4S Council Meeting, 1 November 2006

Vancouver, BC

Present: Ulrike Felt, Ragna Zeiss (on behalf of EASST), Paul Wouters, Laura Shigemisu, Gary Downey, Michelle Murphy, Joe Dumit, Sergio Sismondo, Roli Varma, Martina Merz, Matt Harsh, Jason Delborne, Anne Jorunn-Berg, Mike Lynch, Maureen McNeil, Wesley Shrum, Wenda Bauchspies, Sal Restivo, Leigh Star.

The meeting was called to order at 3:15pm by President Leigh Star.

The minutes of the 2005 Pasadena meeting were approved as published on the web.


The Society for Social Studies of Science took the leading role in organizing one of five official side events at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, Tunisia in November 2005: Past, Present, & Future of Research in the Information Society. There was a stream of STS sessions, organized in cooperation with the Society for History of Technology and the History of Science Society. Other participating organizations included the International Federation for Information Processing, CODATA, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft Research, and Internet2. Information will remain on the Past Meetings page of the 4S but in a different format

Publications Committee

The Chair, Gary Downey, reported the discussion from the Publications Committee. Laura Shigemitsu, our Publishing Editor from Sage was in attendance. The visibility of the journal is increasing and the health of the journal is clear, as we have increased the number of issues from four to six. This has lowered the average time to publication, though not as much as we would like, and increased the overall number of published pages by 150. The citation impact factor of ST&HV is now second of 31 journals in the Social Issues category. Sage is now experimenting with an option to ‘publish before print’ in which articles that have been accepted for publication can be accessed by the author and by T&P committees with a digital object identifier, even before the manuscript has been assigned an issue.

4S members who teach STS and using articles from ST&HV should avoid passing the PDF files directly to their students, since libraries now count downloads. The preferred way, in order for your library to ‘credit’ ST&HV use, is to provide a link so that students may download directly from the library site.

English language issues in publication: Sage is working with a company called SPI that provides English language assistance at 2-3 cents per word, keeping the voice and ideas of the author while adapting the manuscript to contemporary English language standards for the review process. This service usually costs about $120 per manuscript. Note there is no guarantee or implication regarding publication. The other option discussed was to provide a consulting service of native English speakers willing to provide this service, perhaps through the student section.

ST&HV submissions are stable or increasing as compared with this time last year. Acceptance rates are fairly high, but it is important to note that some manuscripts are listed as ‘accepted pending revisions’ and are later rejected if the authors fail to perform the revisions. International submission trends are very pronounced, with Anglo-American and European (primarily Scandinavian and Dutch) authors predominating. This year the editor increased the number of review requests for each paper in order to reduce turnaround. However, the policy of acceptance based on three reviews continues to be used. It is difficult making a decision on a manuscript based on two reviews, because they rarely agree. The submissions system usage increased from 10% to 90% in the second year, and should make manuscript processing easier for the next editor.

STHV editor, Uli Felt, whose term ends in June, was thanked for her outstanding service to the society over the past five years. The new chair of the Publications Committee, Joe Dumit, has prepared an editorial search document that will be published on the web and distributed in Technoscience and at the Vancouver meeting. The deadline for editorial proposals is established as 15 January 2007.

Council considered and accepted the recommendation by the Publications Committee to formally affiliate with STSWiki.org as an outreach activity. Bryan Pfaffenberger, the founder of the wiki, will be the primary liaison. The official 4S website will be linked to SSSWiki.org and new content on the wiki will be advertised on the 4S web page. Publications committee will provide the exact wording.

Technoscience is now an exclusively electronic, monthly newsletter, and is functioning exceptionally well, thanks to the management of three editors recommended by the student section of 4S.

Council heard from representatives of the National Science Foundation on the reorganization of the science & technology studies programs: Edward Hackett (Division Director), Pris Regan, and Fred Kronz. The new division of Science and Society is a reorganization of programs, with four component parts: Ethics and Values, History and Philosophy, Social Studies, and Studies of Policy (in Science, Engineering, and Technology). Two positions will be open soon as a result of a program officer rotation and one retirement (John Perhonis). Approximately eight million dollars is now available in the general area of science and technology studies, broadly conceived. Currently, the plan for one of the three science studies positions to become permanent.

Prize & Student Committees

Travel awards. Roli Varma mentioned that several awardees declined owing to the need to use a US flag carrier. Having, 4S has no leeway on this, as it is a condition of the grant. Alondra Nelson, former chair of the committee, mentioned some have declined in the past owing to the low amount of the award. The student section will solicit comments regarding the minimum amount of funds that would generally be desirable. Moreover, there should be an attempt to specify exactly which activities count as an ‘additional 4S activity’ required for funding in years where not enough is available to fund all applicants.

Bernal Prize. Mike Lynch announced that both 2006 and 2007 winners have been selected. The committee is committed to insuring that the prize is not given exclusively to ‘insiders’ in the field of STS.

Ludwik Fleck and Rachel Carson Prize. The committees have received 57 books and short lists of four to five books for each prize will be considered for the final selection this evening. As in the case of the Bernal Prize for lifetime work, the prize committees have carefully considered the issue of the disciplinary affiliation of the authors and the need to balance the selection. Nicholas Mullins Award: Martina Merz reported 18 submissions for the prize this year, with final selection to be done at the evening meeting.

Student Affairs. Jason Delborne reported that the student section has become more organized and is developing momentum. The issue of meetings cost was raised, keeping the cost within bounds such that students, and particularly international students, can attend the meeting. A faculty panel has been organized again this year on career issues. The mentoring program has been launched, with approximately 100 signing up for the service, with 30 pairs matched in advance. There are two events planned at the Vancouver meeting. Matt Harsh mentioned student interest in having scientists and activists present sessions that are relevant to the local site of the meeting, such as Montreal next year. The meeting planner should seek to reduce the implement a special banquet rate for students.

Program and Local Arrangements Committees

Report by Program Chair Wenda Bauchspies

Wenda Bauchspies recommended that in the future the abstract deadline should be established as the first of February. Preliminary numbers: highest North American meeting ever. Previous Canadian site was the lowest. Note that our registration costs are higher, about $135 while their base cost is $90 ($45 for students). However, their banquet is more costly and the room rates at the Hyatt are significantly higher (rate is $154 while ours is $92).

HSS/PSA have 851 pre-registered, then 140 more on the program but unregistered. We have 640 pre-registered.

Council discussed the issue of ‘program crowding’ at Vancouver. The program committee added sessions on Wednesday and Sunday, though our standard policy for room planning is a three day meeting. (Secretary’s note: With a 3 day meeting, 4 two-hour sessions per day gives 12 time slots. We multiply by the number of available meeting rooms. For example, if there are 10 meeting rooms there would be space for (3 x 4 x 10 =) 120 sessions. With each paper getting 1/2 hour slot (no consideration of discussants) that gives 480 papers (if each paper got 24 minutes there can be 5 papers per session, or 600 total papers). That calculation has only been exceeded a couple of times in 25 years. Further, in every meeting there are dropouts: for Vancouver it was about 100 papers. So there is not only the problem of too many in a session; there have also been too few.) In the past the Program Committee has been given the latitude to change the timing of sessions. This year, in order to facilitate ‘session-hopping’ to HSS/PSA, the 4S sessions were timed to coincide with theirs, leading to ‘odd’ session timings. (Secretary’s note: HSS typically has a morning session of 5 papers from 9:00 to 11:45, with a break after two papers; an early afternoon session of contributed papers grouped by subject from 1:30 to 3:10 at 25 minutes per paper; a late afternoon session from 3:30-5:30 with four papers.)

The rejection rate: usually from 10 papers to 5% of papers. Current policy is to accept most submissions in the STS field, giving the program committee latitude to define the field.

By comparison, acceptance rates vary at HSS from nearly 100% in Minneapolis and Austin, to 80% in Cambridge, to 60% in Vancouver.

Regarding the issue of multiple submissions, 4S policy is clear on the Program Practices page: Two appearance maximum. Program committee should restrict appearances by one person to two. The problem has been that some individuals have appeared up to six times and this restricts participation by others. One single authored paper and one co-authored paper (or discussion, etc.) is established as the limit by council (chairing a session is not included in these guidelines).

(Secretary’s note: By comparison, HSS rules are that there should be only one appearance on the program (interpreted as only one session; multiple appearances at one session are allowed). There are exceptions for special sessions and workshops. However, 1/3 of HSS participants are not presenting, unlike 4S. Sometimes they are called in to be a discussant since they are not on the program elsewhere.)

In Vancouver, the Program Committee dropped at least 20 submissions by those with multiple appearances on the program. A couple of senior persons were allowed to be a discussant in two sessions because they were not giving a paper, so this was felt to be within the guidelines.

Regarding the issue of program chairs adding papers to pre-organized sessions. In Vancouver there were several instances in which this was done, but in the majority of cases, the session organizers were said to be pleased with the addition (in some cases, delighted). In those cases where the session organizers were reluctant, there was no addition. However, session organizers must be advised that where program space is at a premium, sessions with only 2-3 presenters are not in the best interests of the membership.

The difficulty of organizing the program without assistance must be addressed. The Vancouver chair suggests a future stipend of $5000 for the program chair to provide assistance (course off, graduate student, etc.). This will allow earlier deadlines and earlier finalization of the program.

Future Meetings Committee

Council sought to decide on venues for several years in the future, discussing four sites for future meetings.

2007: Next year 4S will meet in Montreal at the Doubletree Plaza Hotel.

2008: Council accepted a proposal from Roland Bal for a joint 4s/EASST meeting in Rotterdam on 20-23 August. Given the relatively large size of these joint meetings, they will use space at the University of Rotterdam for the meeting rooms and they will be held in August, before the academic calendar begins.

2009: Council also accepted a proposal from Virginia Tech to hold the meeting in the Washington DC area, with the hotel yet to be decided.

2010: For some time, Council has considered an Asia meeting and has received a proposal from Tokyo. There is an offer by the Japanese Society (JSSTS) to host a joint meeting in Tokyo.

2011: the STS Program at Santa Clara University has expressed interest, but there is no concrete offer.

Nominations Committee

The Chair reported election results for 2006. Michael Lynch will serve as the next 4S President after Susan Leigh Star, for the term 2008-2009. He will begin his term as President Elect at the current meeting. Stefan Timmermans, Gabrielle Hecht, and Michelle Murphy will serve as the new council members, for the term 2007-2009.

Secretary’s Report

The Secretary reported that membership has rebounded from the reduction experienced after moving to a web-based system. Revenues from membership, institutional subscriptions, and the Pasadena meeting indicate a positive financial outlook for the society.

New Business

The issue of language was raised, particularly meeting the needs of the Francophone community given that the next meeting is in Quebec. It was suggested that a pre-conference be held in French, with simultaneous translation into English.

Minutes of the Business Meeting

Vancouver, November 3, 2006

Leigh Star called the meeting to order at 6pm. 37 persons were present.

Wiebe Bijker discussed the side event organized by 4S at the World Summit on the Information Society (Phase II) in Tunisia, November 2005. The Past, Present and Future of Research in the Information Society was

President Star thanked Gwen Ottinger, Jason Delborne, Matt Harsch and others responsible for the new mentoring program organized by the student section of 4S. Outgoing council members Alondra Nelson, Helen Verran, and Anne Jorunn-Berg were thanked for their service to the society. Particular gratitude was extended to Wenda Bauchspies for organizing a highly complex program, the largest 4S meeting ever held in North America.

Ed Hackett reported on the new Handbook for Science, Technology, and Society, which will soon be published by MIT Press, with 37 chapters.

ST&HV: Ulrike Felt reported that the number of submissions had nearly doubled since her term as editor began. She will step down as editor in mid 2007 when her term ends. Gary Downey mentioned the new Sage, Publish-Before-Print service that will make an article available in online form before the journals comes out. He also discussed a new service, to be utilized by Sage, which makes language assistance available for non-native English speakers at a cost of about $120 per article. Gary mentioned the importance of the reviewing responsibility that we face as professionals. Joe Dumit announced the Call for Editor for ST&HV. The membership is solicited for nominations and proposals. Downey and Dumit also mentioned the decision by council to affiliate with STSWiki.org, the wiki run by Bryan Pfaffenberger at the University of Virginia. http://STSWiki.org

Roli announced that 38 of 78 student travel grants were awarded. The meaning of ‘additional participation’ will be clarified.

Program committee matters were discussed by Wenda Bauchspies. Working sessions with pre-distributed papers were used for the first time. There are 680 persons at present and 880 persons on the program. The program committee this year decided to continue the 4S policy of inclusivity, though sound (curtains used in one ballroom) was a problem. Next year a firm deadline of Feb. 1 will be adopted for abstracts so that significant advance planning can be done in case the number of submissions is larger than the number of program spaces. Various suggestions from the floor were given for providing additional formats for papers. Some societies require program registration at the time of submission of abstracts. (A refund would be made available for those whose papers are not accepted.) One other possibility is to utilize the lunchtime slot.

Future Meetings: Next year in Montreal 11-13 October (2007). In 2008 we will meet jointly with EASST in Rotterdam. In 2009, 4S will be in Washington, DC, hosted by Virginia Tech. In 2010 the society will meet with the Japanese STS society in Tokyo (26-28 August 2010). The Japanese Society for STS was established five years ago, and now has over 500 members. They will seek funding for international scholars to attend the meeting. The question arose as to whether the 4S should meet jointly (co-locate) with HSS and PSA: for example, there are many parallel sessions within 4S itself; the distance to the HSS/PSA meeting is far; and there is no book exhibit at 4S.

The meeting was adjourned at 7pm.