skip to main content

Society for Social Studies of Science

4S News

President’s Message, December 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