no.1 (2009), pp.51-72.

Nicholas Mullins Award: Sara Wylie

Latin American Interest Group Plans 2014 Meeting

Updated: July 22 2011

Since the 4S meeting in Montreal in 2006, over 30 STS scholars from various disciplines and countries have participated as organizers, discussants and/or presenters in sessions focused on Latin American science and technology issues. We continue these gatherings at the next 4S annual conference in Cleveland, November 2011 with six paper sessions that feature the Latin American region.

Last year the 4S Latin American Group was granted 4S New Initiatives funds to host a regional meeting during June 2011 in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the purpose of (1) developing an edited volume on the state of Latin America STS and (2) to pre-plan a proposed 2014 joint conference in Buenos Aires with 4S and its Latin American counterpart ESOCITE.

The June 17-19, 2011 Buenos Aires workshop featured a balance of about 10 representatives from each association distributed across two sub-committees. Over an opening and closing plenary and various breakout sessions in between, we managed to set out the key objectives that we wanted this 4S/ESOCITE 2014 pre-meeting and book initiative to achieve. First, the sub-committee responsible for the first objective estimated that a 2014 joint conference could attract up to 500 ESOCITE and 700 4S members for a total of 1200 attendees.