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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S Council Meeting Minutes

31 August 2016

Barcelona, Spain

In attendance: Lucy Suchman, Stephen Zehr, Wes Shrum, Paige Miller, Abby Kinchy, Daniel Breslau, Oscar Javier Maldonado Castañeda, Shobita Parthasarathy, Sulfikar Amir, Claire Waterton, Sara Wylie, Tania Pérez Bustos, Anita Say Chan, Steven Jackson, Margarita Rayzberg, John Lunsford, Gary Downey, Ulrike Felt, Laurel Smith-Doerr.  Erika Amethyst Szymanski joined the meeting in progress.

Lucy Suchman called the meeting to order at 12:30 PM

Approval of minutes of June 2016 meeting.  Parthasarathy moved to approve. Wylie seconded.  The motion was approved.

Handbook: Handbook editors Ulrike Felt and Laurel Smith-Doerr reviewed the development of the Handbook and described the Handbook session scheduled at the meetings.  They expect it will be sent to the printer by mid-October 2016 and come out at the end of the year.  The length is expected at around 1300 pages.  An electronic edition will also be available.  Suchman expressed her excitement about the Handbook and discussed the range of authors and issues included in this edition.  Suchman also noted that individual chapters will be available for e-purchase.  The President and Council expressed their appreciation to the editors for the hard work incorporated into this edition.

Publications Committee: Abby Kinchy reported that the Publications Committee met prior to the meeting via the Society’s e-conferencing software.  The committee is working on a policy for selection of future managing editors, publicizing the Handbook, and planning for renewal of the contract with Sage for ST&HV.  Kinchy introduced a motion to retain Edward Hackett as editor of ST&HV for a second five-year term.  Sulfikar Amir seconded the motion.  Council discussion focused on the endorsement that Hackett received from the ST&HV Managing Editor.  The motion was approved unanimously.  Suchman added that we have communicated to Katie Vann that we wish to retain her as Managing Editor for as long as she is interested in continuing in that position, and that further formalization of that agreement also is under way.

Web Committee: Abby Kinchy noted the active group of graduate students working on the 4S blog, however, many are not 4S members.  Kinchy suggested that we offer free membership to the society for students working on the blog, in addition to the free conference registration that we currently offer.  Kinchy also indicated the blog requires much active managerial work and recommended that Council consider the manager/student worker relationship in planning future divisions of labor.

Concerning the labor required for blog development, Suchman agreed that management is a challenge.  Council members discussed possible connections between blog workers and 6S and the possibility that 6S take over its management.  Council members also recommended that the society clearly articulate the benefit for students of being involved with blog development.  Kinchy added that the impacts and benefits of Backchannels need to be assessed.  Additional suggestions were offered including placing calls for blog posts on particular topics and holding a “top blog” session at the annual meeting.  No specific Council action was taken on this issue.

Daniel Breslau discussed the rapidly growing social media presence of 4S and its benefits for increasing familiarity with the society and its work.

Oscar Maldonado indicated that we will table for now the participation of 4S in the Open Syllabi project.  In the meantime, the committee is working on updating the syllabi collection and other teaching materials.  This year the focus is on updating the current syllabi resources.

Suchman thanked the committee for its work and noted the quality and vitality of the 4S website.

Nominations Committee: Claire Waterton expressed thanks to everyone who stood for 4S election this year and indicated that the election process worked well.  Tania Pérez Bustos will chair the Nominations Committee next year.  Suchman added that Kim Fortun was excited about the election results, and thanked Paul Wouters for standing for election.

Suchman discussed the proposed increase in the number of Council members from nine to twelve in a sequential fashion.  This proposed change in Council size involves a change in the society’s Charter, so approval through a membership vote is required.  One concern that has been raised is the possibility of a split vote during years of an even number of Council members.  Suchman suggested that if this occasion arises, it would be appropriate to simply re-raise the issue for further discussion.  Tania Pérez Bustos motioned to recommend an increase in Council size so that the issue could be discussed at the Business meeting, followed by a membership vote.  Sara Wylie seconded.  The motion includes a change from 9 to 12 Council members sequentially over the next three years starting with the 2017 election.  The motion was approved unanimously.  The issue will be raised in the Business Meeting.

Reports and Resolutions: Shobita Parthasarathy indicated that no reports or resolutions have been sent to the committee.  Parthasarathy and Suchman explained the process for submitting a report and resolution, emphasizing the challenge of obtaining consensus on resolutions.  It was suggested that the society focus more on reports.  Council discussed possible report topics.

Travel Grants Committee: Oscar Maldonado indicated that the committee’s only concern this year was the lack of diversity in applications.  Most of the applications for travel support came from North America and Europe.  Council expressed some concern about the percentage of students being turned down.  Many were turned down due to lack of funds rather than a low quality proposal.  This year 89 travel grant applications were received and 36 travel grants were offered from the NSF and Africa/Asia funds.

Program Committee and Future Meetings Update:  Suchman reminded Council that we’ll be meeting in Boston in 2017.  This year an organizing group developed local arrangements and the program.  Suchman is currently working on the organizing committee for next year and developing themes for plenaries and the conference. 

In 2018 4S meets in Sydney.  The original proposal was brought to 4S by Graham Lucas, who is flexible about his own role in conference organizing work.  Suchman has been in contact with various people in the Australian STS community.

In 2019 4S meets in New Orleans.  In 2020 we hold the next joint conference with EASST.  In 2021 expressions of interest have been received to meet in Toronto and Philadelphia.  Another possibility for 2021 is a co-located meeting with SHOT and HSS.

Treasurer’s Report: Paige Miller reviewed the budget goal of the society, which is to keep the budget at a steady state.  Miller reviewed the current budget situation including expenses, income, and end-of-year projection.  Miller projected a 2016 end-of-year income surplus of about $11,000.  The projected end-of-year balance will place the budget within the Council recommended steady state range.

Miller noted that we now use Zoom software for web conferencing.  We have options for a month-by-month or a full-year membership.  Suchman recommended that we maintain an annual subscription.

6S: Shobita Parthasarathy reviewed the past year’s work in 6S and new future activities under consideration.  The new election procedures for 6S representatives worked well.  Erika Szymanski indicated that the post-graduate workshop for graduate students held early in the day was successful and thanked Council for the 4S support.  John Lunsford brought up the issue of building infrastructure for maintaining cross-continental relationships among students and the challenge of bringing students into 4S from the global south.  Lunsford noted that they often receive minimal faculty support for involvement in 4S.  Anita Say Chan added that these students also need support in the form of logistical infrastructure to travel to conferences.

Ad Hoc Committees:

ST&HV Contract Renogotiations:  Suchman indicated the committee is working on an initial memo to Sage, and will be requesting significantly increased benefit to the society from the proceeds of ST&HV.  4S currently receives approximately $10,000 annually from Sage after the return of subscription income, far below the journal’s expenses to the society.  Suchman indicated that a draft of the memo will be distributed to Council for comments prior to submission.

Statement of Purpose: Claire Waterton and Gary Downey drafted a new statement of purpose that has been discussed at two past meetings.  The draft has been edited and posted on the 4S website for comments.  Waterton and Downey now bring it to Council for acceptance.  Waterton motioned that Council approve the new Statement of Purpose.  Sulfikar Amir seconded.  Council members recommended one small amendment in the statement concerning the journals.  The motion was approved unanimously.

Prize Committees:  Suchman thanked the prize committees for their work and reviewed the composition of prize committees for the next year.  Suchman will also establish timelines for the decision-making process.  We begin announcing award winners in May, but recipients should be informed earlier to arrange attendance at the meeting.

Making & Doing 2017:  Sara Wylie reported that it would be back for the Boston meeting.  Development work is already underway.

Terms for 4S Officers:  Suchman clarified the question of term limits for officers.  The 4S Charter indicates that the President appoints officers.  Thus, their terms can be renewed at the recommendation of the 4S President.

Support for Council Participation at the Annual Conference:  Suchman clarified that Council members may apply for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses not covered by other funding that are incurred to attend the annual meeting.

New Membership Category:  Suchman recommended that the category of ‘un/underemployed’ be added to the qualifications for reduced membership of $25.  Tania Pérez Bustos moved for acceptance.  Claire Waterton seconded.  The motion was passed unanimously.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:30 PM.