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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

4S President’s message – April 2017


Support for non-US citizens traveling to the 4S conference

The results of the review process for 4S 2017 in Boston will be coming soon to those who have submitted abstracts.  The notices will include a request that authors of accepted papers who are based outside of the US indicate if they do not plan to travel to Boston, and if so whether that is due either to concerns about crossing the border into the US, or a decision to boycott US travel for matters of conscience.  For those not planning to attend, we will also ask you to let us know whether you will provide a paper/presentation to be delivered by another, or would like to participate remotely via the internet. This will give us a better sense of the numbers of remote participants that we need to provide for.

4S Council also agreed at our meeting on March 13th that I should convene an ad hoc Committee in Support of non-US citizens traveling to 4S 2017.  The charge of the committee is to develop a plan of support for those traveling to Boston from outside of the US who may have concerns regarding their safe and smooth passage through US Customs and Immigration.  Our initial thoughts are that this will include a ‘partner’ system so that travelers can be in contact with someone who will meet them at the airport outside international arrivals, as well as a list of resources including contact information for pro bono legal and rights advisors working in Boston to aid anyone who is detained by US immigration.  The committee members are myself, Anita Say Chan, Shobita Parthasarathy, Sara Wylie, Tania Perez-Bustos, and Kim Fortun.  Any further thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome – just email me at

Pluralizing Language at 4S Boston 2017

In early March I received an email from Maurizio Meloni at Sheffield University, with a proposal to 4S Council on behalf of himself, Becky Mansfield (Ohio State University, USA) and Martine Lappé (Columbia University, USA).  The proposal, inspired by Maurizio’s experience as a non-native English speaking scholar working in the UK, was to open up the possibility of inviting 4S members to present papers at our upcoming 4S conference in languages other than English.  Following a discussion at the March 13th meeting of 4S Council, and in consultation with Heather Paxson as program committee chair, we have enthusiastically adopted this proposal.  The following invitation will be included in letters sent to authors of accepted papers later this month:

Pluralizing Language in the Age of Trump and Brexit: An Invitation for the Upcoming 4S Conference (and beyond)

At the Boston 2017 conference, 4S invites presenters to deliver papers in languages other than English. 4S recognizes that xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise in many places. While English has become a scientific lingua franca that has been favoured in communications and networking across the globe, it is the official language of just a handful of countries, most prominently the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The current policies of these two countries send a message of insulation and parochialism to the world, explicitly threatening the richness and importance of human difference. In response, the aim of this initiative is to decenter English as the de facto language of this and other international conferences. Linguistic pluralism should be welcomed and encouraged to make clear that the world is irreducibly plural. 

While this invitation is particularly extended to those whose first language is not English, even monolingual English speakers may have parts or all of their presentation written or audio-recorded in another language by another speaker. There are many ways to represent linguistic pluralism and we encourage creativity in this regard. To secure full understanding of each presentation, presenters should provide English translation, which can be distributed in various ways: a full paper, a summary, slides that accompany the talk, or other inventive forms.

This will of course be a collective experiment the first time through, in which we’ll trial different ways in which presenters can express their ideas in the language with which they feel most comfortable, while also making those ideas accessible to English speaking participants.  We would like to extend a further request to anyone willing to translate this invitation into (an)other language(s) (which we’ll then post on the 4S meeting website), and also perhaps to aid in the creation of English summaries for circulation at the conference.  If you are able and willing to contribute to this effort, please contact Maurizio at

Enacting Environmental Data Justice – EDGI 4S Pre-Meeting Event

As the program committee are hard at work completing the review process for this year’s 4S conference in Boston, plans are in the making for further special events to be held in conjunction with the conference itself.   Among these is an event organized by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI). As Michelle Murphy wrote in her email proposing the event:

We are interested in the question of how to envision and create critical tools for Environmental Data Justice that can break with some of the problematic salvation frameworks that are shaping government environmental data projects right now.  And we are also more broadly interested in what engaged STS making, critiquing and doing can tactically accomplish and imagine in this anti-science, racist, and state-dismantling moment. 

And from the invitation on the 4S meeting site:

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) invites STS scholars, 4S participants, and Boston-area civic science, environmental justice, and critical data advocates to participate in an experimental workshop titled Enacting Environmental Data Justice.  Held on Tuesday, August 29, the evening before the 4S annual meeting begins, this event will explore possibilities for data justice through a framework of environmental justice.

The location is still being finalized, but you can find more information, opportunities to join in planning, register and sign up for updates on the EDGI website

regards to all,
Lucy Suchman, 4S President