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Society for Social Studies of Science

Committee Reports

Building STS Award Committee Report and Proposal


Building STS Award Committee

Kenji Ito (Chair)

Vivian Lagesen

Ed Hackett

Jane Summerton

Gary Downey (Ex Officio)

Steve Zehr (Ex Officio)


Charged by the current 4S president Gary Downey, the Building STS Award Committee deliberated the new award’s description, justification, name, guideline, and selection procedure through email and in person. The committee presented an earlier version of this document at a council meeting in March 2014, and received feedback from 4S council members. The committee suggests two possible names for the award, but could not reach a consensus over which to choose; considering the size of the committee, rather than voting within the committee, it requests the council to choose one of them. It is also the view of this committee that the selection procedure should take one full year, which would allow committee members to consider candidates on their own, then to meet in person during the annual meeting to choose the awardee.  We also recommend allowing one additional year before the award is conferred to ensure the awardee’s attendance at the ceremony. Hence, the procedure proposed in this document applies to the awards to be presented at the meetings in 2016 and later. If the first prize is to be given in 2015, an appropriate exceptional procedure should be implemented by the first selection committee, in consultation with the 4S council.

Award Description

The award honors life-long contributions of an STS scholar to build social foundations for scholarly activities of STS in local, national, and/or international contexts.

Award Justification 

STS research uncovers the social machinery of knowledge production, bringing to light those who create and maintain the infrastructure required to sustain intellectual activity.  Members of the STS community know better than most that the work of such persons is crucial, and that often they are not widely visible and their activities underappreciated.  STS has benefited from the efforts of many such individuals who deeply care about building and maintaining our scholarly activities in various social contexts. As a field committed to reflection, we know that without their contributions the developments of STS would not be possible.  For all these reasons we recommend that 4S recognize and honor the contributions of those who have helped to build its foundations over the years.

Award Name

It is the majority opinion of the committee not to name the prize after a person at this point. The committee proposes two candidates for the name of the award:

1) 4S Founders’ Award

2) Building STS Award.

Guideline for Nomination

A current member of 4S can nominate a past or present 4S member who fits the above description. Nominees must be alive at the point of nomination.

The length and format of the letter of nomination will be determined by the selection committee, but we suggest some degree of standardization in the information requested and a standard length of about two to three single-spaced pages. It should be sent to the selection committee chair by email.

The letter should contain a description of the nominee’s career and contribution in relation to the spirit of (and criteria for) the award, as noted above. This description includes, but is not limited to, the nominee’s positions held in departments or other organizations, roles played as a mentor and advisor, and contributions to (including positions held and accomplishments in) professional societies, editorships, and editorial board membership.

Selection Procedure

1. The 4S president appoints the selection committee of about five members for this award and its chair prior to each 4S annual meeting. The term begins at the meeting and ends when the committee report is submitted. The previous year’s committee members may be reappointed.  We recommend that at least one member should be from the 4S council, and some members should be reappointed to ensure continuity, but we expect that the 4S president and council will develop specific guidelines for this as they accumulate more experience.

The 4S secretary makes the materials submitted by the previous years’ committees available to the current committee (see point 7, below).

2. The committee meets at the annual meeting immediately after appointment. It discusses the following items:

(a) If revisions of the selection procedure and the guidelines for nomination are considered necessary, the committee proposes them to the 4S council for decision.

(b) The committee determines the schedule for the selection, including the deadline for nomination and the deadline for the committee members to submit their shortlists.

(c) The committee drafts the call for nominations, based on the guidelines for nomination above. The call for nominations should encourage nominators to describe specific ways the nominee helped to build and develop the STS community, and to bear in mind that this is a “professional service” award rather than a “scholarly achievement” award.

3. The chair solicits nominations by sending out the call for nominations in the 4S Online newsletter and through other media. The committee can extend the deadline for nomination if appropriate.

4. Prior to the next annual meeting, the committee creates a short list through email correspondence and/or other means.

5. At the next annual meeting, the committee holds the selection meeting to discuss the short list, and votes to decide the awardee. The chair may vote only to break a tie. The committee also decides the second place, in case their first choice declines the award.

6. The chair contacts the awardee (and, if necessary, the person chosen as the alternate) to confirm the acceptance and requests the awardee’s attendance at the next meeting.

7. The chair writes the committee’s final report and the commendation explaining why the person is being honored, and submits these to the 4S secretary along with the short list and the letters of nomination for the short-listed candidates.

8. The chair presents the award at the next annual meeting.

Requests to the 4S Council

The Building STS Award committee requests the 4S council to approve this document and to vote on the name of the award. The candidates for the name of the award are:

1) 4S Founders’ Award

2) Building STS Award.