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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

4S President’s message – October 2017


4S Community,

As extreme events surround us (with floods, fires, guns and sexism, among other threats), the significance of STS and 4S is all the more clear to me. We have lots to work on!

Towards this, discussion at the 4S Council fall meeting focused on the long range and big picture, considering an array of possible new initiatives.  One thread of discussion focused on ways we could further diversify 4S, both within and among countries, both intellectually and socially. We also discussed the data practices that would allow us to map progress on this, and also how habitual diversity data collection can both reify and occlude critical differences. We agreed to approach diversity within 4S as a conceptual as well as organizational challenge, aiming to develop ways to creatively engage  4S members in the project.

Another thread of discussion at the fall Council meeting focused on the future of 4S “Resolutions” and public engagement more generally.  To work on this, we’ll be looking at different ways other scholarly societies have enacted this kind of (public intellectual) leadership.  One possibility is for 4S to better support movement of STS research findings and presentations into various public spheres through linkage to journalists (see, for example, how American Geophysical Union supports their members’ interactions with media). 6S representative Margarita Rayzberg pointed us toward the Op-Ed Project, which aims to increase the number of women (and other historically marginalized) thought leaders helping articulate the problems of our times. Council member Leslie Green (University of Cape Town) phrased the deep challenge as a question: How can decolonial science studies address the shortfalls of postcolonial science?

Another thread of Council discussion focused on possibilities for a new 4S archiving project -- to include the routine documentation of the Society, documentation of important events (Making and Doing sessions at our conferences, from 4S Denver 2015 going forward, for example), and the papers of 4S scholars (especially as they retire!). The “STS Across Borders” exhibits planned for 4S Sydney -- which will showcase STS in different regional contexts -- will provide starting material, and an opportunity to think critically about the design of the archive.

The 4S Sydney program committee has also continued its planning. Translations of the conference theme -- TRANSnational STS -- continue to grow. Note the November 1 deadline for Open Panels. Proposals can be submitted here. The program committee will be accepting Open Panels as they come in so that they can share the growing list, hoping to facilitate new connections between researchers (especially across geographic regions). Please consider submitting an Open Panel proposal right away.

And note that our initiative to document and showcase “STS Across Borders” is off and running.  See this wonderful blog post by Joseph Satish about the Plurality of STS in India, documenting a September 2017 event in Hyderabad. The inaugural address by Prof. E Haribabu located the origins of STS in India in civil society, applauding the work of popular science movements like Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP) and All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN). The event included a keynote by Professor Wiebe Bijker from the Netherlands, who has long-running collaborations in India. Professor Aalok Khandekar (at IIT Hyderabad, who serves on the Sydney program committee) spoke about ways new forms of collaboration are called for in STS -- within India, among academics and civil society actors, and across borders. The September event in Hyderabad jump-started rich documentation of STS in India, which will become part of 4S’s wider “STS Across Borders” project.

There also are plans to present Tapuya-- the recently launched STS Latin American journal -- to Chinese STSers, facilitated by border crossing Rodolfo Hernandez (who recently completed a PhD at Tsinghua University’s Institute for Science, Technology and Society). This kind of lateral connectivity, leveraging what Tapuya theorizes as “peripheral perspective,” is critically important to 4S going forward, and will be a key theme in the STS Across Borders project -- as exhibited in Sydney, and built into a durable STS archive, designed to celebrate STS’s plurality from its start.

So there are many possibilities and projects. The Council and I--I’m at welcome your input.

Best,  Kim Fortun