skip to main content

Society for Social Studies of Science

Infrastructure Award 2016: WTMC (Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture)

The STS Infrastructure Award Committee is pleased to make its inaugural award to the Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology, and Modern Culture, also known as WTMC (http://www.wtmc.eu).  In a pioneering series of summer schools run over some 30 years, WTMC has brought together PhD students in science studies from around the Netherlands and across Europe, creating cohorts that engage for four years of their graduate study – and often beyond. 

The first two years of the programme introduce students to the broad field of studies of the relationship between science, technology and society, and provide training in particular skills. During this first phase, students attend four workshops and two summer schools, with activities and discussions designed collaboratively by local organizers and leading figures from STS.  In the second phase of the programme, students present written work from their dissertations for feedback from peers and senior discussants. These 'Dissertation Days,' complemented in recent years by 'Post-Doc Days,' provide opportunities for emerging scholars to build both their networks and their professional skills.

The WTMC’s project is an exemplar of infrastructural work.  It works across institutional boundaries to create a common, stable platform shared by a number of Dutch universities, each of which contributes materially to WTMC.  As a result, it offers students access to an expanded pool of STS scholars, and provides a mechanism for student participation in workshops and summer schools that are recognized for credit by their home universities.  It is also infrastructural work in the sense of building cohorts: students, many of whom have gone on to sterling careers, have kept working and thinking together in a way that has further developed the intellectual infrastructure of our field.  And as one of the nominating letters puts it: “WTMC acculturates students not only into a field, but also into an inter‐discipline, a form of engagement between science, invention and society, a sense of intellectual adventure.” 

We received an impressive number of applications nominating both organizations and individuals for their infrastructural work.  Each nomination was well presented and garnered support amongst our committee (indeed we encourage repeat nominations).  As the Award starts to build its own history, we are delighted that this thriving group, whose work has helped to launch the careers of numerous STS scholars over the past 3 decades, is the first honoree.

2016 Infrastructure Committee Members: Geof Bowker, University of California, Irvine  (co-chair); Kenji Ito, Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Sokendai, Japan (co-chair); Edward Hackett, Brandeis University, USA; Vivian Lagesen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway; Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University, USA (Council member); and Jane Summerton, VTI, Sweden.

About the WTMC

WTMC is a collective effort of scholars based in the Netherlands who study the development of science, technology and modern culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. Members of WTMC have backgrounds in the anthropology, history, sociology and philosophy of science and technology, and other interdisciplinary fields including innovation studies, gender studies and cultural studies. WTMC is pluralistic not only in terms of discipline, but also in terms of objects of study, and methods and approaches used.

WTMC has four objectives, of which the first is the most important: 

1.   to provide high quality, advanced training for PhD candidates who study science, technology and  modern culture, and thus to create new generations of scholars with a solid background in this interdisciplinary field

2.   to stimulate and coordinate high quality research about science, technology and modern culture

3.   to contribute to societal debates about the role of science and technology in society

4.   to promote the visibility of STS as a field amongst research funding agencies, universities and others concerned with research and education policy.

For more details of what WTMC is and does, see the two videos on the WTMC website, http://www.wtmc.net/wtmc-video-archive/

Acceptance

On behalf of WTMC (Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture, http://www.wtmc.eu), we are honoured and delighted to accept the inaugural 4S Infrastructure Award. Acknowledging the important contributions of those who do so much for the development of the field through an award for the building and maintenance of infrastructure is an excellent initiative of the 4S Council. STS scholars have made valuable contributions to the theoretical understanding of the role of infrastructures in modernity and in knowledge production, and to the recognition of the invisible work central to their smooth functioning. Therefore, it seems particularly apt that 4S has chosen to recognize this aspect of the field.

WTMC is truly a collective effort, that has been sustained by the activities of many people over almost 30 years. WTMC can trace its history of providing STS training for Dutch-based PhDs back to 1986. Over the years, the graduate training network gained national and international recognition, and in 1994, this network was transformed into what we now know  as WTMC. It is a joint effort that seeks to put the needs of young scholars at the centre of all of its work. It has been made possible by the contributions of many people, who have all put the long-term survival of the field ahead of individual and institutional interests. This prize is a fantastic recognition of the work done by all of the support staff, teachers, researchers, and PhDs past and present .

Sally Wyatt, WTMC Director, on behalf of the WTMC Board and membership