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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S Council Meeting, 15 December 2016

Members Present: Lucy Suchman, 4S President; Kim Fortun, President-elect; Paige Miller, Treasurer; Stephen Zehr, Secretary; Wes Shrum, Program Officer; Gloria Baigorrotegui, Gwen Ottinger, Tania Pérez Bustos, Daniel Breslau, Steven Jackson, Sara Wylie, Shobita Parthasarathy, Anita Say Chan, 4S Council Members; John Lunsford, 4S Student Representative

Lucy Suchman called the meeting to order at 12:05 PM US EST.

Suchman plans one more Council meeting in the spring and a full day Council meeting before the annual meeting in Boston.  Suchman asked Council members to be in Boston on Tuesday before the meetings.

Treasurer’s Report: Paige Miller reported that the annual meeting in Barcelona was economically beneficial for both 4S and EASST.  4S received $521,000 from the meeting (inclusive of both registrations and memberships); our expenses were around $360,000.  The current balance in the 4S account is $443,000, which keeps us within the Council recommended steady state.  Suchman added that this is good news given some uncertainty surrounding meeting revenue and expenses.  Suchman reminded Council of the importance of steady state finances, which provides the society insurance against a future economically unsuccessful conference.

Publications Committee: Gwen Ottinger reported on the Publications Committee charge to develop a general policy on managing editors for 4S journals.  The intent is to formalize an arrangement, while providing job security for the current managing editor.  The committee has formulated a contract with the managing editor, which includes a 6-month notice if it is to be terminated.  A “job ad” has been developed, formalizing duties associated with the position, giving clarity to the current managing editor while providing the society with a structure of continuity if the current managing editor decides to leave the position.  Council members approved the contract and job ad.

Gwen Ottinger reported that 4S has been asked to consider supporting a Latin American STS journal.  4S has sent a letter of support and provides other infrastructural support, but should 4S institute an “affiliation” status with the journal and if so, what would it involve?  The Publications Committee feels that affiliation requires some sort of oversight arrangement, but wonders whether 4S has the capacity to provide it?  Discussion: Suchman noted that we don’t have an official affiliate status with other journals.  Kim Fortun suggested that we keep the question open and consider it as part of 4S’s role in the world as we move forward.  Fortun also felt this question was important as part of the need for legitimacy in the process of moving to open access journals.  Tania Pérez Bustos added that the journal under consideration is the first Latin American STS journal in English.  In response to a question about the journal not being open access, Bustos noted the difficulty of developing a journal without commercial support.  Ottinger added that much structural work is required for the society if we develop an affiliation option.  Suchman considered the possibility that an “affiliate” category could be more lateral – a voice of support rather than an oversight function.  Council took no specific action on this item, recommending further discussion of the topic.  [The question of affiliate status was subsequently corrected to recognize 4S’ affiliation with the journal Catalyst, and to agree that the Pubs Committee should draft an appropriate policy for affliation going forward, for consideration at the next Council meeting.]

Ottinger reported that ESTS is applying for web of science index status.

Ottinger reported that Katie Vann and Ed Hackett ask for recommendations to refresh the editorial board of Science, Technology & Human Values.  Suchman suggested that decisions should be made by editors, but encouraged Council members to send recommendations to Katie & Ed.  Steven Jackson made a general recommendation that the editorial board be smaller, but consist mostly of active members rather than the more recognizable names of non-active members.

Suchman thanked the Publications Committee for its work and recognized the quality of the society’s two journals.

4S Web Committee: Tania Pérez Bustos reported some of the assistant editors of Backchannels are leaving.  The committee is open to recommendations of assistant editors for the three different editorial teams.  Some discussion ensued about the possibility of 4S reducing costs for managers & assistant editors of the blog at the annual meeting as a means of enticing and rewarding work.  Suchman recommended that 4S provide free conference registration for assistant editors.

Pérez Bustos reported on committee discussion about updating the Resources page at the website.  Several parts of this page need work.  The challenge is building content that doesn’t overlap with other easily accessible web resources.  Suchman recommended that the committee pursue an overhaul of the Resources page.

Daniel Breslau updated Council on the social media work of the committee.  Efforts are being made to generate energy for the Boston meeting.  Breslau encouraged Council members to send updates to the committee about STS related meetings they have attended.

Steven Jackson discussed other activities for Backchannels with an eye toward making content exist outside of the blog itself.

Nominations Committee: Anita Say Chen will begin working on nominations for Council in April or May.  A society membership vote will occur soon to approve or reject Council proposed changes to the size of Council.

Reports and Resolutions Committee: Shobita Parthasarathy reported there are no new reports or resolutions.  Suchman suggested that this domain of 4S structure needs more development.  Questions have been raised about the differences between a report and a resolution.  Suchman clarified that the key issue here is to give 4S a space to say something that has public relevance.  Kim Fortun suggested that we look at other successful and unsuccessful examples to help guide us in this area.  Council took no action on the issue, but agreed that discussion should continue.

Travel Grants Committee: Paige Miller reported that the committee has been expanded.  A clear division of labor is in place and efforts are being made to increase transparency of committee decisions.  Kelly Moore and Oscar Maldonado have agreed to continue as members of the committee.

Update on 4S Boston Meeting: Suchman reported that a committee has been formed: Heather Paxson is chairing the program committee.  Committee members also include Daniel Breslau, Claudia Castañeda, Tarleton Gillespie, Mary Gray, Nick Seaver, Banu Subramaniam, T.L. Taylor, and Lucy Suchman.  The committee is located primarily in the Boston area and will develop events that fit 4S into the area.  Heather Paxson is organizing the first meeting in January 2017.  The presidential plenary title and speakers have been determined, and the call for open panels will close on 1 January, followed by the call for papers and closed sessions on 15 January with a deadline of 1 March.  Problems associated with the open panel process in Barcelona are being resolved for the Boston meeting.  Suchman added that spatial constraints required a higher rejection rate than normal in Barcelona.  Wes Shrum added that we’ll also be using our own software system in Boston and the program committee is tapping Breslau’s organizational expertise, which should help to eliminate problems.  Shrum also indicated possibilities for expansion of room space in Boston into a nearby convention center if necessary.

Making and Doing Committee: Sara Wylie reported an increase in space to accommodate about 75 submissions for this year’s Making and Doing session at the meetings.  The committee recommends making parts of the making and doing presentations open to the public and asks Council for comments.  Questions were raised about logistics.  Anita Say Chan added that opening up the session is consistent with the 4S mission of creating new space for dialogs with the public.  Wes Shrum clarified that 4S meetings have generally been openly accessible. Council expressed support for the idea as long as it doesn’t create major logistical problems.

Future Meetings: There was discussion about the proposed Sydney meeting in 2018.  Preparation for the meeting will require some care.  It is important to bring people into 4S from different parts of the world, but we also have to consider travel costs for attendees.  Suchman suggested that we begin thinking of fund raising for additional travel support.

Contract renegotiations with Sage for ST&HV: Suchman reported that 4S has retained the services of a London consulting firm for a flat fee of £3000 to assist with negotiations, which are ongoing.

Prize Committees:  Bernal – Nominations have been requested with a 31 December due date. 

Fleck: The committee has identified a prize winner and is developing a prize statement.

Carson: The committee has finished its work.  A winner has been selected after long deliberation and the committee also identified an honorable mention.

Edge: The committee will be deliberating in January. 

Mullins: The committee plans to review results in February.

New Business:

Anthropocene Campus: Suchman reported on a request received from Scott Knowles from Drexel University asking that the society consider supporting five graduate student fellows to participate in the Anthropocene Campus Philadelphia, planned for October 2017, at a total cost of $3250.  Suchman noted that we don’t have a formal protocol in place for reviewing these requests.  Do we feel comfortable responding to such a request on an ad hoc basis?  Council discussion of the request focused on questions around precedence, whether 4S would be involved in the selection process, and how requests like these might normally be sent to NSF.  Additional discussion focused on whether the request could be generalized in some way (e.g., supporting graduate student interaction with other societies).  No specific action was taken on this issue at the meeting.  [Subsequent discussion and action resulted in the society declining the request due to the lack of a funding mechanism for student participation in events other than the annual conference, as well as the fact that the Anthropocene Campus is not specifically organized and supported by another society (SHOT).]

Demographic Data:  A discussion question was raised about whether we should collect demographic data on the membership of the society.  Council questioned the purpose of collecting this information.  Possible reasons might include obtaining data for purposes of diversification, historical research, facilitation of the placement of 4S into the public domain (e.g., journalists more easily accessing experts).  After some discussion, Suchman suggested that as the primary interest seemed to be in diversification of 4S membership, we might develop an initiative aimed at mapping the STS geneaologies reflected in the society, as a basis for understanding the geographies of our current membership and thinking about the implications of that for 4S and for our relations with sister societies.  Council members expressed interest in this possibility, but no further action was taken on this item at this time.

Lucy Suchman adjourned the meeting at 14:15 PM US EST.