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Society for Social Studies of Science

Minutes of the 4S Council Meeting 2014

Buenos Aires, Argentina, 19 August

Present: Gary Downey, 4S President; Paige Miller, 4S Treasurer; Stephen Zehr, 4S Secretary; Wes Shrum, 4S Program Officer; 4S Council members – Kelly Moore, Abby Kinchy, Vivian Lagesen, Claire Waterton, Wen-Hua Kuo, Leandro Rodríguez Medina, Sulfikar Amir, Kenji Ito; 6S members – Jess Bier, Bryn Whiteley; Lucy Suchman, 4S President Elect; Council-Elect members – Shobita Parthasarathy, Tania Pérez-Bustos.

Gary Downey called the meeting to order at 3:15 PM, welcoming everyone to the Council meeting.  Introductions were made.  Downey discussed the agenda, provided an overview of appointments to committees since the previous meeting, and discussed the history of new committees.  Downey reviewed accomplishments in the past year by both Council and hard-working committees.  In the process, he re-introduced “critical participation” as the theme of his presidency.

Abby Kinchy made a motion to approve the minutes from the 4S Council meeting in San Francisco.  Leandro Rodriguez Medina seconded.  The minutes were unanimously approved.

Reports from Committee Chairs:

Nominations Committee:

Claire Waterton reported on the new nominations process.  This year nominations were solicited from Council members and the membership.  Council developed criteria for good nominees, which included regular participation in 4S and contribution to gender, intellectual, and geographical diversity of Council.  The nomination process for 2014 was accomplished at the spring Council meeting.  [Note: These procedures will be documented on the 4S website for future use.]  Waterton also announced the new 4S Council members, Shobita Parthasarathy, Tania Pérez-Bustos, and Daniel Breslau, and the President-Elect Lucy Suchman

Publications Committee:

Kelly Moore reported on the development of the STS Handbook.  The editors have nearly completed the table of contents from revised abstracts and are contacting authors to commission chapters.  Moore Reported that over the past year she has had concerns about the organization and timeliness of the Handbook process, in particular, with respect to communication with authors and among editors.. Moore and Downey expressed concern about short gap between the time when penultimate chapters are due and the expected return of comments to authors. Moore noted the tight timeline this coming year.  Miller agreed to produce and share with Downey and Moore a spreadsheet to help keep track of manuscripts and correspondence during the review process. The goal is to keep the Handbook on schedule for a 2016 publication.

Moore reviewed the ST&HV report submitted by Edward Hackett and Katie Vann.  The journal is doing exceptionally well.  Submissions have increased to the point where the editor has concerns about a high rejection rate.  The possibility of increasing number of pages per volume was discussed in the Publications Committee meeting.  The Publications Committee recommended that a request for additional pages from Sage be put off for one year to evaluate the potential impact of the new open access journal, which may reduce the submission rate to ST&HV. [Note: following conversations subsequent to the meeting, Council will be reconsidering this request.]

Moore reported that Sage is increasingly asking contributors to pay for publication in open access journals.  The Publications Committee reiterated its position that this practice is unacceptable for 4S members.

Moore reported on data management concerns raised by Ed Hackett, editor of ST&HV.  Hackett questioned whether the 4S website could provide a place and space for archiving data published in ST&HV articles.  No action was taken by Council on this issue.

Moore reported that Daniel Kleinman has agreed to edit the new open access journal.   By 1 September 2014, Kleinman will nominate a journal title for Council consideration.  In the meantime, Kleinman requests ideas from 4S members.  By 1 December 2014, Kleinman will form an editorial team.  Katie Vann has agreed to serve as Managing Editor.  Discussion: Amir questioned the possibility of content in multiple languages.  Moore reported that this issue was discussed in the Publications Committee, but it will not be pursued in the shortrun.  It may be revisited in the future. Moore indicated that a title needs to be determined quickly to facilitate design work.  Kinchy suggested that Kleinman develop several options for Council’s consideration.  Moore requested that Council members submit suggestions to her by Monday (25 August), which she will relay to Kleinman.

On Council voting procedures:

During discussion of journal naming, a question was raised about Council voting procedures via email.  Downey reminded Council that his practice has been to seek at least seven votes in favor of a motion before passage (out of a total of 9-10 possible votes) and to table a motion for further discussion if significant Council disagreement emerges. Note: the 4S Charter defines a quorum as four members only.

Digital Publications Subcommittee:

Wen-Hua Kuo reported that the subcommittee has developed ideas for 4S website development.  A starting point is to add a new blog that would be initially driven by graduate student submissions.  Subcommittee members will meet with 6S to stimulate involvement and encourages Council members to involve their graduate students.  Subcommittee member Kinchy added that the blog would be used to initially generate content for the website in line with the goals of making it more data rich and improving its overall appearance and utility.  Discussion: Amir asked whether the website would have the capacity to include descriptions of Making and Doing activities to be presented at annual meetings.  Parthasarathy suggested that advanced 4S scholars also write blogs to increase traffic at the website.  Bier added that the site provides an opportunity for responses to others’ content.  As a means for generating more student involvement in website content, Downey appointed Parthasarathy to serve as liaison with the 6S, to work on this and other issues.

Handbook Committee:

Stephen Zehr reported that the committee is pleased with the progress of the Handbook.  Zehr noted that the committee recently viewed a draft table of contents and provided suggestions to Handbook editors.  Overall, the committee feels that the intellectual content of the Handbook is high and represents increased geographical diversity from earlier drafts.

Program Committee:

Leandro Rodríguez Medina reported that the committee accepted 1003 papers, but only around 700 individuals had registered by the original deadline.  Another 200 registered during the second registration period, delaying publication of the final schedule until mid-July.  Rodríguez Medina indicated that papers were submitted by scholars from all over the world.  Discussion: Council members questioned the delayed registrations.  Rodríguez Medina suggested that they may have resulted from the meeting/Congress expense and delayed decisions about travel funding.  Downey pointed out that the description of the open panel process in the original call for papers appears to have been misleading, for some session chairs were surprised to learn they did not have final control over panel titles and the names of contributors. Rodríguez Medina indicated that the open panel process works well if there is sufficient room space.  There was some discussion about this and Downey indicated that he will form a 4S Annual Meeting Review Committee, chaired by President-elect Lucy Suchman, to assess the open panel process and other issues and make recommendations for future meetings.

Resolutions and Reports Committee:

Vivian Lagesen reported that the committee has received one proposal for a resolution, which is currently being reviewed by committee members.

Making and Doing Committee:

Sulfikar Amir indicated that a plan is being generated to establish an annual STS Making and Doing format at 4S meetings to recognize STS scholarship that goes beyond the publication of articles and books for STS audiences. The plan is to begin accepting submissions for the Denver 2015 meeting.  Amir discussed the range of making and doing categories in the committee’s proposal.  The committee also has been working on strategies for assessing submissions.  The committee recommends more than one award in different categories. An additional issue being considered is a name for these awards.  Discussion: Downey described his successful experience this past summer running a pilot test of the making and doing process at the Dutch STS summer school with Teun Zuiderent-Jerak and Geert Somsen.  Downey reminded Council that it has approved a basic framework for this process. A final report and recommendations will be reviewed by Council this fall.

Travel Grants Committee:

Paige Miller reported that 4S received 75 applications for travel grants.  We offered 34 grants; 31 attendees were funded.  Discussion: Moore asked what criteria were used to evaluate grant applications, and suggested that criteria be made available in advance to students.  Downey indicated he will establish a committee to formalize and publicize evaluation criteria for future travel grants.

Future Meetings Committee:

Downey reported that the 2015 meeting is set for Denver.  Daniel Breslau will serve as Program Chair.  Waterton has liaised with EASST about the 2016 meeting.  Waterton reported that Fred Steward – EASST President – has indicated that EASST would like a more proactive role in co-organizing the next meeting.  EASST Council identified five issues that need better coordination: format; posting and branding of the meeting; better communication between 4S and EASST; joint agreement on the conference structure, budget, branding, & offers for membership; and use of joint conference management systems.  Also, EASST Council feels that they should take the lead in appointing the program chair.

Waterton also reported that EASST has not yet identified a location for the 2016 meeting, but would like to maintain leadership over its location.  Under consideration is an academic location in southern Europe for a September or October meeting.  A venue is needed that could handle up to 1500 attendees.  Offers have been received from locations in Portugal and Italy, but EASST prefers not to go there because they’ve met there previously.  EASST also has received an offer from a commercial firm for a conference in Barcelona. 

Downey noted that a formal invitation has been received from SHOT to meet with them in Philadelphia in 2017.  He is awaiting a follow-up from SHOT’s governing council.

Discussion: Shrum reminded Council that a “joint” EASST/4S meeting refers to a fully integrated meeting.  Joint meetings have focused on the intellectual component, not necessarily the technical aspects.  Waterton noted, however, that EASST’s concern is that technical requirements for 4S interact with and affect the intellectual dimensions of the meeting.  Waterton felt that it is important to have face-to-face contact with EASST to remove any misunderstanding.  Pinch pointed out that the financial structures of the two organizations are very different and that 4S depends heavily on the annual meeting for its financial existence.  He added that 4S takes a financial risk in the joint meetings and, hence, should be involved in identifying a location.  Suchman volunteered to take the lead in clarifying concerns expressed by EASST and mediating issues of concern to the two societies.

Claire Waterton made a motion that the 4S Council expresses its commitment to working together with EASST to organize the 2016 meeting.  Vivian Lagesen seconded the motion.  The motion passed unanimously. [Note: Downey subsequently indicated that he will respond formally to the communication from EASST’s Council, including the appointment of Suchman to facilitate the process.]

Ethnografilm:

Wes Shrum reported that the 1st year was highly successful.  90 films were shown.  About two-thirds of the film directors were in the audience.  Shrum reported that plans for next year’s Ethnografilm include the addition of moderators and question and answer sessions.  Downey reminded Council that 4S provides 3000 Euros in support of Ethnografilm each year, which goes to rental of the theater. He expressed hope that 4S digital publications staff might find ways of integrating relevant content from Ethnografilm into a revised and upgraded 4S website.

Student Affairs Committee:

Jess Bier reminded Council that leadership composition in 6S had been changed to increase continuity.  The 6S Council now includes four full members on 2-year rotations.  6S is working to increase international access to important STS events by recording lectures of prominent and upcoming STS scholars and making them available on line.  6S Council member Bryn Whiteley is helping organize the STGlobal event in Washington, DC and is investigating the possibility of videotaping lectures and creating a digital archive.  Bier also reported that 6S is inclusive of STS scholars outside the normal trajectory of the academy.

4S Mentoring Award Committee:

Leandro Rodríguez Medina reported that the committee has prepared a preliminary document recommending an award to a 4S scholar who excels as a mentor.  Council has approved a basic outline of the award and criteria to be used in selecting winners. The committee is now finalizing a proposal for Council approval.  Discussion: Kinchy questioned the potential overlap between a 4S Mentoring Award and a Building STS Award.  Kinchy recommended that the committees compare the two awards side-to-side as they become finalized.

Building STS Award Committee:

Kenji Ito reminded Council that membership comments end 31 August.  In response to Kinchy’s concern, Ito also noted that the committee has dealt with some points of clarification between the mentoring and building STS awards.

Budget Report:

Paige Miller reported that 4S has added about $53,000 of new annualized expenses, including especially costs for the new open access journal, a spring Council meeting, and support for new 4S officers.  Currently, Miller anticipates that we’ll break even or be a bit in the red for the year, depending upon the last few months revenues and expenses.  Downey expressed concern that 4S could end up in the red for the year by as much as $20,000.  Downey also reminded Council that we affirmed the principle of steady state management, but over a three year period to accommodate annual variation in losses and gains due to annual meeting location.  Miller also provided an assessment for 2015, reminding Council of its intention to undertake a substantial re-design of its website, funds permitting.

New Business

Request for start-up funding for new journal Catalyst:

(This item was moved ahead of Old Business to accommodate prior scheduling arrangements with two Catalyst founders.)  Discussion of this agenda item was led by Kelly Moore.  Gary Downey recused himself due to potential conflict of interest.

Council received a request for funding support to help start the new journal Catalyst.  Martha Lampland and Christina Visperas attended the Council meeting to present the proposal and answer questions.  They noted that much work has gone into the design of the open access journal.  The request to 4S in 2014-2015 is for a one-time commitment of $6200, which would cover a webmaster ($4200) and copyeditor ($2000).  The proposal also includes an additional request for annual support of $3000, if such funding is available.  Most of the funding for the journal has been committed from university-based sources.  Discussion: Suchman asked about the relationship between the journal and 4S.  Specifically, would the journal be linked to 4S, and if so in what way?  Lampland and Visperas answered that the journal would contain a page that listed sources of support.  Ito asked why the current editorial board was restricted to the US and Canada.  Lampland and Visperas answered that the current editorial board consists of individuals who initially became involved and remain committed to the journal.  However, it is the intent of the editors to expand the board geographically.  Downey questioned the plan to initially publish an open access journal and then later move to a print journal.  Lampland and Visperas answered that they’ve talked with different potential publishers and pursued different options.  The initial decision was to pursue an open access route due to the success of neighboring journals such as Disability Studies.  However, in the future they would pursue print options to make the journal more attractive to younger scholars with the implications of printed versions for perceived quality.

After Lampland and Visperas answered Council questions and left the meeting, there was further discussion.  Downey reminded Council that last year we discontinued the New Initiative Program, but that there are options for pursuing proposals that advance the field.  Moore felt that Council needed a specific mechanism if it wished to fund this initiative.  Suchman pointed out as well that the proposal didn’t include any explicit mention of or connection to 4S.  As a consequence she suggested that Council faced two questions: one related to process (i.e., a mechanism to approve funding for unsolicited proposals from other organizations), and one related to fiscal stewardship (bearing in mind 4S’ other commitments, including the society’s pending open access journal).  Further discussion focused on both the lack of a funding mechanism and funds to support the initiative.  4S has other new ventures to support that are specifically tied to 4S.  Council agreed that the request should be turned down, but that other forms of support from 4S would be offered.  Downey asked the Publications Chair to develop a draft letter to send to Catalyst organizers.

Old Business

4S Mentoring Award Proposal:

Downey noted that Council has approved the basic outline of the award.  The committee will work on development of a final proposal to be considered by Council and the membership.

4S Spring Council meeting:

Downey proposed that these meetings be held in alternating years, synchronized with the start of a new presidency.  This arrangement would help reduce society travel costs.  Instead, Downey would like to initiate quarterly Council meetings via Webex, starting this fall.

Nominations Procedures:

Claire Waterton reported that the new President and Council nomination procedures instituted in last Spring’s meeting should still work even if we didn’t meet face-to-face.

Membership dues:

Downey reminded Council that it briefly considered increasing membership dues at the Spring Council meeting, but he doesn’t find justification for doing so right now.  However, if Council pursues an increase in student travel grants, we may need to reconsider.

New Business

Downey reported that new Council member Shobita Parthasarathy (who started 6S as a graduate student) will serve as liaison to 6S.

Downey, on behalf of Kelly Moore, proposed that Council award Edward Hackett an annual stipend for his work as editor of ST&HV.  To offset this compensation, Downey noted that 4S will receive an additional $7000 annually from Sage.  Discussion: Suchman expressed support for the idea of a stipend.  The question is the amount.  There was brief discussion about the amount.  Pinch suggested that since the journal generates annual profit for Sage of $225,000, perhaps we should request more than $7000.  Downey indicated that the contract with Sage will be renegotiated in a couple of years, which will provide an opportunity to increase our request.  Moore motioned that the editors of both ST&HV and the new open access journal be paid an annual stipend of $5000.  Kinchy seconded the motion.  The motion passed Council unanimously.

Downey reported that there would be some additional expenses for the initiation of new digital practices.  Much of the work would be completed with existing resources, however, additional expenses would come from software purchases and Steve Coffee’s labor.  Moore motioned that we approve up to $3000 for expenditures related to updating the website.  Kinchy seconded the motion.  The motion was passed unanimously.

Downey brought up the issue of prize committee deliberation.  In the past, prize committees made final decisions at the annual prize committee dinner at the 4S meeting.  Members of Council agreed that the deliberation could extend beyond the annual meeting to facilitate further and more complete discussion.  The annual dinner now becomes a Council and Officers dinner rather than a prize committee dinner.

The 4S Council meeting adjourned at 7:17 PM.