4S Council Meeting, 15 February 2021

In attendance: Stephen Zehr, Ana Viseu, Wes Shrum, Vivette García-Deister, Paige Miller, Bryn Seabrook, Chihyung Joon, Duygu Kaşdoğan, Emma Kowal, Misria Shaik Ali, Hsin-Hsing Chen, Noortje Marres, Alondra Nelson, Joan Fujimura, Angela Okune, Maka Suarez, Amanda Windle, Pablo Kreimer, Katie Ulrich, María Belén Albornoz

Joan Fujimura called the meeting to order at 3:15 U.S. EST.

Minutes from the October 2020 meeting were approved unanimously with one abstention.

Program Committee for Toronto Meeting: Joan Fujimura reported that organization of the Toronto conference is proceeding smoothly. We are still planning for a fully virtual meeting, if necessary, but the plan is for a hybrid meeting assuming safety conditions allow. Emma Kowal asked whether we have contractual obligations were it necessary to have a fully virtual meeting. Wes Shrum replied that we do have significant financial obligations if the conference was cancelled in full but possibly not if partly cancelled. Questions were posed about contractual signings, which occurred several years ago. The contract includes some protective clauses, but they would be affected by the actual conditions at the meeting date and what travel limitations are still in place. Shrum emphasized that it is important that we maintain the plan for a hybrid conference until conditions indicate otherwise in order to avoid financial penalties. If we cancel part of the meeting, we probably won’t lose anything. In other words, as long as there is a physical in-person component, I think I will be able to get out of paying any, any penalty whatsoever. However, if it, if everything is back to normal and we don’t have any meeting, we will, we will have to get some favors; which I think I will probably be able to get by going to the upper management of the Sheraton, because I’ve contacts in the Sheraton organization. Further discussion ensued about contractual arrangements. Fujimura noted that she does worry that if people do congregate and people get sick and die, 4S could be sued. She made clear to all Council members that the people who are financially and legally responsible are the President and each Council member. A suggestion was that the society purchase an organizational insurance policy to protect the president and Council from financial liability. Fujimura said that we can check with the ACLS about organizational insurance. Fujimura asked Zehr to start the process of joining ACLS.

Conference presentations in non-English languages: Vivette García-Deister suggested that we allow session organizers discretion for non-English language papers, but require an English translation for the audience. Pablo Kreimer reminded Council that we had a three-language meeting in Buenos Aires. Noortje Marres recommended that we involve the local organizing committee in this decision and have them take responsibility on the editorial side. Joan Fujimura indicated that the local organizer has asked 4S to make a decision on the matter. Belén Albornoz pointed out that there may be large organizational diversity across sessions if the matter is left to session organizers and recommended standardization of procedures. Misria Ali Shaik suggested the society invest in translation software to translate video presentations in advance for presentations in non-English languages. Ana Viseu questioned whether adding translation costs would negatively impact the society’s budget. Wes Shrum indicated that the translation service used last year operated sufficiently and the cost was between $2000 – $3000. Duygu Kaşdoğan recommended that we discuss language use as a political rather than a technical issue. Ali, Kaşdoğan, Albornoz, and Maka Suarez agreed to serve on an ad hoc committee to sort out this issue.

Travel Grants: Ana Viseu reported on committee recommendations for criteria to determine travel grants. Several criteria were used last year, including year of anticipated degree, quality, and so on. Viseu asked whether additional criteria should be considered. Paige Miller reported that a new NSF grant proposal was submitted to the National Science Foundation for future travel funds. Miller also reported that the Asian funds for low income and student travelers from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America have been completely used. Alondra Nelson asked whether NSF funding could be used for non-U.S. graduate students. Miller indicated that it was acceptable under the grant. Ana Viseu asked Council whether the Travel Grants Committee could increase the ineligibility for funding from one to two years after receiving a 4S Travel Grant (as proposed last year by the Travel Grant Committee), as well as include the criteria of expected completion date of the degree. There were no objections from Council.

Equity Concerns about Virtual/In-person Conferencing: Duygu Kaşdoğan reported on the ad hoc committee’s discussion. The committee is working with different constituencies to develop a plan.

Language that distinguishes Carson from Fleck Prize: A proposal was distributed to Council prior to the meeting that recommended additional language to differentiate the Carson from the Fleck Prize. The key addition would be that the Fleck Prize be awarded to a book that made exemplary theoretical, methodological, or transnational/global contributions to STS. Noortje Marres expressed concern that the proposed language risks overly narrowing Fleck Prize eligibility. Marres supported the current wording of exemplary work in STS, which is sufficiently broad. Ana Viseu defended the proposal due to the difficulty of differentiating books within the committees. Viseu indicated that the Fleck book prize committee considered theoretical, empirical, and transnational/global contributions as key to the field of STS. Noortje reminded Council of the current understanding of the difference between the Fleck Prize and Carson prize. Carson is about benefits of STS to society, and Fleck is about contribution to STS. Stephen Zehr provided historical context for the separation of the two prizes that aren’t explicitly written down (added as a point of historical reference). Pablo Kreimer suggested that we work on wording to better describe the two prizes and that the proposed wording may be too delimiting. Joan Fujimura asked the committee to work on the issue further. Belén Albornoz asked about the policy on who may nominate books for the prizes. Albornoz noted that the current wording only allows nominations from members over the past three years. This information is difficult to confirm. Viseu explained that in this year’s Fleck Prize Committee, nominations from publishing presses are being considered. Joan Fujimura proposed that the two book prize committees work on the language and that Council reconsider the issue at the next meeting. Kreimer also raised a question about multiple submissions to the paper prizes and whether a policy might be developed to limit them to one per individual.

Discussion of New President-elect: Fujimura announced that Alondra Nelson will not be our next president due to her appointment to Biden’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Stephen Zehr clarified 4S Charter procedures when an elected officer can no longer serve in their current position. Another individual may be appointed to the position until the next election when that office comes up for vote by the membership. A decision was made to remain consistent with the Charter language and elect a new president-elect in this year’s election who would then take over as president after the October 2021 Toronto meeting. No one will be appointed to that post prior to the election. Maka Suarez asked about the challenge of finding two candidates to run within the next few months. Fujimura indicated that she is already working on it.

Proposal from Finance Committee: Emma Kowal described a proposal for the development of a full-time Managing Director for the society. The proposal does not yet include specific financial considerations yet, but Council is asked whether it endorses the proposal. Noortje Marres mentioned that the proposal reflects a longer discussion period about the size of 4S and expectations involving transparency. Marres also indicated that a transition time period would be necessary to work out details of a new administrative structure for 4S. Amanda Windle asked whether there was a job description in the proposal. Windle also asked about the possible need for human resources roles within the society due to this new position. Joan Fujimura pointed out that the society currently does not technically have employees, despite the fact that we pay a few individuals, and therefore we have no human resources office or rules. Kowal suggested that the treasurer and secretary roles would be allocated to Council members who would serve them more in a ceremonial sense. Fujimura noted that it is not so much ceremonial, instead they would serve in an oversight role over the Managing Director. Current treasurer and secretarial work would be combined into tasks for the new Managing Director. Maka Suarez questioned the timeline and how the hiring would be made. Fujimura indicated that we’re still early in the process. Shrum noted that changes to contracted positions were last made in 2014 (added as a point of historical reference). Kowal acknowledged that the new position may put us into our reserves and poses some risks, but feels the society is in a position to move the proposal forward. Fujimura indicated that the sums paid to the Meetings Planner and Webmaster could be used towards paying for the Managing Director. The MD would take over some of the less technical work performed by the Webmaster. Fujimura indicated that the managing director would better assure transparency to manage the financial and legal risks associated with the society, which Council members are legally liable for. Fujimura suggested that we need to explore how to access additional funding from foundations, which we need to take advantage of. Marres also suggested that it would be good to have the new president-elect involved in the hiring of the Managing Editor. Fujimura responded that the plan is to do just that, have the election for the new President-Elect before the Managing Editor is hired. Marres also recommended emphasizing that the position is fixed-term and that the term be written into the contract. Marres also raised a question about invisible labor within the society that needs to be recognized and be part of the organizational changes within the society. Duygu Kaşdoğan emphasized the importance of 4S president’s intellectual and political role beyond financial issues. It was noted that a vote in favour of the EOI does not mean that the MD position was approved. A vote was taken: All in favor with 1 abstention. The vote was in favor of the proposal, which involved asking the Finance Committee to develop a more fully expansive proposal and develop a job description. Ana Viseu explained that she was abstaining not because she is opposed to any kind of restructuring but because of the lack of time of time given to Council Members to read the proposal by the Finance Committee (since the proposal was sent to Council on Sunday night and the meeting was held on Monday) and because the discussion of this proposal felt rushed and it involves a proposed major restructuring of the Society that needs more careful thinking. On this matter, Viseu pointed out that, as was stated by the FC members, the last restructuring took two years of discussion and analysis. Additional discussion noted that the proposal was distributed to Council one business day or less prior to the meeting. Fujimura responded noting that discussion points will be taken into consideration in the development of a final proposal.

Joan Fujimura adjourned the meeting at 5:38 PM U.S. EST.