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Society for Social Studies of Science

2014 Spring Council Meeting

Minutes 21-22 March 2014 Spring 4S Council Meeting: San Francisco


APPROVED 19 August, 2014


Meeting called to order by President Gary Downey at 9 am


Members Present: President, Gary Downey; Treasurer, Paige Miller; Secretary, Stephen Zehr; Program Officer, Wes Shrum; Council members, Abby Kinchy, Kenji Ito, Vivian Lagesen, Kelly Moore, Wen-Hua Kuo, Sulfikar Amir, Leandro Rodriguez Medina, and Kaushik Sunder Rajan.  Council member Claire Waterton joined via Skype on Saturday morning.  Digital Subcommittee member Ali Kenner joined via Skype during discussion of 4S digital objectives.


Downey thanked those members who were able to secure local support, in full or in part, for their travel expenses to the meeting.  Such substantially reduced the cost of the meeting to the Society.  Downey also discussed logistical arrangements for reimbursement, dinner, and other meeting issues. 


Announcements by the President:


The searches for treasurer, secretary, and program officer resulted in the appointments of Paige Miller, Stephen Zehr, and Wes Shrum, respectively. Trevor Pinch made these appointments as his final acts as President.


Downey completed Skype meetings with all Council members in November 2013 to identify topics of interest to Council members, discuss other issues facing the Society, and establish strong working relationships.   


Downey outlined the theme of his presidency -- “critical participation” (President's message, Technoscience, December 2013). Downey also described his goal of actively involving the 4S membership in Council decision making to a maximum extent.


The new governance structure approved in San Diego provides for the President to appoint non-Council members to the prize committees.  Downey has implemented this option by adding one non-Council member to each committee.


Downey clarified the roles of handbook editors (final authority over handbook contents), Handbook Committee (intellectual oversight), and Publications Committee Chair (procedural oversight) in the development of the new volume.


The title and duties of Wenda Bauchspies – 4S Prize Coordinator – have been clarified.


The process of charging committees has been routinized.  Committees now receive a formal charge from the President.


The budget planning process through treasurer Paige Miller and Program Officer Wes Shrum has been formalized.


The 4S charter provides that the 4S President is ex officio member of all committees.  Downey has also appointed 4S Secretary Stephen Zehr ex officio member of all committees to help ensure timely action and effective coordination.


The composition of the Nominations Committee has been changed.  Council member Claire Waterton chairs this committee with the full Council composing its membership.  The process of nominating candidates for Council and President also has been formalized, which will come under review after this year’s nomination process has been completed.


Downey has charged four new committees: Reports and Resolutions Committee, Making and Doing Committee, Mentoring Award Committee, and Building STS Award Committee.  The charges of these new committees were reviewed.


The liaison process with other organizations has been formalized.  Liaison officer has been added to the duties of the 4S Secretary.


The 4S website will undergo significant changes in the coming years to better serve as a vehicle for bringing members together year-round.  First steps include emphasizing and making more transparent the activities of Council and committees, and re-organization of pages to clarify the workings of the society for members and non-members.


The 2014 Ludwik Fleck prize winner will be announced at the Buenos Aires meeting.  The actual presentation will take place at the Denver 2015 meeting because both the winner and presenter are unable to attend the Buenos Aires meeting.


In anticipation of new business, Downey announced that the big issue facing Council and the Society this year is digital publications.


Minutes for the 2013 San Diego meeting were approved with one amendment.


4S/ESOCITE update:


Rodriguez Medina reported that 1269 paper submissions and 49 sessions have been received.  A significant number of submissions are in Spanish and Portuguese.   The Program Committee plans to review and make decisions by 7 April.


Downey reported that we have lost one hotel for the conference.  Other hotels in the vicinity of the Intercontinental Hotel were visited, but an adequate replacement was not found.  A decision was made to compress space and add a day to the conference by starting regular sessions on Wednesday morning.  Still, paper presentations will have 18 minutes rather than the usual 12 minutes, an increase of 50%.

4S Council will now meet on Tuesday afternoon with an opening plenary that evening.  The banquet may be scheduled for Thursday evening because organizers expect it to include a tango show.   Downey reported that the 4S will likely lose some money at the meeting, but attempts will be made to minimize losses.  Moore recommended and Council agreed that session organizers should try to distribute papers among presenters in advance for better session coordination. 


Denver 2015 meeting:


Shrum and Downey visited the Denver hotel prior to the Council meeting.  It is located downtown, and has a large open space on the concourse level that could host a "making and doing" fair/exhibition.  Plenty of meeting rooms will be available.  The host Sheraton Hotel is located at the end of a mile-long walking street with a free bus passing by every few minutes.


Ethnografilm update: 


Shrum reported that 400 submissions were received.   Organization of the event is moving forward.  Shrum noted that a minimal number of short films were submitted.  They need to be encouraged next year.


Handbook Update:  


Zehr and Moore discussed updates in progress on the handbook.  A table of contents has been produced and reviewed by the Handbook Committee.  Handbook editors are at the point of contacting contributing authors.  Some members emphasized the importance of internationalizing authorship to a maximum extent. Some concern was expressed about falling behind the proposed schedule (e.g., delayed contact of authors might set the schedule back).


Reports and Position Statements Committee:


Downey reviewed the charge and discussed the motivation behind the development of the committee. Downey drew on his experience a decade ago working with Hugh Gusterson and Jane Summerton to produce a report and resolution on U.S. immigration policy after 9/11.  That report and resolution had been commissioned by Council and remain at the 4S website.  Downey seeks a system that would invite 4S members to initiate the development of reports and resolutions that would be vetted by the membership and voted on by Council.  He noted that Council has in hand a proposed "position statement" submitted by a group of members.


Committee chair Lagesen identified several key issues facing the committee including length, how deeply reports and resolutions should be steeped in STS literature, and whether 4S should fund workshops for the development of position papers.


Lagesen noted that the committee also discussed visibility – e.g., giving space for presentation at the annual meeting.  Downey suggested that the burden should be placed on authors to publicize and communicate the position.


Kuo mentioned the possible need for different guidelines for different types of statements and reports.


The committee and Council discussed two models for the 4S to issue reports and statements.  In the first model, members would submit proposed reports or statement for consideration by the committee and the membership, with Council making final decisions to accept the proposed document or not.  The other is similar to the immigration report and resolution. In that case, members would submit ideas for a report or statement, and Council would consider forming an ad-hoc task force to develop it.


Following a breakout session, Council discussed a stripped-down proposed document to address the proposed position statement currently in hand.  Under the pressure of time, Council approved the proposed document without significant discussion and directed the committee to continue developing a complete proposal for consideration by Council following input from the membership.


[Note: shortly after the Council meeting, the committee reported substantial concerns about 4S producing "position statements" in particular.  After further discussion among Council members, the committee changed its name to the Committee on Reports and Resolutions, agreed to revise the document considered at the end of the Council meeting, and lead subsequent Council discussion of a revision focused on reports and resolutions.   Membership comments may be solicited prior to the Buenos Aires meeting.]


 


Public Engagement Committee:


Downey proposed eliminating the Public Engagement Committee as a consequence of developing the new Reports and Position Statements Committee.  Downey pointed out that the mission of the Public Engagement Committee was unclear, with activities now covered by the Reports and Position Statements Committee. Downey moved to eliminate this committee.  Ito seconded.  No discussion.  The motion passed unanimously.


4S Mentoring Award Committee:


Council considered some background documents from this committee.


Downey, in discussion with Committee chair Rajan, had asked the committee to consider developing a graduate student mentoring award. The Committee's draft charge authorizes it to define the actual scope of a potential award.


Rajan discussed the importance of mentoring to bringing graduate students into the field of STS.  He elicited ideas/concerns from Council that should be considered in the development of a formal proposal.  There are potential challenges due to cross-national discontinuities in mentoring expectations.  Also, STS is not a clearly defined field – e.g., like a subfield of a discipline.  There may be questions about the boundaries of the field that such an award would elicit. 


Kinchy questioned restricting the acknowledgement of mentoring to graduate students.  Perhaps we should add undergraduates and junior faculty.


Moore agreed, encouraging the committee to broaden the notion of mentoring to include mentoring practices that are more prevalent outside EuroAmerica.


Kuo asked about teaching.  Rajan suggested that teaching can be considered a part of mentoring indirectly, but that it is difficult to establish criteria for quality teaching that would span the membership.


Kuo suggested advertising this award on the website in part by including relevant awardee-generated digital material.


Council asked the committee to submit a formal plan to be circulated among the membership prior to the 4S meeting in Buenos Aires.


Digital Publications Subcommittee:


Council was joined by Subcommittee member Ali Kenner via Skype for this agenda item.


Downey reviewed the substantial amount of work the Digital Publications Subcommittee had accomplished to date, beginning prior to the 2012 Copenhagen meeting. He also reviewed Council's decision in San Diego to develop an open-access journal and associated digital publications.


Subcommittee discussions prior to the Council meeting built in particular on a poll of the membership and a background report that Kinchy prepared on the process through which the Society for Cultural Anthropology made its journal open access and developed a range of digital publications., Kuo led the preparation of a background report to guide Council discussion.


Kuo discussed an Open Journal System (OJS) platform for a digital journal.  The initial cost for site development would be US $10,000, with expenses totaling approximately US $30,000 annually ($27,000 for managing editor and $3,000 for site hosting).  Katie Vann, widely-respected Managing Editor of ST&HV and member of the Digital Publications Subcommittee, had offered to build the site, serve as Managing Editor for the open access journal, and, time-permitting, support other digital publications 4S chose to produce.


Kuo also indicated that 4S recently received a proposal from Sage to collaborate in developing an open access journal that would publish STS and history & philosophy of science work together.  Kuo noted that the proposal includes a US $695 article processing charge (APC) paid by authors to cover journal expenses.  Any financial benefits would be shared between 4S and Sage, and Sage would pay a £2000 fee to the editor.  Kuo noted that the APC price is negotiable, but anticipated that it likely would remain very high.  He reviewed the main benefits of the Sage proposal, including rapid start-up, publicity through established practices, and Sage help in seeking indexing for the journal. A Sage-run journal would, however, be owned by Sage rather than 4S.


Council discussion of the Sage proposal ensued, focusing on the high APC, including in-principle objections to charging authors for publications.


Moore summarized concerns about the likely costs 4S will face in running its own open-access journal, the in-house expertise required, and whether the journal would attract a strong editor and quality content.  Moore suggested that Council discuss the Sage proposal and make a yes or no decision, taking care to ensure that if 4S goes it alone, we do not foreclose the possibility of working with Sage in the future.


A question was raised about the proposed journal’s relationship to ST&HV and SSS. It was noted that editors of these journals are confident in the utility of an additional stand-alone journal and do not perceive it as a direct competitor.


Kinchy reminded Council that a 4S-owned, peer-reviewed open access journal could also be linked to a platform for other digital materials.  These are two separate objectives, but could complement one another. The laundry list of potential digital publication is long, including inter alia blogs, podcasts, teaching materials, 4S reports and position statements, curated contents, interviews with authors and awardees, reflections on current events, archives of Technoscience Update, archives of Council minutes and other documents, repositories of other digital contents, and links to other digital publications relevant to STS.


Kenner noted that we are considering two distinct platforms but have formulated only one budget.  She raised the question of technology support or a web developer who could support the full development and integration of the two platforms.  Kenner said that we can use OJS in the meantime and that everything we need for a digital journal would be provided.  However, other digital materials would be difficult to support by OJS.  Only a very good tech person would be able to make a variety of digital materials available on OJS.


Because of financial uncertainties associated with the Buenos Aires meeting and design uncertainties about additional digital publications, Downey suggested we use the current website until at least the 2015 Denver meeting.  Hopefully by that point both sets of uncertainties would be reduced. In the meantime, we can begin building the open access journal and taking initial steps to organize the production of additional digital publications.


Kuo questioned whether a committed budget of $30K per year and $10K for initial development is sufficient.  Kenner asserted that $10K is more than enough to start up a journal on OJS.  Kenner also noted, however, that annual costs can be higher than expected, especially for publications beyond an open access journal. Moore questioned Kenner about potential cost overruns based on her experience as Managing Editor for the Society for Cultural Anthropology.  Kenner said that Cultural Anthropology built a customized platform, which generated overruns.  Such would not be necessary now.  Starting with an established platform will reduce cost unknowns.


Kenner recommended that 4S consider collaborating with a university library and possibly a university publisher.  Both are looking for partnerships with academic organizations that are going on their own with journal development.


A question was raised about technical support provided by a university host. It depends on the nature of the problem.  A university provides technical support for its own infrastructure but not for design work.  Kenner noted that OJS is clunky and not user friendly, but it is very stable.  If 4S established a hosting agreement with a university library, hosting of everything associated with OJS would likely be free. 


Downey reported that Katie Vann had expressed a willingness to do the copy-editing for the open access journal.  He also raised the question of getting a new journal accepted by the Science Citation Index.  Someone will have to take the lead on that process.  There are also the questions of publicity and promotion, which will likely bring additional costs. 


Council also discussed developing an evaluation process to be undertaken in two years. There should also be an escape strategy if the journal appears not to be succeeding.  The Treasurer agreed to monitor the finances closely.  The Digital Publications Subcommittee will consider developing an evaluation process.


Kinchy made a motion that we reject the Sage offer.  Rodriguez Medina seconded.  Discussion focused on the main concern, which is the proposed APC charge.  Council felt that it would be too expensive for many prospective contributors.  However, rejecting Sage means that we need to make connections to other organizations – e.g., connection to a university library.  Kenner was in favor of connecting to a university library as a matter of principle to mutually support university libraries while cutting out corporate intermediaries. The motion passed unanimously.


Downey agreed to contact the Sage both to inform her of Council's decision and to maintain an open collaborate relationship.  [Note: A positive, lengthy conversation took place after the meeting, including discussion of possible ways to collaborate, and ending with the Sage editor asserting, "The door is always open."]


Downey proposed that Kinchy work with Vann on the development of a journal.  Kuo volunteered to work both with Kinchy and Vann on the journal and with Kenner on the development of additional digital materials.   


The 4S Publications Committee is charged, by charter, to seek out nominations for editor of the proposed journal and make a recommendation to Council. 


Future Meetings:


Downey announced that Claire Waterton is serving as future meetings coordinator for the joint 2016 meeting with EASST.  Downey also exchanged messages with Fred Steward, EASST President, proposing to hold the 2016 meeting in north Africa, including either Morocco or Tunisia.  Steward responded that EASST prefers to meeting in Europe, at a European university with STS representation.  EASST has not yet selected a site.  4S has encouraged EASST to locate a site in southern Europe.


4S received a preliminary proposal from a SHOT member to hold a joint meeting in Philadelphia in 2017.  Council expressed interest. The SHOT governing board is now considering formalizing the proposal. Council members expressed interest both in returning to East Asia, where we have a growing number of members, and in holding a meeting at some point in Africa, where an STS network is growing.  The issue remains open.


Website:


Downey gave an update on website changes and expressed a desire to increase the amount of information Council shares with members via the website.  The purpose is to help build a stronger sense of commitment to and stake in Society actions from its members.  Once a plan is in place, Council will consider committing resources to development of website contents.


Building STS Award Committee:


Committee Chair Ito reviewed committee discussion about developing an award to acknowledge scholarly work building STS that goes beyond published books and journal articles.  STS members are involved in an array of activities to build STS as a scholarly field.  The award would recognize such work.


There was general Council discussion about “institution building” as one type of qualification for a potential awardee.


Downey recommended that the award include the term “scholarship” to recognize other forms of scholarship beyond the traditionally awarded academic publications.

Discussion ensued about what might be the award's focus.  One committee member had previously suggested the award focus on community building in STS.  Questions were raised about the word “community” limiting the geographical scope of the award, to the extent a community is understood as a collectivity of equal and independent individuals.  Such might also limit the significance of the award.  Council expressed the sentiment that the award should remain open in terms of the sorts of scholarship it honors. 


The committee will take Council comments into account in formalizing its proposal. 


 


4S Making and Doing Committee:


Downey outlined the justification for further expanding the types of presentations that take place at 4S meetings.  The San Diego meeting successfully introduced STS films.  STS scholars produce many types of scholarship that are captured within the traditional academic presentation.  The term "making and doing" could function as an acceptable label for scholarship ranging from policy to pedagogy to the production of artifacts.  Many STS scholars have advanced labels for their versions of such work.


Committee Chair Amir reported committee discussion to date on how to formulate a call for submissions, what to include, and how such work might be evaluated with an award or awards in mind.


Council expressed enthusiasm about this opportunity.  Suggestions were made about ways to broaden the types of activities that fall under this opportunity for exhibition.  Discussion ensued about whether exhibitions would be similar to poster sessions, how conference attendees might circulate from exhibition to exhibition, and the various ways exhibitors might be able to share their activities with attendees.


Downey and Shrum visited the Denver hotel prior to coming to SF.  They reported that the concourse level of the hotel has a huge space that would serve as a perfect site for launching a making and doing fair/exhibition.


The committee will take Council comments into account in formalizing its proposal., with the goal of holding a first fair/exhibition in 2015.


4:45 Adjournment for the Day:


The meeting was adjourned to allow Committees and Subcommittees to meet in break-out sessions.


 


Saturday 3/22/14


Meeting called to order at 8:30 am by President Gary Downey. 


Downey reviewed the agenda for the morning.  Council member Claire Waterton joined via Skype.


Nominations:


Chair Waterton discussed criteria that have been identified for good Council membership.  The six criteria included: ability to do a good job on the work required for Council, years of involvement/attendance of 4S/knowledge of 4S, previous good work in similar organizational/management role, good leadership in STS, scholarly excellence, and willingness to attend next three meetings of 4S (and scheduled spring meetings either in person or by Skype).


Council discussed these criteria and added “being effective at collaboration” to the list. 


Waterton also reviewed criteria for diverse representation within Council including: gender, geographical distribution, and area of intellectual focus.  Waterton also suggested Council take into consideration characteristics of the current membership as background to decision-making about future nominees.


Council received a list of nominees that emerged from membership and Council recommendations, both in response to Technoscience Update requests and informal communications via email.  There was discussion of each nominee. 


The ten voting members of Council (nine members and the President) were then asked to vote in a closed ballot for six Council candidates without rank order.  Aggregated results identified 10 candidates with three or more votes.  These 10 candidates were then rank-ordered by voting Council members in a closed ballot. The Secretary reported the aggregated results


Council asked Waterton to produce a decision tree following both this rank order and the criteria identified.  Waterton will then contact nominees to inform them of Council's desire that they stand for election. 


Council then discussed the nine nominations for 4S President.  Council voted on the candidates in a closed ballot.  The results were aggregated, producing a slate of four candidates.  Council decided not to rank order these candidates, instead asking President Downey to produce a decision tree of nominees.  Downey indicated an interest in seeking confidential reactions from Council members to a draft decision tree. 


Downey raised the issue of whether potential candidates should be informed of fellow candidates.  Council felt that the traditional practice of not informing candidates of their competitors should be maintained.


Downey raised the issue of the practice of not releasing number of votes in an election.  Council agreed to maintain this practice.


General Issues and Third Rail Issues:


The Council meeting concluded with discussion of general issues that had come up in Skype conversations between the President and Council members, as well as in member comments in poll results. Downey classified these into two categories, general issues and third rail issues. A metaphor drawn from subway systems powered by electricity, a third rail issue is one that, when you touch it, you die.


One general issue discussed was the increasing size of 4S meetings, which now have 20-32 parallel sessions.  In responding to the poll after San Diego, some members expressed a sense of isolation or general loss of solidarity.  Others expressed concerns about sessions of interest to them occurring at the same time. Council discussed the possibility introducing sections, akin to the American Sociological Association.  Pros and cons were raised and discussed.  No action was taken.


The second general issue was whether society dues should be graduated based upon salary/income. Discussion ensued.  It was recognized that the general dues for the organization are low and that costs to attend the annual meeting are high.  Questions also were raised about whether we desire more attendees at the annual meeting given its current size.  It was noted that there is overlap between dues and registration.  People often pay their annual dues to the organization when they register for the meeting.  A Committee on Membership Dues and Student Travel Grants was formed to study the issue.


Although it was time to adjourn, Downey briefly mentioned two third-rail issues.  One was the suggestion by a respondent to rename the society the Society for Social Studies of Science, Technology, and Medicine.  The other was to consider modifying the names of Bernal, Fleck, Carson, Edge, and Mullins prizes/award to include two scholars in each case, a woman and a man.  No discussion ensued and no action was taken.


Meeting was adjourned at 12:00 PM


APPROVED 19 August, 2014