skip to main content

Society for Social Studies of Science

4S Council Meeting—Fall 2017

11 October 2017

In attendance via Zoom meeting software: Kim Fortun, Stephen Zehr, Wes Shrum, Roopali Phadke, Oscar Maldonado, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Sara Wylie, Anita Say-Chan, Gwen Ottinger, Kim Fortun, Gloria Baigorrotegui, Lesley Green, Aadita Chaudhury, Erika Szymanski

Kim Fortun called the meeting to order at 12:05 PM US EST.

Kim Fortun asked for feedback from the Boston meeting.  One recommendation was to avoid, if possible, overlap between making and doing and regular sessions.  Another recommendation was to make time available for questions and discussion during plenaries.  A third suggestion was to highlight diversity in future plenary sessions to the extent possible.  A question was raised about the work load for organizers of open panels.  Fortun indicated that we have moved up the Sydney meeting deadlines for everything to allow for more advanced planning and time to complete work.  Fortun also indicated that information about additional activities surrounding the meeting will be made available to members in advance.  Since attendance at this meeting will be expensive for many members, Fortun asked Council to tap into any funds they are aware of to support travel.

Boston Council meeting minutes: Gwen Ottinger motioned to approve the minutes.  Minutes were approved unanimously.

Updates and New Items: Fortun announced that we will have an additional Council meeting in early November since some Council members are unable to attend the October one.  All Council members are encouraged to participate in the November meeting.  Fortun announced that she will be work on committee development and assignments in advance of the November meeting.

Sydney Meeting: Fortun announced that the theme of “Transnational STS” will be developed through posters and other materials that might be digitized and placed on line.  The program committee is open to suggestions about how to develop the theme.  Erika Szymanski asked about the intention behind posters.  Are they intended for theme development or as an alternative presentation mode?  Fortun clarified that since posters will be experimental this year, they will be limited to the “STS Across Borders” initiative.  A question was posed about language accessibility.  Fortun indicated that people may contribute in any language they wish with optional translation.  Digitization work will focus on adding depth to posters and make the work available across language boundaries.  A Council member expressed concern about the limited status of the word “poster” at academic meetings.  Should an alternative wording be used?  There also was some discussion about how to make posters collectively part of a broader theme rather than as individual submissions.  One final suggestion from Sara Wylie was that the final plenary consist of talks judged particularly useful and interesting.  Since the conference itself is fractured with many parallel sessions, participants miss many important presentations.   Wylie indicated that she would follow up on whether this practice is used at other conferences.

Diversifying STS: Fortun brought up the issue of collecting demographic data to reveal trends in diversification within 4S, while also noting the concern that we should not overly reify categories.  Roopali Phadke recommended that any efforts along these lines should include a clear statement about why the data are collected.  Teun Zuiderent-Jerak recommended that we think about diversity in a different and broader way than the U.S. based approach.  Diversification might be attached to more universal issues such as where people received their training and other content related concerns – diversity within the STS field that avoids nation-specific concerns.  Fortun responded that the STS Across Borders initiative gets at some degree of intellectual diversity, but also recommended collecting other demographic data such as racial diversity.  A question was posed about what we’re trying to achieve with these data.  Fortun indicated that we’re aiming at increasing intellectual and social standing plurality within 4S.  Wylie suggested that we open the question of demographic data collection to the membership – what do they wish to have collected.  Anita Say Chan recommended that we increase diversity in the types of publics we engage with, along with improving generational diversification.  Fortun suggested that Council address this issue in subsequent meetings and report findings to the membership at the Sydney meeting.  No specific action was taken on this issue, but Fortun plans to form an ad hoc committee to develop a diversification agenda.

Archiving STS: Fortun recommended that the society is old enough to have a history written about it and considers this effort important to its vibrancy.  Along these lines, an effort is necessary to make the society more open to study through routine collection of contemporary and historical material.  Fortun questioned Council about the types of archival work that are important for the society.  Wylie expressed support for the idea of more archival work.  Fortun clarified that we need special care with what documents we make available to researchers – a content management system.  No specific action was taken on this item.

Resolutions and Public Engagement: Fortun noted minimal activity in this arena, despite the existence of many global issues that STS could contribute too.  One key issue and concern has been to delimit STS contributions to cross-national rather than national concerns.  Lesley Green recommended we consider the issue of the abuse of science in corporate contexts as a cross-national issue, along with the inability of “science” to adapt to concerns of local communities.  Global science does not translate well in many of these contexts.  4S could intervene in these arenas.  Ottinger recommended that we carefully consider where STS offers a unique perspective and capacity for a unique contribution.  Wylie suggested something along the line of EDGI’s work, which is to develop poly-vocal reports on public issues.  Zuiderent-Jerak agreed that we should focus on specific issues, rather than general issues such as the “March for Science.”  Ottinger added that one intervention is to highlight the absences – what is left out of issues in the public domain.  Green suggested that we develop panels at Sydney that address concerns that may become the basis of resolutions and public engagement.  Fortun added that we might develop means of pushing some of our papers at 4S meetings out into press releases.  Zuiderent-Jerak cautioned that we focus on areas of intervention where 4S members have conducted extensive research, so we make a solid contribution, rather than focus on public issues that happen to be present at a particular point in time.  Fortun agreed but indicated that we need an institutional mechanism for generating this activity.  Green recommended that information be made public about sessions relating to transnational political concerns prior to the Sydney meeting.  Along these lines, Gloria Baigorrotegui suggested that we tie public issues of concern at annual meetings to the meeting location.  Fortun agreed and added that an important agenda is to build STS up in the location where annual meetings occur.  Fortun also reminded us to consider university administration as one of the publics STS scholars need to inform.  Council continued with further discussion about the content of future STS interventions in public and local concerns.

6S: As a future agenda item, Fortun indicated that we need to build more support for junior scholars within 4S, and then turn our attention to the 6S charter and develop an advisory board.  Szymanski recommended, however, that it is important to adopt a new 6S charter quickly because the current one is out of date.

Publications Committee: Fortun asked Council for recommendations of issues that can be charged to the Publications Committee.

Fortun adjourned the meeting at 2:05 PM.