4S Council Meeting, 10 October 2007

Montreal, QC

President Leigh Star called to order at 3.15 pm. Present were Joe Dumit, Michelle Murphy, Maureen McNeil, Sergio Sismondo, Mike Lynch, Paul Wouters, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, David Hess, Gabrielle Hecht, Matt Harsh, Michelle Stewart, Sal Restivo, Roli Varma, Catherine Waldby, & W Shrum.

Minutes of the Vancouver Council Meeting were approved as published on the web.

Dr. Star announced the death of several valued members of the field, who had served the Society and won major honors. These included Bernard Barber, Peter Whalley, and Mary Douglas, all of whom will be honored at the banquet.

Membership generally fluctuates at the time of the annual meeting. However it was noted that on the 9 th of October, the number of 4S members reached 1499, the highest in the history of our Society.


Joe Dumit announced that ST&HV had the number one Impact Factor in its category. Ulrike Felt finished her term as editor and was commended for her work by the Society. She will be honored at the banquet. Susan Leigh Star and Geof Bowker were recommended by the publications committee and accepted by Council as the new editors. The transition from Vienna to Santa Clara is already under way and expected to go smoothly. However, the online manuscript submission system has been changed, from the Vienna system, which was developed and maintained there, to the Sage system. This automates the entire process of submission and reviewing. Leigh Star reported on the backlog of articles and discussed the plans to clear it, with the help of the new Managing Editor, Olga Kuchinskaya. Beginning with the new editors, Council increases the support from $12,000 to $18,000 annually. This gift may be provided in the form of a check once or several times each year, to the university where the editorial office is located or directly to the editors at their discretion. The support is not given as compensation for output but as a gift, and its use is completely at the discretion of the editors.

The new Handbook of Science & Technology Studies was published by MIT Press—the first Handbook was delivered just in time—at the end of the Publications Committee meeting and just as the council meeting was getting started. Ed Hackett, who attended the Publications meeting, noted that the first Handbook took five years to complete in the mid 1970s, the second took six years to complete in the mid 1990s, and this Handbook, just published with a 2008 copyright date, took seven years. The lead time for the Handbook makes it necessary to begin looking for editors of the next Handbook now, perhaps with a slightly different and more international scope.

The Publications Committee investigated the organization of Technoscience . Some of this was clarification, with the assistance of the students, that the term of the Managing Editors is two years. The position of Managing Editor is recommended by the Student governing council to the Publications committee and then to Council. It should not be held by a non-student (that is, someone who has obtained a Ph.D.), unless the Ph.D. is granted during the term. In the future, no one should apply for the position if they expect to graduate within one year. After examination of the workload and the average number of items produced for the web page and monthly newsletter, the publications committee recommended, and Council accepted, that the number of student editors be reduced from three to two, and the support be increased from $3000 to $4500 annually. This support may be provided in the form of a check once or several times each year, to the university where the student is enrolled or directly to the student at their discretion. The support is not given as compensation but as a gift and its use is completely at the discretion of the student. With the increase in support, Council requires that the two Managing Editors increase the volume of items in Technoscience and creative content of the jobs in order to enhance the usefulness of the 4S website.

Travel Grants

The travel grant report by Martina Merz was reviewed and summarized by Leigh Star. Concern was expressed about the division of resources between the four societies relative to the demand for the grants. The division of travel grant monies by the National Science Foundation was originally determined when the award was first discussed in the early 1990s, when the relative sizes of the societies were different than they are at present. It was determined that the issue should be taken up the travel grants committee this year and addressed by the Presidents of the societies (President Elect of 4S, Mike Lynch, and President Elect of HSS, Jane Maienschein).

Bernal Prize

Ruth Schwartz Cowan will receive the 2007 Bernal Prize at the Friday banquet. The prize committee has also determined the winner for the 2008 meeting, which will be announced in Rotterdam. The committee continues to endorse the notion that this career award may go to someone with close associations with 4S or a scholar whose association with 4S might be minimal but whose work has had a strong impact on the field. The Secretary reported that Thomson Scientific will continue to sponsor the Bernal Prize.

Fleck & Carson Prizes

Roli Varma reported that 65 books were received for the prize deliberations this year. Council noted that the official policy of 4S is that all books submitted by the publishers are automatically considered for both Fleck and Carson prizes. The winner of both prizes will be determined at tonight’s prize dinner. Paul Wouters discussed the Carson Prize committee, which has been very active this year and requested additional books from the publishers.

Mullins Prize

Only nine papers were submitted for the Mullins Prize. This number is lower than in previous years, The Committee felt that this could be due to the deadline, or to the lack of information and support by advisors of students who might be themselves be interested in submitting work. The student governing committee will be asked to advertise and support the prize more actively. Gabrielle Hecht proposed that the Mullins Committee’s deliberation occur earlier, such that the prize would be given in the same year. It was finally decided that the Mullins Prize would be decided at the meeting, as usual, but that it would not be considered a secret until the next meeting (as are he Carson & Fleck Prizes). This way, the winner will be able to add this to their vita for the job market.

Martina Merz and Mike Lynch proposed a new prize for the best article. This will be deliberated by an ad hoc committee for the next meeting.

Student Issues

Matt Harsh reported on the new mentoring program, which was started in Vancouver. The program has evolved this year through email matching, so that for Montreal there were 95 email volunteers and more than 50 pairs, based on field matching. There was also a survey among the students, who were inclined to feel there should be fewer grants and more money per grant. Matt also reported on the success of the $20 student discount to the banquet. However, it remains to be determined how this affects the finances for the meeting. The students are also helping at registration: in this system, students who volunteer five hours of time at registration have their registration fee waived. Michelle Stewart reported on the success of the career panel and student meetings that have been institutionalized the past couple of years. She requested space for a third topical lunch.

Program Committee

Leigh enumerated a number of issues that have emerged in the development of 4S, as meeting space becomes increasingly scarce relative to the demand. The time allocations for individual papers are extremely limited. The problem emerges from the fact that demand among participants is so high and the hotels that are capable of hosting a 4S meeting with sufficient meeting space also tend to be higher in terms of their room rates. A typical meeting contract requires a certain number of sleeping rooms be guaranteed by 4S, and the financial costs to the Society are extremely high if that room block is not met. In the past, 4S members have been reluctant to book rooms in the meeting hotel when room cost more than $150 per night. Hence, the Society may have to limit submissions (or, as this year, limit presentation time) in locations where meetings hotels are very expensive.

A new subcommittee of the Future Meetings committee will be formed and charged with the design of a member poll on the location, timing, and size of meetings.

In response to questions by the Rotterdam organizers, Council confirmed the theme for the conference, will appoint members of the program committee, and will coordinate closely with EASST and the Rotterdam program committee.

Nominations Committee

An excellent and diverse slate of seven candidates were selected and agreed to run for 4S council. New members for the 2008-2010 council term are Andrew Lakoff, Catherine Waldby, and Daniel Kleinman. The issue of voting rules was raised, including whether the society should continue electing members by majority vote of three out of the proposed candidates.


W Shrum had circulated the 2006 financial report and the interim financial report in advance of the meeting. The online membership fulfillment system was switched from the previous vendor (2004-2007) to a new vendor, owing to continuing problems with the technical support for the system. It is too early yet to evaluate the new system, but technical support seems to be better. This was the first year that all meetings registration and memberships went through the online system. Although the abstract submissions went through the old system, prior to the switch from the old vendor, we have designed a new abstract submission system, which will be used by the Rotterdam program committee. The Society continues to have a bright financial outlook, with the qualification that meetings costs continue to increase. With membership at an all time high and the participation in the annual 4S meetings continuing to increase, the time required to run the Society has increased substantially. Council voted to provide $12,000 annually in recognition of LSU support, under the same terms as the Technoscience Managing Editor and ST&HV editorial gifts. A new contract with Sage for ST&HV has been signed, without significant changes. The new Handbook may provide additional revenue, but the terms of the royalty structure may not be as favorable as they have been in the past, so this revenue is somewhat uncertain.

New Business

The President and President Elect spent a substantial amount of time trying to find outside funds for a disability studies panel. This was unsuccessful and Council determined in August to allocated $5000 for the panel for the Montreal meeting. After many difficulties it was determined that the panel should go forward and it is not known how much of this $5000 will be used. The Treasurer indicated that a policy of satisfying all access needs for all groups of people could exceed the financial means of the Society at the present time. The following procedure was proposed in the event that council sets an amount to be used for various kinds of facilities: (1) a special needs indicator be programmed into the newly designed abstract submission page, (2) a council member be designated to compile a list of needs and prices, and (3) a committee be established to make awards to individuals in some systematic fashion yet to be determined. An ad hoc Special Needs committee will be established by the President Elect to determine overall 4S policy on individuals who may benefit from services or facilities that require the Society to incur expenditures at the annual meeting (child care, deaf signers, etc.).

The meeting was adjourned at 6:15pm.

Minutes of the Business Meeting

12 October 2007

(Issues covered at the Council meeting above & announced at the Business meeting are covered above in the minutes of the Council meeting.)

Leigh Star called the meeting to order at 5pm.

Ed Hackett, Director of Social, Behavior, and Economic programs at the U.S. National Science Foundation, announced the appointment of two new program officers in STS, Steve Zehr and Laurel Smith-Doerrr. It was noted that these individuals are themselves STS scholars and now have occupational familiarity with the NSF. Ed Hackett reminded the group of the Problems of the Discipline grant of the ASA and encouraged the group of think in similar terms.

Steve Zehr announced various initiatives in the STS program.

Leigh announced the formation of a new East Asia STS journal. This is an interdisciplinary quarterly based in Taiwan, to be published in English with editorial boards in China, Taiwan, Japan, and outside East Asia. She also announced the establishment of a new organization, STS Italia.

Joe Dumit discussed the new organization of Technoscience, with two graduate student managing editors. He then announced the publication of the Handbook of STS in hardback for $55 and initiated the Call for Proposals for the next Handbook, which will not be replica of the current (2007) Handbook, but cover a different range of issues.

ST&HV has risen to number one in its journal class in terms of Impact Factor (Social Issues). Ulrike Felt has just finished her five year term as editor. Along with the selection of new editors (Leigh Star & Geof Bowker), the journal submissions & review process were discussed, and the transition to Sage for these functions.

Martina Merz discussed the applications for the graduate student travel grants, which are extremely difficult to allocate with only $9000 to divide among 82 submissions. It was suggested that the demand for the grants, based on the number of applications, is a better indicator for dividing Travel Grant NSF awards than the absolute size of societies.

Bernal Prize, Fleck Prize, Carson Prize, & Mullins Award as well as Outgoing and incoming council members (see above).

David Hess reported that this year’s earlier deadline had no effect on reducing submissions. In Pasadena (2005) there were 600 registrants for the annual meeting, in Vancouver there were 714 registrants, and this year there are approximately 800 registrants, with over 1000 names listed on the program. He recommends having earlier abstracts and requiring registration when submitting abstracts. However, there are a number of practical difficulties with this. The issue was raised that it will be difficult to require registration since a majority of abstracts are submitted in pre-organized panels. The selectivity problem has been significant and a poll of members will be conducted to provide input on issues ranging from the procedure for abstract submission.

Wenda Bauchspies discussed future meetings in Rotterdam (2008), Washington DC (2009), and Tokyo (2010). Yuko Fujigaki outlined the current status of the Japanese meeting. There are sufficient meeting rooms at the university, and the area hotels are discussing rates in the area of $100/night. Proposals for Grants for graduate students are also in the offing.

Paul Wouters discussed the nominations process and the proposal that ballot counting could be changed to make it more likely that international nominees be elected to Council. Electronic balloting has involved the problem of members missing the election because the ballots are shifted to the spam box. It was also suggested that the number of council members be increased to allow for greater representation of international regions.

Clark Miller reported the work of the Ethnics & Public Policy committee. He referred to the successful 4S participation in the World Summit on the Information Society. The committee proposed, and Council has accepted that 4S become an Associate Member of ICSU. Miller will continue to serve on a committee to forward this agenda.

Leigh reported on her work addressing access issues. Mike Lynch, who will take over as President after the Montreal meeting, will establish a committee to address the general policy for 4S in this area. While the Rotterdam program committee will seek to provide access during this meeting, the policy committee will seek to address the issue for all future meetings in a systematic way.

Loet Leydesdorff suggested a joint meeting with the International Society for Informatics.

Meeting was adjourned at 6:03