4S Council Meeting, 17 May 2021

Council Members present: María Belén Albornoz, Misria Shaik Ali, Joan Fujimura (President), Vivette García-Deister, Chihyung Jeon, Emma Kowal, Pablo Kreimer, Noortje Marres, Angela Okune, Maka Suarez, Katie Ulrich, Ana Viseu, Amanda Windle. Council Members absent: Duygu Kasdogan, Bryn Seabrook.

Paige Miller (Treasurer), Steve Zehr (Secretary)

Beth Coleman & Michelle Murphy (Local Organizers of the Toronto meeting, joined to present information to Council).

Gary Downey, Lucy Suchman (visiting former presidents, no voting power).

Joan Fujimura called the meeting to order at 4:02 PM US Eastern time.

Discussion of plans for the 2021 virtual Toronto conference:

Virtual Conferencing Platform: Beth Coleman and Michelle Murphy presented their plans for Virtual Toronto. The number of registered attendees and panels are higher than last year consisting of 2897 presenters and 3574 participants. There also are many participants from outside of academia. Coleman reviewed several conference platforms with special consideration for survey responses from Virtual Prague that asked for increased sociality, streaming, and better control of the participation process. The Toronto team recommended use of the platform Clowdr, which would charge 75K USD plus tax. This platform is more expensive than other comparative platforms, but the Toronto team feels it best meets the society’s goals and objectives. To date, Clowdr has been used primarily in academic computer science conferences.

Michelle Murphy reported recommendations for a registration price sliding scale. The Toronto team used data from the Prague meeting to generate a sliding scale across several professional categories, country of origin of attendee (placing nations within three global regions), and employment status. A separate registration price would be available for individuals wishing to view the conference without participation. The team ran different revenue models based on 100%, 80%, and 60% attendance of early registrants. Murphy indicated that even the lowest predicted attendance level would yield profit for 4S.

Council discussed the use of Clowdr and the proposed registration sliding scale. Amanda Windle and Maka Suarez posed questions about the sociability function and access capacity for individuals in nations with slower internet access. Noortje Marres noted that a sliding scale across academic position is tenuous, with different categorizations across nations. Murphy responded that academic position would be self-selected in the registration process and that no further information would be requested. Emma Kowal noted that if we use a new registration sliding scale, we’ll need to coordinate it with Steve Coffee. Murphy asked Council for a decision on the platform so that an announcement of the fully virtual meeting and other arrangements can move forward quickly.

Budget: Emma Kowal reviewed the current budget situation for 2021.

Joan Fujimura announced a prior email Council vote to approve moving the Toronto meeting to a fully virtual meeting. The vote was 15-0 in favor of moving the meeting to a fully virtual conference in 2021. 4S will rebook a Toronto meeting at the same hotel for 2026.

Registration Fees for the Annual Meeting: Joan Fujimura noted that registration fees will be self-selected by attendees. No information about annual income will be requested. Windle asked about the large percentage of respondents from prior meetings who indicated their income level was precarious. Emma Kowal indicated that this information reported in budget documents was from 2020 conference attendees. There was no further discussion on registration fees. Council voted to approve the proposed graduated fee and the general proposed budget for the meeting: 12 in favor; 0 opposed. There was further discussion of the Clowdr platform. Kowal noted that the expense of the platform is double that of Slides Live, which was used at the Prague conference. Kowal recommended that the society adopt the platform for the Toronto conference as it is a priority to experiment with platforms that can offer an enhanced virtual conferencing experience. Council voted to adopt the Clowdr platform: 12 in favor; 0 opposed.

Learning from discussions with other societies to restructure 4S leadership: Kowal reported on interviews with leadership in three other societies: History of Science Society, Law and Society Association, and German Studies Association. Kowal noted the variability across these societies in terms of sustainable models. Kowal reviewed several key points from this discussion. (1) Each recommended becoming a member of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). (2) In terms of staffing structure, each of these societies has a Managing Director/Executive Director position but there are mixed views about whether the person holding this position should come from within the society or not. The secretary and treasurer positions varied across these societies in terms of whether they are voted in by the membership or voted in within Council membership. Fujimura suggested that the 4S model might involve secretaries and treasurers in an oversight role over the Managing Director’s work. (3) Kowal noted that we need anti-discrimination and COI statements. 4) Other societies do not have a program officer/meetings planner but use union services that assist with negotiating contracts with hotels but do not charge the society. 5) Other societies have several sources of income and are not limited to just an annual conference for generating income. 6) Membership fees of other societies are higher than for 4S membership. Fujimura has suggested that 4S increase our membership fees on a graduated scale. Fujimura added that conferencing is changing now and going to continue to change in the future so the income from a single annual conference per year is not sustainable. Fujimura also noted that other societies have similar concerns as ours does about sustainability.

Fujimura announced an email Council vote taken approved a proposal that 4S join ACLS. The vote was: 14 in favor; 1 abstention.

Further discussion on restructuring: Maka Suarez asked for further information about the roles of secretaries and treasurers in societies where there is a Managing Director. Kowal added that some societies have Executive Committees to manage business decisions, where the Executive Committee consists of the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, and Managing Director. The first four are usually all elected Council members. There was further discussion on the distribution of work. Marres reported to council a discussion in Finance committee, where this committee agreed that is not within its remit to review and make recommendations on 4S staffing plans. Marres noted that it was the ad hoc Finance Committee put forward a proposal for staffing and asked for further information about procedures within that committee, issues of staffing, etc. Fujimura reported that she has formed a separate committee – a Reorganization Committee – to develop a new organizational plan for 4S in which staffing is key. Marres asked how this new committee will take into account views from the society. Marres noted that under consideration is changes to the organizational structure of 4S, which is complex. Fujimura responded that the proposed changes are voted on by Council members who are member-elected officials of the Society. Fujimura said that the work of running the organization has grown with the growth in prizes, journals, programs like Making and Doing, global reach programs, and growing interest in the Society’s work. Kowal emphasized that there is a need for a Managing Director to help us move toward reorganization and hopes that we can make that decision today to approve the Expression of Interest for a Managing Director. Marres recommended that a transition proposal needs to spell out a timeline for change, recognize the work currently done by current staff members AND clearly outline how existing responsibilities and tasks will be re-allocated as part of the transition. Fujimura noted that Meetings Planner Wes Shrum has resigned and that Secretary Steve Zehr will retire after the October conference. So we need staff members to take on the work. Ana Viseu questioned whether the starting point might be to think about reorganization of the society as a whole before moving through the process.

The Reorganization Committee was announced at the meeting. The committee consists of Belén Albornoz, Duygu Kasdogan, Pablo Kreimer, Emma Kowal, Amanda Windle, and Joan Fujimura as Chair.

Fujimura asked for questions about an Expression of Interest (EOI) for Managing Director draft distributed to Council. Marres questioned the description about updating the website in the EOI, which overlaps with Coffee’s work. Fujimura noted that much of Coffee’s work, for example work on the Technoscience newsletter, does not require serious technical skills and can be performed by the Managing Director. Marres also asked about the updating of the Charter point, noting that changes to the charter involve a much wider process. Fujimura noted that previous changes to the Charter were made after the fact of instituting new procedures. Marres proposed that the position description include language indicating that it is a fixed-term position and is pending based upon the outcome of an overall review of staffing positions. Marres proposed a term of an initial two years with a possible extension for an additional three years. Fujimura stated that a minimum of three years was necessary for the MD to build the position, thus a three-year term with extension for an additional two years was more practical. These edits to the original document were added. Ana Viseu asked about the salary/wages for the position. Fujimura indicated that the committee was thinking of $40,000 US for a part-time position, but that we would keep our options open contingent upon who applies and the expertise and qualifications of the selected candidate. Marres asked whether the two former presidents attending the Council meeting would like to comment. Lucy Suchman indicated that comments would be provided in writing after the meeting.

Vote: Kowal motioned that Council endorse the Expression of Interest (EOI) for a Managing Director and that we proceed with a search for the position. The search would begin within a week and close in August. There was further discussion about what the EOI language means and whether we’re committed to filling the position once the EOI goes out. Vote: 9 in favor; 1 opposed. (Out of 10 voting Council members, two had to leave before this vote was taken.)

New Logo Design: Ana Viseu noted that her students working on the logo design will be graduating soon and asked Council to move soon on approval of a new logo. Fujimura said that Council will vote on this as soon as she presents the logo to us.

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 6:00 PM US Eastern Time.