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Society for Social Studies of Science

David Edge Prize

Edge Prize 2016: Kristoffer Whitney

Whitney K (2014) Domesticating nature? Surveillance and conservation of migratory shorebirds in the ‘Atlantic Flyway’. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45: 78–87.

Benjamin Sims 

Presentation: Edge Prize Committee members, Robert Evans and Park Doing

There were eleven nominations for the Edge Prize: two self-nominations and the remaining nine nominated by the editors of East Asian Science, Technology and Society, Social Studies of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Technology and Culture.

When evaluating the papers, the committee was looking for papers that combined empirical data with a clear theoretical framework in order to challenge or extend existing work in STS in some way and offer insights that went beyond the boundaries of its own case. Despite the high quality of the nominated papers, the committee were unanimous in their selection of Kristoffer Whitney’s paper as the overall winner.

At one level, Whitney’s paper is a history of the ways in which migratory birds have been monitored and protected – domesticated even – by a series of environmental regulations and institutions. Describing the interaction between naturalists, scientists and policy-makers, Whitney’s analysis shows how migratory birds have been conceptualised in different ways, and hence protected for different reasons, as environmental concerns and knowledge have developed over time. Of particular interest is the shift from seeing migratory birds as economically valuable ‘agents of biological pest control’ that support agricultural production to distinguishing between particular species and seeing those labelled as ‘endangered’ as valuable in their own right.

Documenting this transition in regulatory logic would be reason enough for publication but Whitney goes beyond this to consider the implications of the ways in which these developments are talked about within STS for the field itself. In particular, Whitney challenges us to think about the use of Foucauldian metaphors of panoptican science in this context. Whilst superficially appealing, in the sense that they capture something of the increased, and increasingly individuated, surveillance that modern technology makes possible, do such metaphors conceal more than they reveal? Whitney fears they do and argues for a more ontological approach to STS that emphasises the different realities that can be imagined through these new forms of data collection, including the realities experienced by animals themselves. The pay-off of this – and relevance for STS more widely – is the argument that our accounts are also interventions and that the choices we make about how to theorise our data have implications for what those we study ‘were, are and can be’.

Acceptance Statement: Kristoffer Whitney

I am humbled and pleased to receive the 4S David Edge Prize this year, and would like to thank the prize committee for this honor.  The colleagues and friends who influenced this article are far too numerous to name individually, but I would like to sincerely thank the conference attendees, readers, scholars, and mentors who had a hand in the development of the manuscript.  The kernel of this article began in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, and grew into conference talks at Yale University and the Science Museum in London.  Colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, particularly in the Institute for Research in the Humanities, were instrumental in seeing this kernel to fruition.  I would also like to thank the editors and reviewers at Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences for their enthusiasm and feedback.  In addition, I gratefully acknowledge the work and commitment of the scientists who study the endangered species at the heart of this article.  Last but not least, I would like to thank these non-human actors themselves for helping to provide the science and the stories, without which the world would be a duller place for us humans.  The individuals and institutions that helped shepherd this article from inception to completion are testament to the fact that STS is a large, vibrant, and multidisciplinary community.  I look forward to the continued intellectual stimulation, camaraderie, and support that engagement in this community provides.


Kristoffer Whitney is an Assistant Professor in the Science, Technology & Society Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and holds a PhD in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania.  His work has focused on the intersections between endangered species science and policy, and he is currently researching the sociotechnical aspects of marketing-based approaches to environmental conservation.  

About the David Edge Prize

Awarded annually for an outstanding article in the area of science and technology studies.

The Prize is named in memory of David Edge (1932-2003). David was trained in astronomy, and worked with the BBC before becoming the first Director of the Science Studies Unit at the University of Edinburgh in 1966. He had a strong administrative and intellectual role in the development of science and technology studies, as we know it today. He was active with the 4S from its beginning, and served as President and received the Bernal award for lifetime achievement. Throughout his life, David lent his tremendous energy to a broad range of interests and activities. Especially pertinent for this award was his role as co-founder and long-term editor of Social Studies of Science (1970-2002). He was no ordinary editor: his unparalleled enthusiasm and unique personal touch pervaded even the most routine aspects of editing, and his encouragement and diligent work with new authors helped launch many careers in the field.

Eligibility for the Prize

  • Published papers that have undergone peer-review are eligible: This includes papers that have appeared in print journals and in e-journals as well as chapters in edited volumes. In the latter case, proof that the papers have undergone peer-review must be provided. Chapters in monographs (such texts are covered by the 4S book prizes) are not eligible.
  • Eligible publication dates for 2019 prize: The prize committee will consider papers that appeared in the years 2016 or 2017 in print or electronically (e-journals) in final form. What counts are the ‘official’ publication dates, and not the dates when preprints (electronic or otherwise) are first available.
  • Authorship: Single-authored and co-authored articles are eligible. There are no restrictions concerning the author’s professional status.
  • Language: Texts published in a language other than English can be considered when an English translation is made available.


  • Committee: Membership on the prize committee is ex-officio. The committee chair and other members are nominated by the 4S President. The current 4S President and the 4S secretary are ex-officio members of the committee.
  • Nominations: Nominations may be made by any member of the society and by editors of journals in the field of STS. Articles may also be self-nominated. Nominations for next year’s award are now closed; the deadline for 2019 nominations is May 1, 2018. 
  • The prize includes a cash award to help defray the costs of attending the annual meeting to receive it. The award is announced at the Presidential Awards Plenary of the 4S annual meeting. The Chair will inform the winner as soon as possible after the decision, in order that they may attend the ceremony.


2015 - Benjamin Sims and Chris Henke, “Repairing credibility: Repositioning nuclear weapons knowledge after the Cold War,”. Social Studies of Science, vol. 42, no. 3, June 2012, pp. 324-347

2014 - Janet Vertesi.  "“Seeing Like a Rover”: Visualization, Embodiment and Interaction on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission."

2013 - Joan Fujimura and Ramya Rajagopalan. "Different differences: The use of ‘genetic ancestry’ versus race in biomedical human genetic research." Social Studies of Science 41(1):5-30, 2011.

2012 - A.B. Edmonds, "Learning to Love Yourself." Esthetics, Health and Therapeutics in Brazilian Plastic Surgery. Ethnos 74:4(465-489). 2009

2011 - Wen-Hua Kuo, “The Voice on the Bridge: Taiwan’s Regulatory Engagement with Global Pharmaceuticals.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal, vol.3 no.1 (2009), pp.51-72.

2010 – Jason A. Delborne. “Transgenes and Transgressions: Scientific Dissent as Heterogeneous Practice,” Social Studies of Science (2008)

2009 - Alan Irwin. “The Politics of Talk: Coming to Terms with the ‘New’ Scientific Governance,” Social Studies of Science (2006)