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Society for Social Studies of Science

Rachel Carson  Prize

For a book length work of social or political relevance in the area of science and technology studies. Nominations that provide a new perspective, or a feminist or minority voice, are especially encouraged. The author(s) receive(s) an engraved plaque and cash prize.

"Science and technology studies" is an interdisciplinary field, so the range of eligible books is very broad.  It includes, but is not limited to, the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy, political science, economics, education, geography, and psychology as well as works combining or outside of the traditional academic disciplines.  It includes studies of knowledge, policy, government, R&D, the uses of expertise, feminist and gender studies, technological controversies, technology transfer, rhetorical and literary analyses, and studies of specific technologies.  Further, it includes works addressing science and technology for the public and for educational audiences.  The main criterion is that the substantive content of the work be framed by a social science or humanities perspective of science and/or technology and, in the case of the Carson Prize, that the book also has social or political relevance.

The Rachel Carson Prize is named after writer, scientist, and ecologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964), author of numerous books including The Edge of the Sea (1955) and Help Your Child to Wonder (1956).  In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government by advocating for a shift in how humankind perceived and interacted with the natural world. Carson testified before Congress in 1963 on the misuse of pesticides and her work continues to shape environmental studies and polices that champion a healthy ecosystem.


Committee: Membership on the book prize committees consists of Council members and appointees by the President.

Nominations--Due March. 1: Publishers, authors, and members of the Society may submit nominations (author, title, publisher) to the prize coordinator, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by 1 February. In addition, publishers are contacted in late January and invited to submit eligible books from their catalog.

Eligibility--Books due May 1: Each year the committee will review books with publication dates from the 3 prior years. For example, during the 2015 meeting, the committee will consider books with copyright dates of 2012 - 2014. Books may be re-nominated until their eligibility expires. Publishers or authors are responsible for sending review copies to each member of the committee by May 1 to be considered for that year's prize. Reprints, second editions, edited volumes, reference works and similar volumes are in-eligible for consideration for the Carson Prize. Multiple-aauthored books are eligible where they represent original work.

Short List: Through the procedure above, committees will designate a preliminary short list and meet during the 4S annual meeting to determine the winners. Awards are to be granted solely on the basis of merit as determined by the members of the committee, without reference to book reviews or recommendations by outside members. If a consensus winner does not emerge, a secret ballot will determine the winner, with honorable mentions as appropriate.

Award: The Carson Prize Chair will inform the winner(s) after the decision of the committee to insure that the winner will be present at the award ceremony and available to participate in an Author-Meets-Critics session at the following annual meeting. The Chair of the prize committee organizes the Author-Meets-Critics session for the winning book.

Journal Review: In addition the prize committee is encouraged to identify book clusters (theoretical or thematic) to forward to ST&HV for the solicitation of review essay as part of their narrowing and selecting process.

Past Winners

2014. Robert Proctor. Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition. 

2013. Tim Choy, Ecologies of Comparison

2012. Stefan Helmreich, Alien Oceans

2011. Lynn M. Morgan, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos. (University of California, 2009)

2010. Susan Greenhalgh. Just One Child

2009. Jeremy Greene. Prescribing by Numbers

2008. Joseph Masco. The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico

2007. Charis Thompson. Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies

2006. Joseph Dumit. Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity

2005. Nelly Oudshoorn. The Male Pill

2004. Jean Langford. Fluent Bodies

2003. Simon Cole. Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification

2002. Stephen Hilgartner. Science On Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama.

2001. Andrew Hoffman. From Heresy to Dogma: An Institutional History of Corporate Environmentalism.

2000. Wendy Espeland. The Struggle for Water: Politics, Rationality, and Identity in the American Southwest.

1999. Steven Epstein. Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge

1998. Diane Vaughan. The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA