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Society for Social Studies of Science

Mentoring Award 2015: Maureen McNeil

We are delighted to announce the award of the first 4s Mentoring Award to Professor Maureen McNeil, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Lancaster University.

We were presented with a wonderful set of candidates, each known for their own exceptional scholarship while working closely with younger colleagues to help them to develop their potential. Each one would have been a worthy recipient of this first 4S mentoring award. This confirms our sense that STS has become so strong in just one generation because many people have given so much generous attention to their colleagues and especially to the next generation of scholars.

The nomination dossiers documented a wide array of important mentoring practices that described the ways in which these scholars have:

  • crafted the education of novices to facilitate their metamorphosis into fully independent researchers;
  • introduced students and scholars to STS at many different career stages, from undergrads though mid-career scholars;
  • introduced their own advisees to broader scholarly networks, without concern for credit or publicity;
  • guided young people through the complex infrastructures for crafting knowledge;
  • built strategic new infrastructures to enable the development of the next generation in new directions;
  • exercised leadership in ethical and effective ways;
  • brought newcomers into networks that extend beyond departments, disciplines, nations; and
  • modeled human decency and warmth in scholarly communities

In this context, we found that the scope of Maureen McNeil’s mentoring has been especially powerful for decades across disciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. 

During her forty year career she has been a model of generous mentorship and collaborative engagement in the service of the collective flourishing of both her students and her colleagues. She also has addressed wider systemic arrangements that undervalue such work. Her teaching is based in feminist pedagogy and practice, placing emphasis on critical questioning in an atmosphere of open discussion and respectful debate.

She has always been committed to an academic practice which values collegiality and collectivity over competition and individualism. Her approach to academic work is striking in its generosity to others, never trying to mold others to her own image. She is scrupulous in giving credit to others and helping to promote their work.

She also has been a tireless and generous editor and commentator on scholarship in the field of STS, first serving as a member of the ground-breaking editorial collective of the journal Radical Science (now known as Science as Culture) in the mid-1970s. She then edited a long-standing book series of more than a dozen volumes that embodies work at the intersections of feminist theory, gender and women’s studies, cultural studies and STS. She also has served as director of Lancaster University’s Institute for Women’s Studies (1997-2000, 2003-4); Chair of the Centre for Science Studies (2005- 2010); and Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGEN) (2011-2013).  In those roles she worked to enhance the quality of intellectual and collegial life for her students and colleagues, as well as to transform class and gender based discrimination in academia.

She provides excellent scholarly guidance, professional advice, and care to both colleagues and students, many of whom have become important figures in the field in their own right. She brings together ideas and people across the fields of feminist and cultural studies of science and technology into enduring and powerful webs of relationships, launching new lines of inquiry, following enactments of science beyond the laboratory, to include media and popular technoscientific imaginaries

In short, Maureen McNeil has launched a new field, infrastructure for that field, and a generation of scholars. We feel privileged to honor her with the first 4s Mentoring Award.

Acceptance

I am extremely honoured to be the first recipient of the 4S Mentoring Award.  I am very grateful to the colleagues responsible for my nomination and to the committee who made the selection.  All awards are relational, but this is the most clearly relational of all the Society’s prizes.  Hence I regard this award as a tribute, not so much to my individual accomplishments, but rather to the quality of the relationships and collectivities that have sustained me and my work over the years.   So I am deeply appreciative of the students, colleagues, and friends from whom I have learned and who have given me so much. My work in Science and Technology Studies has also been inspired and sustained through my involvement with Feminism and with the insights and practices of Gender and Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies.  I owe much to these movements within and outside the academy.  Finally, I thank the Science and Technology Studies community for being precisely that:  a community that sustains, supports and makes things possible. 

Bio

Maureen McNeil was the first member of her extended Canadian family to go to university, with a BA in History and Political Science (York, Toronto) and MA in History (Waterloo).  She did her PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.  She has worked at: the Institute of Education (London University), University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, with temporary posts in the USA and Canada.  Her most recent post was at Lancaster University (Gender & Women’s Studies, Science Studies, Sociology) where she is now Emeritus Professor.  Much of her research and teaching has been at the intersection of STS, Gender Studies and Cultural Studies, including work on the theories, narratives, and politics of reproduction.   Her books include:  Under the Banner of Science:  Erasmus Darwin and His Age; Feminist Cultural Studies of Science and Technology, and with Joan Haran, Jenny Kitzinger, and Kate O’Riordan, Human Cloning in the Media.