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Society for Social Studies of Science

4S Council Meeting, Boston 2017

Society for Social Studies of Science

4S Council Meeting

29 August 2017, Boston

Attendance: Lucy Suchman Paige Miller, Stephen Zehr, Kim Fortun, Shobita Parthasarathy, Anita Say Chan, Daniel Breslau, Wes Shrum, Tanya Pérez Bustos, Gwen Ottinger, Steven Jackson, Sara Wylie, Gloria Baigorrotegui, Noela Invernizzi, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Erika Szymanski, Margaret Rayzberg, John Lunsford.

Meeting called to order by 4S President Lucy Suchman at 10:05 AM.

Welcome and introductions:

Lucy Suchman asked for new business items.

Treasurer’s Report: Paige Miller reminded everyone of Council’s advice that the society maintains a steady state budget of around US $450,000.  Miller reviewed revenue and expenses for the year and provided end-of-year projections.  Miller anticipates that meeting expenses will be less than the comparable Denver 2015 meeting.  Revenue sources are mostly stable at this time.  There is a one-time charge of $25,000 for development of the Handbook and a few other one-time expenses.  Miller expects the society to end the fiscal year at $453,000.  In response to a question about meeting registration levels, it was reported that we have 1400 registered for the conference, but we anticipate some additional cancellations.

6S Report: Shobita Parthasarthy asked Council to reflect on 6S activity over the past few years with an eye toward recommendations for the future – e.g., relationship between 6S and the Council, how to better serve the 6S constituency, etc..   Erika Szymanski noted that 6S has been working hard for their constituency with activity focused on the annual meeting.  Szymanski sees the workshops (e.g., Career Development) held at the annual meeting as a particularly useful 6S activity. The question remaining is what activities and community building 6S can focus on for the rest of the year, without over burdening 6S representatives and its constituents.

John Lunsford discussed the workshops designed for this year.  Council raised questions about the diversity of participants and diversity in content of the career development workshops.  Council also asked about the growth of 6S.  Lunsford reported that 6S is growing and noted that a repository of workshop materials is being created for the 6S community.

Suchman raised the question of the relationship between 6S and 4S, noting that some individuals who engage in 6S activities are not members of 4S.  Szymanski indicated that 6S does not have a membership category per se.  Students can simply engage in 6S activity without becoming 4S members.  It was noted that the 6S charter  states that “The student section exists within 4S to build stronger networks among students and junior scholars who study the social aspects of science and technology, and to promote the interests of students within 4S as an organization.” Suchman urged Council and 6S representatives to clarify that 6S is the student section within 4S.  Gwen Ottinger agreed, adding that membership in 4S provides an important professionalizing component to graduate education.  Sara Wylie suggested that students be sent information about 6S once they register in 4S as a student.  Steven Jackson pointed out, however, that a positive aspect of the current arrangement is it allows non-4S students to become involved in 6S activity.  Further Council discussion led to the general agreement that 6S placement within 4S needs to be emphasized in all communication channels.  However, maintaining this external appearance may be challenging in some situations.  John Lunsford noted, for instance, that some 6S participants have requested availability of workshop materials in hard copies because of difficulties encountered accessing them on-line.  Council agreed that while membership in 4S shouldn’t be required as a precondition for engagement with 6S, it should be strongly encouraged.  It was also noted that membership is very affordable at U.S. $25 per year.

Reports/updates from Standing Committees:

Nominations Committee update: Anita Say Chan reviewed the nomination and election process, which was adopted from prior elections.  We started with a slate of 30 people.  Council then ranked their top 12.  This led to a second round of voting by Council and re-ranking.  A final list of seven names were recommended by the nominations committee and all agreed to stand for election.  New members of Council are Noela Invernizzi, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Lesley Green, and Roopali Phadke.

Chan led a discussion about the criteria we use to identify Council candidates.  Emphasis has been placed on prior participation and leadership within 4S, willingness to be involved in 4S activity, and diversity along intellectual and other lines.  Chan noted that we’ve received some feedback about the senior/junior balance on the Council, questioning whether Council is becoming imbalanced toward junior status.  Recommendations also have been made to consider potential nominees’ past conference attendance.  Council agreed that these are important criteria to consider.  Tanya Pérez Bustos also recommended further attention to regional diversity.

Reports and Resolutions: Shobita Parthasarathy reported that we received no official reports and resolutions in the past year and recommended that we think about these categories more broadly.  Suchman suggested that our statement on the “March for Science” is something that should be included within the rubric of reports and resolutions,  and suggested that we need the flexibility to develop statements  that may not necessarily carry full society weight, but nonetheless are something the society can support.  Ottinger recommended that we send this issue back to the committee to recommend alternative modes for the society to become more active in public engagement.  Kim Fortun added that the committee could look at the activity of other societies for examples.

Travel Grants Update: Paige Miller reviewed the sources of funding for travel grants, noting that we have new travel monies this year from the sustaining member category of membership and also a one-time Hakken Memorial Fund.  This year the committee reviewed 132 applications and issued 44 awards.  Stephen Zehr recommended that due to the competition, strong award letters might be sent for curriculum vitae building purposes.

Program Committee Update: Lucy Suchman identified three items for consideration: limits of the meeting planning platform (we currently use All-Academic), procedures for dealing with withdrawals after abstracts have been accepted, and the complications added by the overlap of parallel events with the program. Suchman indicated that we would not discuss these items now, but they should be considered while planning for future meetings.

Future Meetings: Kim Fortun indicated we have two program chairs and a program committee of 20 in place for the Sydney 2018 meeting.  Fortun urged Council to be imaginative about how to increase attendance and how to involve people who will be unable to attend.  The theme for the conference is “Transnational STS”.  Efforts are under way to translate the theme into multiple languages.  There also will be a national event organized along side the program.  Part of the program will include an exhibit on STS international genealogies.

The 2019 meeting is scheduled for New Orleans.  Fortun encourages Council thinking about how to develop that meeting within the New Orleans context.

Publications: Gwen Ottinger reported that the committee has developed an “Affiliated Journal” status and we now have two affiliated journals, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience and Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology, and Society.  The committee also has formalized a “Managing Editor position for the society’s two journals (ST&HV and ESTS), currently held by Katie Vann, and developed a set of job specifications for future recruiting to that position.

Ottinger notes that ESTS is going through the process of gaining a listing in the science citation index and that the journal is doing very well.

Discussion: Suchman described the new five-year contract renegotiation with Sage.  We hired a small consulting firm based in London (“Renew Society Consulting”) to help renew the society’s contract with Sage.  This worked well.  The new agreement includes 10% of royalties to the society (estimated at about US $32,000 a year), an increased editorial stipend, and a waiver of the requirement that subscription fees be returned  to Sage.  Members now also have the option of receiving an electronic rather than a paper copy of ST&HV.

Suchman also reported that MIT has approached the society expressing an interest in development of a new open access journal.  Council broadly discussed open access journals and the need for senior scholars to publish in them to raise their profiles.

Web Committee: Tanya Pérez Bustos reported on development needs of the Resources page on our website.  Bustos indicated that the blog is doing well, but we need assistant editors to maintain blog and social media activity.  Council discussed the importance of developing blog activity around the meeting and the new Handbook.  There also was some discussion about the fact that several assistant editors are not members of the society.  Further discussion ensued about whether the Resources site could be a potential avenue for 6S contributions.  Suchman also noted the need to join activity across different dimensions of the website, and that that website workload needs to be equitably distributed across the assistant editors.

John Desmond Bernal Prize: Kim Fortun reported that the winner Hebe Vessuri is having a difficult time getting here, but has submitted an acceptance note.  She will arrive in time for her lecture.

Ludwik Fleck Prize: Stephen Zehr reported that the prize winner is Judy Wajcman for her book Pressed for Time.

Rachel Carson Prize: Daniel Breslau reported the prize winner is Adia Benton for her book HIV Exceptionalism: Development Through Disease in Sierra Leone.  Breslau also indicated there the committee has an honorable mention this year.  Council discussed the idea of honorable mention and concluded that it should happen only on rare occasions and also make certain that options for awarding that book the following year are kept open.

David Edge Prize: Gwen Ottinger reported that the winners are Stephen Collier and Andrew Lakoff for their article “Vital Systems Security: Reflexive Biopolitics and the Government of Emergency”.

Nicholas C Mullins Prize: Sara Wylie reported that the winner is Kellie Owens for her article “Too Much of a Good Thing?: American childbirth, intentional ignorance, and the boundaries of responsible knowledge.”

Making & Doing: Sara Wylie reported that the committee received 55 submissions and accepted 41 projects for the making & doing program this year.  Wylie noted that the spatial arrangement is larger this year, which allows more space for each project. There is a wide range of exhibitions this year.  Wylie expressed some concern about the challenge of meeting to determine prize winners and bringing them to the prize ceremony.  Moving the making and doing session up a day would help.  Teun Zuiderent-Jerak suggested that more senior scholars should be encouraged to develop a making and doing submission, as such active encouragement was crucial for the success of Making and Doing at the Denver meeting.

Infastructure Award: Suchman reported that the winners are the editors of the four STS Handbooks.

Mentoring Award: Suchman reported that Andrew Webster is the winner.

Suchman reported that we need to encourage nominations, and timely decisions, for the Infrastructure and Mentoring awards.  While nominations are key for the Mentoring Award, it is appropriate for the Infrastructure committee to take a more proactive role in identifying appropriate candidates.  We also need to emphasize the deadline for committee decisions, so that winners can be informed sufficiently ahead of time for them to develop plans to attend the meeting.  

New Business

Suchman suggested that we consider further the question of placing individuals on 4S committees who have not previously been members of 4S, and involved in 4S meetings.  This concern may be  more relevant for standing committees than ad hoc committees.

Suchman thanked everyone, especially outgoing members of the Council, and welcomed new members.  Suchman also thanked John Lunsford as the outgoing member of 6S and welcomed the new member Aadita Chaudhury.

Meeting adjourned at 4 pm.