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Society for Social Studies of Science

Committee Reports

Proposal for a 4S Mentoring Award


4S Mentoring Award Report Committee Members:

Kim Fortun, Leandro Rodriguez Medina, Kaushik Sunder Rajan*, 

Sharon Traweek*, and Sally Wyatt

* co-chairs

8 July 2014                

Proposal for a 4S Mentoring Award: Transferring Knowledge Across Generations and Domains of Practice

During the last 40 years STS has become an established field of inquiry globally. Thousands of people have collaboratively built that infrastructure of scholarly organizations, conferences, workshops, newsletters, journals, book series, positions, degrees, research funding programs, departments, centers, and institutes.  We have crafted the theoretical, methodological, and institutional tools to conduct effective fundamental, applied, developmental, clinical, and policy research in STS. We have extended our knowledge and practices beyond academia to governments, industries, civil society, and social movements around the world. We also have developed the knowledge of how to build, circulate, and maintain our own knowledge-making apparatus while insuring its flexibility. To do all this we have established and maintained trans-local and trans-disciplinary webs of collaborative working relationships that we keep under revision.

In sum we not only have launched the study of infrastructures for the production and crafting of knowledge and knowledge makers; we also have been performing such work reflexively for our own field, employing many key STS concepts strategically. We have transformed the study of how knowledge is made and we also have transformed existing infrastructures to establish our own lines of inquiry. We have been engaged in both institution building and transformation in order to establish lasting and flexible infrastructures for our own field. We also are transforming STS practices through our work in academia, governments, industries, civil societies, and social movements.

Mentoring in most fields conventionally means transmitting across generations and domains of expertise both bodies of knowledge and ways of making such knowledge. In STS we do all that and we also mentor how to transform reflexively both our knowledge making practices and the infrastructures in which we ourselves are embedded. It is important that we define and acknowledge our extensive, complex, and reflexive mentoring practices used in building our own infrastructures. In order to improve that distinctive mentoring it also is crucial that we honor our best practices with a 4S Mentoring Award.

Many of us have experienced pedagogies that monitored canons and required the disciplined performance of doctrinal catechisms, designed to maintain certain structures of authority. Those are not the pedagogies we recommend 4S reward. Specifically, we recommend the recognition of the kinds of mentoring practices listed below.

Proactive pedagogies

  • Communicating clearly, supportively, and respectfully with all students and colleagues
  • Consistently offering positive guidance
  • Providing timely, productive feedback on written, oral, and other forms of presentation
  • Creating a friendly, encouraging, and academically challenging environment
  • Teaching in innovative and effective ways that are responsive to student evaluations
  • Encouraging students to value teaching and providing mentoring on their teaching
  • Encouraging discussion about and conduct of ethical practices in our teaching
  • Encouraging theoretical and methodological innovations
  • Encouraging interdisciplinary inquiries
  • Encouraging students’ development beyond the paradigms of their mentors
  • Closely mentoring students conducting independent research beyond the academy, such as ethnographic fieldwork
  • Encouraging students to pursue their own STS research, teaching, and advocacy goals
  • Encouraging the conduct of basic, applied, developmental, clinical, and policy research
  • Encouraging work in public arenas with need and potential for STS engagement and critique
  • Encouraging students to present their own work at conferences and to journals
  • Encouraging students to make their own decisions, take their own risks, and build their own positions in STS debates
  • Proactive professionalization practices

Clarifying academic career trajectories and their transformations

  • Clarifying career trajectories and their transformations beyond academia
  • Advising and encouraging all students toward future career options
  • Supporting students’ and colleagues’ job and funding searches
  • Modeling critical evaluation of current job & funding opportunities and transformations
  • Modeling connections with potential colleagues beyond our local departments and fields
  • Clarifying the unwritten rules of professional communities and their transformations
  • Explicating tacit and explicit practices at academic funding agencies, publishers, and professional societies and their transformations
  • Clarifying both tacit and explicit university governance practices and their transformation
  • Transmitting a broad and international understanding of STS and its transformations
  • Modeling the building of links beyond the immediate networks, institutions, and practices with which students and colleagues are most familiar
  • Encouraging active communication among those conducting fundamental, applied, developmental, clinical, and policy research
  • Encouraging students and colleagues to assume responsibilities and leadership roles that support our professional communities and their continued development
  • Modeling collegiality and how to respond strategically to non-collegial behavior
  • Modeling discourses about and conduct of ethical practices in all aspects of our work
  • Modeling constructive engagement with differences among genders, ethnicities, races, classes, national origins, etc. among students, staff, colleagues, and our research subjects.

Proactive practices at the intersections of individuals, families, communities, work places, organizations, and societies locally, trans-locally, and globally

  • Modeling and discussing constructive life/work balance decisions, including building and balancing professional, personal, family, community, and societal commitments
  • Discussing decision-making practices during professional, personal, family, community, and societal crises
  • Addressing uneven privilege within academia and beyond, often due to differences among genders, ethnicities, classes, races, and/or national origins, etc. among students, staff, colleagues, and our research subjects.
  • Building collegial relationships among students and colleagues locally, trans-locally, and globally
  • Locating strategic, significant intersections among academia and other parts of society
  • Modeling work at the interfaces between academia and other parts of society
  • Modeling how to actively share our expertise beyond academia
  • Modeling engagement with institutional, professional, and societal transformations
  • Modeling safe spaces and practices for open discussions within and beyond the academy
  • Modeling access to resources for open discussions and transformative practices
  • Modeling discourses about and conduct of ethical practices in our professional and public engagements.

Recommended Practices for Implementing the 4S Mentoring Award

Each year the 4S Council should form a 4S Mentoring Award Committee similar to its other award committees. An annual announcement about the 4S Mentoring Award should be posted at the 4S website, in the Technoscience Newsletter, and via email to 4S members. The announcement should include a procedure for nominations and a deadline for submitting those nominations. Nomination could be made through a letter or set of letters providing substantive descripton of how the nominee has excelled as a mentor, exemplifying the complex character of mentoring recognized as important in 4S. After the committee makes its decision, it should inform the 4S President and Council.  The President should inform the awardee and make arrangements for the award to be presented at the next 4S conference. The award itself should be similar to other 4S awards.