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Mapping STS in the Asia-Pacific: Building Regional Research Capacity

The newly emergent Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network (APSTSN: see: http://www.esr.cri.nz/AsiaPacificSTSNetwork) is holding a whole-of network workshop to further build the regional research capacity of the APSTSN through raising better understanding and awareness of the histories, directions and activities of the Network’s participating and diverse STS communities.

The APSTSN is grateful for sponsorship from 4S, to be complemented by further funding from the STS community hosting the event as the major APSTSN event for 2012, following this year’s annual meeting at Northeastern University, Shenyang, China (19-21 July 2011: http://www.neusts.com). The 3-day workshop will undertake a regional comparative study of STS histories, approaches, and focus areas and issues of the Network’s participating STS communities.

‘Asia-Pacific’ (as shown in the map above) is defined as countries and STS communities of Australasia, South East and East Asia, and Oceania with participating STS communities so far representing China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, in addition to Asia-Pacific Indigenous ones, and any other regional communities that may wish to join the network and attend the workshop.

The project and workshop — embedded in the region’s unique east-west and Indigenous cultural perspectives — is informed by the secondary aims of:

  1. Creating fundamental knowledge with regard to an Asia-Pacific STS field of inquiry and scholarship, which is new and innovative
  2. Building the emergent APSTSN regional STS research platform for deepening existing collaborations and developing new ones
  3. Building the APSTSN through better understandings of convergences and divergences, differences and diversity for shared explorations and investigations of STS areas and topical issues in a diverse number of areas.

Topics will include, but are not limited to, cultural histories; public participation, citizenship and community engagement; new modes of governance, public administration, politics and public policy; post-colonisation; environment, and sustainability transitions; life techno/sciences; medicine, health, bio-medicine; and media and science communication.

History of the Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network

The APSTSN formed in late 2008 as the idea of the current convenor Richard Hindmarsh (Snr. Associate Professor, Environmental Politics and Policy and STS, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia) and the 2009 Convenor Karen Cronin (Science Leader STS, Environmental Science and Research, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand).

It became consolidated in late 2009 with its first annual conference held in Brisbane (http://www.griffith.edu.au/apsts2009), with over 80 members joining from STS communities across the region. Over the last year, membership has doubled to 160 members and is steadily growing. APSTSN members are typically researchers within Australasia, SE and East Asia and Oceania; or researchers outside the region conducting STS research within it or who have a keen interest in STS research within the region.

The Network offers a new Asia-Pacific regional identity for STS scholars to complement their local, national and sub-regional, as well as wider international, STS networks, societies and associations.

It focuses on developing collaborative networks and collegial relationships through a bi-annual meeting and other key events. For members there is also an online directory of members and a 2-3 monthly e-newsletter, including member profiling. There are no formal membership criteria or fees.
The aims of the APSTSN are:

This offers three distinctive qualities. First, a regional ‘Asia-Pacific’ focus; second, active Indigenous STS involvement; and third, a strong focus on generating practical insights for decision-making and policy, in addition to other STS areas.

If you are interested to join the Asia-Pacific STS Network: please go to http://www.esr.cri.nz/AsiaPacificSTSNetwork, explore the website more, and note the online membership form which takes 5 minutes to fill out.

The APSTSN thanks 4S again for the invaluable and primary sponsorship of the 2012 APSTSN whole-of-network workshop.

Richard Hindmarsh

‘The State of Latin American STS’ editors and ‘4S/ESOCITE joint conference’ pre-planning meeting

Since the 4S meeting in Montreal in 2007, over 30 STS scholars from various disciplines and countries have participated as organizers, discussants and/or presenters in sessions focused on Latin American science and technology issues. We continue these gatherings at the next 4S annual conference in Cleveland, November 2011 with six paper sessions that feature the Latin American region.

Last year the 4S Latin American Network was granted 4S New Initiatives funds to host a regional meeting during June 2011 in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the purpose of (1) developing an edited volume on the state of Latin America STS and (2) to pre-plan a proposed 2014 joint conference in Buenos Aires with 4S and its Latin American counterpart ESOCITE. The following summarizes this meeting and gives further background on the 4S Latin American Network.

The June 2011 Meeting Recap

The June 17-19, 2011 Buenos Aires workshop featured a balance of about 10 representatives from each association distributed across two sub-committees. Over an opening and closing plenary and various breakout sessions in between, we managed to set out the key objectives that we wanted this 4S/ESOCITE 2014 pre-meeting and book initiative to achieve. First, the sub-committee responsible for the first objective estimated that a 2014 joint conference could attract up to 500 ESOCITE and 700 4S members for a total of 1200 attendees. In addition, it settled on a suggested working conference title, and identified two advantageous dates that will eventually determine the type of venue and session proposal submission time-line we settle on. This sub-committee also outlined alternatives for a conference super-structure with three possible sub-structures to include key opening and closing plenaries, multiple symposiums, and multilingual break-out sessions.

With regard to the edited volume, the sub-committee responsible for this objective set out an ambitious time line in order to have the book ready for the joint 4S/ESOCITE conference in Buenos Aires during 2014. Participants in this sub-committee were able to narrow the structure of the edited volume down to two options and identified potential unique themes that the Latin American experience and scholarly perspective brings to mainstream Science and Technology Studies. In addition, participants discussed language and translation issues. This sub-group is currently in the process of forming a scientific committee that will guide the specific content of the book and identify possible publishers.

We left Buenos Aires with an agreement to continue to develop our two objectives (and to communicate 4S's parameters for a joint conference) over Web 2.0 communication and in a second face-to-face meeting immediately following ESOCITE's next conference, which takes place during June 2012 in Mexico City. We plan to follow up this Mexico pre-meeting with continued Web 2.0 communication and another face-to-face meeting in Buenos Aires June 2013 to finalize the 2014 joint conference venue and structure and the proposal submission process and time-line, as well as wrap up any additional details having to do with the edited volume.


Hebe Vessuri: Department of Science Studies, Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (Venezuela)

Pablo Kreimer: Instituto de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes (Argentina)

Lea Velho University of Campinas (Brazil)

List of ESOCITE Participant Representatives


Christina Holmes, Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France)

Ivan da Costa Marques, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Rick B Duque, University of Vienna (Austria)

List of 4S Participant Representatives

The Region

What makes Latin America so key to the full understanding of global science and technology is its unique language(s), cultural and ethnic diversity, and historical economic and political development. From its modern inception since the conquest, the region has been a node where peoples, artifacts, and hybrid processes have migrated from afar to irreversibly change the physical and social landscape. In many ways, the study of cross-cultural technology transfer and co-production alone reflects the modern history of the region.

Latin America is also the origin of many products and processes vital throughout the present world. Gold, silver, copper, chocolate, corn, plantains, and potatoes are just a few of the physical and biological products, and the accompanying extraction and agricultural sciences that have forever impacted Global culture and environments. More recently, the physical/biological variety of its geology and forests/jungles has been the focus of global bioengineering and energy interests as well as inspired region-wide environmental concerns.

Complicating a general understanding of the region is the rich diversity among and within distinct sub-regions. In each nation exists a heterogeneous display of landscapes and microclimates, and with these come various immigration histories that have produced a kaleidoscope of hybrid ethnicities, social traditions, and cultural orientations towards indigenous knowledge versus global science and technology. This has often led to political and economic discord among classes and sub-regions that have in turn resulted in a continual state of social revolution within some nations. These have not been the most advantageous environments within which to develop or innovate in a highly competitive global climate.

Moreover, physical and social forces often mediate the traditions of science and technology within sub-areas of Latin America along with their regional foci (i.e, primary resource production research over basic science and new technologies). The institutionalization of modern science based on Northern models is all but complete across the breath of the southern continent; yet within a global context, the research and academic institutions in Latin America struggle to compete where resources are few, sector networks uncoordinated, indigenous cultures often reticent to change, and scientific visibility and prestige in little supply. As a result, this region often loses its best and brightest to the developed nations of the North or to other more lucrative local careers outside the sciences. This cycle overlaps into succeeding generations, representing a cornerstone of what Latin American STS scholar Fransisco Sagasti has termed the ‘Sisyphean Challenge’ facing science and technology communities in the South.

The Network

Since the 4S meeting in Montreal in 2007, over 30 STS Latin American scholars from various disciplines and countries have participated as organizers, discussants and/or presenters in sessions focused on Latin America. A range of topics relevant to the study of science and technology in this region have been covered including: Theory and Methodology, Biotechnologies, Information and Communication Technologies, Environment and Technology, Health Technologies, Science Communication and Policy, and Public Engagement in Science. Participants are based in a variety of disciplines: anthropology, sociology, science studies, Latin American studies, political sciences, communication, studies and engineering sciences. Moreover, they have traveled from as far as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Holland, Austria, Canada and the United States to attend. Unfortunately, many other scholars originating from Latin America have hoped to join us at 4S meetings in the past, but because of immigration and financial obstacles, they were unable to do so. This has led to an informal perception that the region is not interested in STS. Yet, the study of science and technology in Latin America has a long and rich tradition that even includes regional associations and journals. One of these associations is ESOCITE - Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología.

During our June 2011 planned activities, we extend the 4S Latin American network into this regional association. We also expect to gain a better understanding of local, and perhaps ideological, constraints that limit the participation from particular sub-region in 4S and other science studies meetings conducted in the North. A bi-lingual volume on the state of Latin American STS, edited jointly by members of the 4S Latin American Network and ESOCITE, is another step in this unifying direction. Then, with a pre-planning meeting of a proposed joint 4S/ESOCITE conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2014, we aim to solidify a bridge network between the two associations to facilitate future joint meetings in the tradition of EASST/4S conferences.

Comments and or suggestions can be directed to the principle co-organizer Rick B. Duque at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). You are welcome to join the dialogue on the STS in Latin America by sending a blank email message to 4sla+subscribe@googlegroups.com or visiting http://groups.google.com/group/4sla.

Acknowledgment: The organizers of this pre-meeting would like to thank the University of Massachusetts for its assistance in processing the 4S New Initiatives grant.

Report from the BioStep network meeting at IAS-STS in Graz, 2-4 May 2010

The network

Between 2002 and 2005 fifteen young scholars from various countries and disciplines – all involved in STS research - have participated in the New Genetic /New Society? Integrating Science, Society and Policy Marie Curie Fellowship programme at the Science and Technology Studies Unit (SATSU) of the University of York, UK. Having a common interest and a shared experience in York, the Marie Curie fellows decided after the end of the fellowship scheme to gather together in the company of the SATSU staff, to share experiences and current research themes. This first meeting took place in York in April 2007 and it was decided to establish a network to explore common research and prepare publications together. In April 2008, the second meeting was held, funded by the Brocher foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. There, we clustered our research around three themes: the changing boundaries of human, animal and society; the new forms of governance engaged in the social regulation of these boundary shifts; and the new social and cultural relations that are made possible by these changes. Next to the Marie-Curie fellows and SATSU staff, we invited local and international scholars to contribute to discussions around these themes. In trying to find common ground between the various specific areas of research, the idea of bio-objects emerged as a theme that the network would like to explore further. We had our first meeting to explore bio-objects in their different dimensions during our 2009 meeting which took place from June 4-6 in Uppsala. Our 2010 meeting was hosted by the IAS-STS research institute in Graz, Austria, as an autonomous workshop stream within their annual IAS-STS–conference from May 2-4. The meeting has been made possible by funding from 4S. We would like to thank both IAS-STS and 4S for making this meeting possible. Such funding has been vital to maintain this network and to ensure that this network would also deliver outputs.

The 2010 meeting

The meeting has especially been geared towards discussion on our edited volume entitled `Bio-objects: Life in the 21st Century´ which will be published by Ashgate in 2011.

During the meeting we discussed the theoretical and operational definition of the bio-object concept, outlined and discussed specific requirements of draft book chapters as well as the delivery schedule for the book.

The Bio-objects book

Bio-objects, a term that refers to the categories, materialities and processes that are central to the configuring of “life”, play a crucial role in the 21st century in which increasing knowledge of the biological is fundamentally transforming what life itself means and where its boundaries lie. New developments in the biosciences - especially through the molecularisation of life – are shaping healthcare and other aspects of our society, and the new bio-objects that enable this need to be given an integrated and sustained examination.

In this book, therefore, we want to trace a variety of bio-objects as they emerge stabilize and circulate through society. An international range of authors working in the field of science and technology studies (STS) draw on diverse cases from across Europe to provide new ways of thinking about how novel bio-objects enter contemporary life. The cases range across different configurations of life and living such as, cloned animals, embryos, cybrids, stem cells, genetic resources, biobanks and even water – that without which ‘life’ is said to be impossible. While this may at first site appear an eclectic mix of objects we show how they can be understood to share a similar (re)generative universe. We are also interested in exploring the forms of governance that surround them.

These bio-objects are brought together for the first time within one text and discussed in terms of the new material and spatio-temporal forms to which their ‘life’ is attributed. We explore how the boundaries between human and animal, organic and nonorganic, and being ‘alive’ and the suspension of living, are questioned, destabilised and yet in some cases re-established. Each of the chapters explores these processes to show how life is in constant interplay with novel techniques aiming at re-routing, diversifying, collecting and commodifying the vital processes that constitute ‘life”.

After the introduction, the first Part of the book examines the changing boundaries of the human, nonhuman and society as a result of the emergence of new bio-objects. The second Part concentrates on the governance of new bio-objects and the social regulations involved in the boundary shifts that they bring about. The third Part discusses the new social, economic and political relations that constitute and are constituted by these changes.

Guest talks

In addition, we had three guest talks from international scholars who work on topics of interest closely related to ours:

The Future of the BioStep network

In the past year we have been searching for funding to further sustain and elaborate our network activities and we applied for European COST funding. During the meeting we were still awaiting decisions, but we are happy to inform you that at the end of May we heard that the proposed COST Action will be funded. This will mean that our network has funding for the upcoming four years, so our continued activity is guaranteed and our network is likely to grow. The Action is expected to start towards the end of this year, with a kick-off meeting in Brussels.

Abstract of the COST Action

Europe seeks to become the most dynamic knowledge-based economy of the globe, and the production and circulation of “bio-objects”, such as stem cells, chimera, tissue samples or genetically modified organisms, play a key part in this endeavor. This Action develops novel interdisciplinary tools based on a range of evidence that will improve our understanding of “bio-objects”, their production and governance. The core questions answered through this COST Action are: how are the boundaries between human and animal, organic and non-organic, living and the non-living opened up?; how do bio-objects change social relations?; how does the public-private interface shape the making of bio-objects?; and finally, how does the governance of bio-objects perform at different levels, from the level of the European Union and its Member States to the sub-political level, and finally in clinics and laboratories? The Action brings together a group of young scholars across a range of disciplines in collaboration with more experienced researchers, including those from the bioscience community. The members of the group will develop models of the bio-objectification process, the policy challenges and political and social resources needed to address this, and how both will play a key role in delivering the knowledge-based economy sought in the Lisbon Agenda.