4S Council Meeting, 13 August 2015

Members and Officers Present: Gary Downey, Daniel Breslau, Abby Kinchy, Paige Miller, Lucy Suchman, Vivian Lagesen, Shobita Parthasarathy, Wen-Hua Kuo, Wes Shrum, Tania Pérez-Bustos, Kelly Moore, Sulfikar Amir

Meeting called to order at 9:10 am (USEDT) by President Gary Downey


Gary Downey announced the winners of the 4S Council and 6S elections.  They are Gwen Ottinger, Oscar Javier Malgonado Castañeda, and Sara Wylie for 4S Council and Erika Amethyst Szymanski for 6S.  Downey communicated with all winning and losing candidates.  President-elect Lucy Suchman applauded the strength of the election slate for both elections.  Downey noted his practice of asking individuals who did not win the election to serve on 4S committees.

Shobita Parthasarathy confirmed that the first 6S election went well.  Several graduate students expressed interest in becoming candidates.  Parthasarathy also announced that she is working hard to stimulate interest and initiative within 6S.  A full slate of student activities is anticipated for the Denver conference.  Parthasarathy noted that although 6S is currently going through a period of transition, there is much optimistic for future activity.  Parthasarathy also recommended that 6S officers be invited to join future Council webex meetings.

Daniel Breslau announced that the social media presence of the society will be developed after the forthcoming meetings.  Breslau asked Council for recommendations of students who might be interested in serving in its development.

Approval of Spring 2015 Council Meeting Minutes:

Abby Kinchy motioned to approve.  Lucy Suchman seconded.  Minutes were approved as written.


Treasurer Paige Miller reviewed the current budget.  Miller predicted that we’ll end the year with a small annual surplus and an overall budget that fits within a recommended steady state. Downey discussed possible additional future expenses such as providing more support for students.  Downey also indicated the possibility of more future revenue from Sage when the journal contract is renegotiated.  The budget nonetheless is currently at its desired steady state.

Future Meetings:

Denver 2015 Meeting: Daniel Breslau announced that the preliminary program is now available for the Denver meeting.  13 September is the date for the final program.  Breslau noted that this will be the largest 4S meeting ever in North America.  There are about 1300 paper presentations; 88 open sessions were submitted; the program will include 276 sessions.  Breslau suggested that since many submitted sessions are highly topical this year, in future calls we encourage submission of more conceptually based open sessions.  Breslau also indicated that room space will be tight within the hotel and discussed the possibility of developing workshop roundtables at future meetings.  Breslau suggested that roundtables be a point of emphasis rather than a place for papers that do not fit into regular sessions.  In discussion, Council members expressed some concern with the number of parallel sessions.  Downey suggested that we add a day to future meetings to relieve some of this pressure.

Wen-Hua Kuo asked about the place of the Making and Doing session in the program.  Downey indicated there will be a separate program for the making and doing session and that its timing and location will not compete with the regular sessions.  Sulfikar Amir, Chair of the Making and Doing Committee, reviewed procedures for its set-up.  Amir indicated that his committee accepted 76 proposals, but some have been withdrawn.  Amir expects about 65 Making and Doing presentations.  Amir recognized the work of the program organizer – Daniel Breslau — in making certain that paper presentations don’t overlap with the Making and Doing session.  Amir also mentioned that a website for this session will be launched in September.

Gary Downey announced that the forthcoming meeting will be the society’s 40th.  Plans are in development for a celebration at the banquet, along with a rebranding of the website.  Downey asked Council members to send suggestions for the celebration.  Kelly Moore applauded the quality of the Denver program.

Barcelona 2016 Meeting: Lucy Suchman reviewed the ongoing discussions with EASST about the registration process.  Wes Shrum added that we’ll be using EASST’s registration system, which will require invoicing registrants.  Shrum also noted that submitted panels will remain open within that system, which does not allow for a fully populated session.  We will need to develop a mechanism for handling populated sessions.  Suchman added that we’ll need to clearly and persistently inform society members that they may submit populated sessions.  Suchman noted that they’re working on a dual membership system where registrants receive membership to both 4S and EASST with their registration.  Suchman also mentioned that organizers will be making most of the city’s cultural attractions and political activity at the conference.

2017 meeting: Wes Shrum discussed the Boston proposal for the 2017 meetings.  Work is already being done to locate hotels.  Shrum noted that there are a limited number of available hotels and they are not cheap.  Hotel prices are not likely to be under $179 per night.  Downey announced that we’ve also received a preliminary inquiry from Sydney about the 2017 meeting.  Suchman recommended that while it may be too late to investigate Sydney for 2017, we might consider it for 2018.  Suchman added that being on the east coast of North American for 2017 makes sense since it follows the traditional geographical progression of 4S meetings.  Kelly Moore motioned that we approve the plan to hold the 2017 meetings in Boston.  Wen-Hua Kuo seconded.  [A Council vote following the meeting approved the motion.]

Ethnografilm Update:

Wes Shrum indicated that the April festival went smoothly, including about 100 films from 50 different countries.  Shrum also mentioned that Ethnografilm Asia and Enthnografilm Africa were being held as well.  Submissions are now open for the 2016 Ethnografilm.  Shrum briefly discussed the possibility of showing Ethnografilm films at 4S, but they would need to be short for spatial and timing reasons.

STS Infrastructure Award Committee:

[Co-Chair Geof Bowker joins the meeting.] Gary Downey announced that the committee now has co-chairs.  Geof Bowker summarized the committee’s report to Council.  The key issue is to reward infrastructural work that shapes the field and builds the discipline.  Bowker added that the committee would like to recognize groups as well as individuals.  Since the report to Council is preliminary, Bowker seeks comments from Council, which would lead to development of a final proposal.  Suchman commented that she likes how the award is framed in the report.  Parthasarathy expressed some concern about potential overlap among the individuals who receive 4S awards.  How would the new award tap into a new population of people?  Bowker responded that there are identifiable people who could receive this award, but who would not receive other 4S awards.  Downey suggested that the committee look at the description of criteria in the Mentoring Award report and use that as an example for development of criteria for the infrastructure award.  Downey also suggested that the committee emphasize infrastructural work as a form of scholarship (i.e., not create a separation between service and scholarship).  Suchman motioned that Council encourages the Infrastructure Award Committee to continue its work and develop a final proposal for Council consideration.  Tania Pérez-Bustos seconded. [A Council vote following the meeting approved the motion.]

Publications Committee:

Kelly Moore indicated that the Handbook contract is moving forward with MIT and is in the process of being signed.  Moore noted that the submission to publisher date has been moved to 1 February 2016.  The Handbook won’t be ready for the Barcelona meeting, but can be advertised then.

Moore reviewed the report from ST&HV.  The number of pages per issue has been increased to 200 and there is ongoing discussion about increasing the number of issues per volume from six to eight.  Moore added that this change may have an effect on journal rates.  There may be an increase in the library rate, but the rate for private subscriptions is not yet clear.  Moore also announced that the price of super gold access (price charged authors for open on-line access to their article) has increased from $1500 to $3000.  Five authors paid this fee in the past year.  Moore indicated that the journal receives a large number of submissions.  Moore also added that there is a problem with the quality of Sage’s outsourced editing, which means that the editor and managing editor do most of it in-house.  This issue may be worth building into future negotiations with Sage.

Engaging Science, Technology, and Society: Moore indicated that submissions to ESTS have been slow.  The journal does not yet have a digital object identifier.  However, work is underway to get an issue out this fall.  Downey noted that there will be a journal launch event at the opening reception.  Moore asked Council to send her ideas for increasing the visibility of the journal.

Moore also announced that ST&HV is removed from the consortium focused on bundling on-line journals to reduce costs, but that 4S will still be participating and helping the consortium.

Membership Rates and Benefits Committee:

Lucy Suchman clarified the importance of keeping membership rates affordable.  If the committee does recommend an increase it will be incremental.  Suchman also noted that the committee will consider two different membership levels, which would allow members to support those with fewer resources.  In the development of recommendations, the committee will be looking at other societies’ rate fees.

Leadership transition proposal:

Gary Downey indicated that there is some confusion about transfer of leadership at the Presidential and Council levels.  Downey suggested that new officers and Council members begin their duties at the annual meeting.  Daniel Breslau expressed favorability to the idea.  Downey motioned that new officers and Council members will begin their office on the last day of the annual meeting.  Lucy Suchman seconded.  [A Council vote following the meeting approved the motion.]

Resources on website:

Stephen Zehr indicated that two resources at the website – films and syllabi — are out of date.  Abby Kinchy suggested that the Web Committee might add this item to its agenda, but since other members are focused on the blog, they may need to take another person on board.  Gary Downey suggested further discussion of this issue after the meeting.

4S Statement of Purpose Committee:

Gary Downey mentioned that the ad hoc Governance Review Committee recommended an update to the 4S statement of purpose.  One suggestion has been received from the call for comments by the membership.  Downey asked Council for further suggestions and indicated that he’ll work with co-chair Claire Waterton to develop a draft to distribute to Council.  They will aim for a final proposal for the Denver meeting.

Meeting was adjourned at 11:58 AM (US EDT).