4S Council Meeting, 1 November 2021

Emma Kowal called the meeting to order at 12:04 PM UTC.

ITEM 1 Greetings

In attendance: Emma Kowal, Amanda Windle, Vivette García-Deister, Canay Özden-Schilling, Duygu Kaşdoğan, Vivian Choi, Barkha Kagliwal, Natasha Vally, Bryn Seabrook, Angela Okune, Chihyung Jeon, Michelle Murphy, Aneesh Aneesh, Maka Suarez, Lucy van de Wiel, Misria Shaik Ali, and Pablo Kreimer.

ITEM 2 Apologies

Absent: Pablo Kreimer joined the meeting at item 6 and left after item 8, this is noted to reflect the change in voting numbers next to each next agenda item.

ITEM 3 Introductions from new members of council

Emma Kowal asked new council members to tell a bit about themselves (Choi, Kagliwal (6S), Vally, Özden-Schilling, van de Wiel, and Aneesh).

ITEM 4 Vote to approve July and September 2021 Council meeting minutes

July minutes: Kowal introduced item 4, and Amanda Windle went through the shortlist of points that had not been included in the July minutes. After that had been understood, the council moved to a vote to accept the July minutes by Aneesh, and seconded by Maka Suarez. The motion to approve the July minutes was approved by (14) votes, with zero (0) against, and (0) abstention. The motion was carried.

Sep minutes: Kowal noted the amendments that had been made, and Vivette García-Deister moved to accept the Sep minutes, and seconded by Aneesh. The motion to approve the September minutes was approved by (14), with zero (0) against, and (0) abstention. The motion was carried.

ITEM 5 Finance Report

Amanda Windle gave a financial update noting that 4S was continuing with the tax instructions from Gus Levy, paying outstanding Toronto payments, and that going forward there was still a lot of reconciling to do with QuickBooks due to syncing the account in August. Some duplication in the recorded entries had occurred. The Chase banking platform isn’t ideal, and there is a need to review the banking in 2022.

ITEM 6 Toronto conference discussion

Michelle Murphy shared with council highlights from the Toronto conference report and slide show. Toronto2021 was the biggest 4S conference by quite a bit (including many from Global South countries who may not have been access to funds to attend in person), and revenue was high, but the costs were lower than previous years of in-person or virtual conferencing. A sliding scale and equity-based model was used to balance equity and income. There were some bumps and successes with this model; like the travel grant program, which was rebranded as a meetings support program,— there was a lack of communication between the travel grants committee and the program committee. There were 20–30 applications when usually there are 200–300 applications per year. Volunteers and those who requested financial help also got waivers.

The program was gigantic with 574 sessions, and 30 parallels sessions (6am–8pm daily). If it continues at this size, then taking a further look at societies of a bigger size is advisable. Key decisions were to run a digital conference, and an equity based registration. The Toronto organisers consulted with past program chairs, particularly from the Prague and NOLA conferences. Thank you to Vivian Choi and others for providing us with materials. Each conference there is a different review process. Should this be standardized Murphy questioned, as it’s very adhoc and reinvented each year? There were 4 program chairs, and hired 3 conference organisers, that were paid for their work (full-time during the conference and 300 hours beforehand, and this is where the majority of the budget was spent). The workload was made cumbersome by the All Academic (AA) system. The email system often did not work properly. There was no feedback on whether requests to AA had been fixed. The Making and Doing sessions was changed so that the timings were more concentrated within the program which seems to have increased attendance. There is also a separate report for how the team built on the 2019 code of ethics and added accessibility information. There were very low levels of complaint on accessibility, and there was a committee specifically for accessibility. The auto-captioning wasn’t in place, so there was a hack even though the platform was chosen in part for accessibility. In-person live captioning was provided and also for select panels when requested. The theme of the conference followed the theme of accessibility too.

The conference challenges are not new. There was poor structure of institutional memory and conference reports weren’t passed over to us. There was no institutional memory beyond the webmaster, including how the budget operated. There was poor communication between the conference organizers and council. Murphy would like there to be a clarity on the budgeting process and what are the standing items to pass on for next time. There is much labor between the platforms and registration software that it creates errors. A recommendation was to select a future platform with more features. Scheduling across time ones was another challenge for an online meeting. Scheduling the business meeting was a challenge. The meeting@4sonline.org email gets a high volume of email that it needs a staff person.

Having an access sub-committee as part of council and access across the society is important, and that also needs a budget. There needs to be an access committee right from the start with disabled scholars (from crip technoscience) involved because there is incredible knowledge there, and have the committee as a standing item. Murphy suggested that council might construct the conference survey.

Kowal thanked Murphy for the incredible work and acknowledging that AA is a big problem. Kowal also agreed with the aim to keep the access committee as ongoing. Cultural memory is important, and part of the managing director role will address that, including writing policies and procedures. The council expressed gratitude with Choi agreeing with many of the concerns raised, and Aneesh commented on a great presentation showing how the scale usually shrinks with online conferences, but in fact the team increased it. Suarez enquired if the data from people who attended from the global south is important so that we have a sense of who is participating. Can we have numbers on social events? How many people attended? Were we able to be social? Action: Murphy will forward Steve Coffee’s raw data. Murphy said that the platform was chosen for sociality and for having lots of hybrid rooms, noting that there were 57k private chats on the system. Murphy noted that a survey would give an indication of sociality that numbers on chat, did those chats help? There was a steady attendance through all times. People stayed on twice as long than other conferences on Midspace. However, about ten percent of participants needed a high level of help using the platform.

Information about the review process needs to be passed on to future conference organizers. 4S has a review manual and Toronto21 built on the existing manuals from 2019. The two manuals are in the final conference report (particularly how to use AA). Action: Murphy offered to meet to committee chairs going forward. Kowal ended the agenda item by saying thank you for making the biggest conference happen, and the most ambitious in many ways.

ITEM 7 Cholula conference planning and theme

Kowal reiterated that it is a joint ESCOCITE and 4S conference and will be held in Cholula, close to Mexico City. Leandro Rodriguez Medina and Luciano Levin are the two 4S chairs. They are supported by ESOCITE chair Ronald Cancino and 4S president Kowal. A draft call for papers and theme has been discussed. The theme is Reunion, Recuperation, Reconfiguration. At this stage Rodriguez Medina and Levin would prefer an in-person conference and hybrid, rather than using a platform. Aneesh agreed that it did seem the time for an in-person meeting, and time to move back to the usual format.

The conference is scheduled for the 7–10 December 2022 which will mean there will be more information about vaccinations over time. García-Deister reported that about 94% of adults in Mexico have had at least one vaccine dose. It differs drastically between different states, with Mexico city being the largest city that has been vaccinated. Cholula has better vaccination rates than rural areas, but the academic community have all been vaccinated with a single dose vaccine of (CanSino) which is not recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Kowal urged that she did not want anyone to book travel for Cholula until the middle of the year, which led the council to discuss travel insurance and insurance for the conference which did occur for NOLA and Sydney.

This led to discussion of progress by the Archives Committee. Suarez (chair) updated to say that Wes Shrum has the 4S archive, and he is on sabbatical on January 2022, and not available until after January. Action: Shrum will handover archive to Suarez after January 2022. Suarez has asked a digital librarian from the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton to help with the planning. Kowal noted that there are plans for future work on the IT support, replacing Steve Coffee when he retires. The platforms going forward will need to be researched by the managing director when appointed. Action: Kowal to invite the conference organisers to come to the next council meeting to keep council informed of what’s going on—and to strengthen better communications. Action: Archives Committee to share the Prague report with Kowal and for Windle to review files by Steve Zehr.

ITEM 8 Update on Managing Director Selection Committee

Maka Suarez took notes for this part of the meeting. Amanda Windle was absent (recused for conflict of interest). Kowal explains there’s an MD proposal currently open and 5 applications for the position have been received. The call is open until November 29th 2021. The selection committee includes: Emma Kowal, Hebe Vessuri, Wiebe Bjiker, Knut Sorensen, and Alan Irwin. There will be a shortlisting meeting after the closing of the call. Then a 30-minute interview with candidates. By the first week of December the committee hopes to have made a decision. A contract will then be negotiated. The idea is to hire an MD to begin work as soon as possible, and will need to be involved in handovers from Steve Coffee who will be stepping down next year.

Vally asked if we were also dealing with charter changes along with discussing the MD position? Kowal clarified that we were only dealing with the MD position at that moment (in the meeting). Vally asked about a broader conversation within council regarding the understanding an MD should probably have of 4S’ principles, academic energy and alignment with the field, and how to balance between professional take and academic perspective. Kowal explained that the selection panel is taking that into account as a very important part though it is not essential to understand 4S in particular as a society. There are however pretty specific desired qualifications which are in the final call for the position. Pablo Kreimer left the meeting which is noted to reflect the change in voting numbers in the next agenda item.

ITEM 9 Vote on appointing Secretary and Treasurer

García-Deister presented a motion to appoint Vivian Choi as secretary for the next three years and Duygu Kaşdoğan seconded. Vote: The motion was approved by (13), with (1) abstention (Choi). The motion was carried. 

Özden-Schilling presented a motion to appoint Aneesh as treasurer who will replace Emma Kowal for the next two years. The motion was seconded by Misria. Vote: The motion was approved by (13), with (1) abstention (Aneesh). The motion was carried.

Kowal concluded that both Choi and Aneesh will now join the Selection Committee for the MD role.

ITEM 10 Creation of Ad Hoc Executive Committee

Kowal: Shared a draft executive committee charge document showing the managing directors duties and how the role verbally reports in each council meeting. Kowal moved to approve a motion for an ad hoc executive committee and Aneesh seconded the motion. Vote: The motion to support the creation of an ad hoc executive committee was approved by (14), with zero (0) abstentions. The motion was carried.

ITEM 11 Plans for Charter Changes

Kowal briefly discussed the Plan for Charter Changes that all Council members had already heard at the last Business Meeting. This includes moving towards an elected secretary and treasurer roles. This will require charter changes to be voted at a future meeting.

ITEM 12 Call for Affiliations

Nothing further to report.

ITEM 13 Reporting on Conferencing Discussion at Toronto Meeting

The discussion focused on accessibility in terms of numbers, and countries, and then how we take that alongside the climate crisis and to think about future meetings. Angela Okune took notes and presented her current conversations with Kaşdoğan and Suarez around the possibility of moving between—face-to-face (F2F), hybrid, and virtual configurations—which needs a plan for alternating the conference cadence. For instance, every 3 years 4S could have a virtual conference, together with local nodes / regions for community-building. The latter idea raised questions around how institutions would support local nodes. For instance, affiliation with 4S could mean getting access to an events fund for additional resources for local events. There was also further discussion on the multilingual aspect of conferencing, whether it is in-person or local. The conversations will continue. Kaşdoğan noted that there was a planned survey on multilingual and hybrid aspects. Shaik Ali volunteered help with the multilingual aspect of conferencing. Kowal confirmed that Cholula will be trilingual—English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Kowal suggested that the questions about multilingual conferences should be added to the Toronto survey. Action: Windle to ask Coffee for surveys from Prague, Sydney, NOLA. Action: Okune, Kaşdoğan, Suarez, and Exec committee to bring that together questions to do a conferencing survey soon.

ITEM 14 Any Other Business

None to report.

Emma Kowal adjourned the meeting at 14:11 PM UTC.