Bernal Prize 2018: Trevor Pinch

The Society for Social Studies of Science annually awards its Bernal Prize to an individual judged to have made a distinguished contribution to the field of STS. Past winners have included founders of the field, along with prominent scholars who have devoted their careers to articulating the social dimensions of science and technology. The 2018 Prize goes to Trevor Pinch, Goldwin Smith Professor of Science & Technology Studies and Professor of Sociology at Cornell University.

Trevor Pinch has been a defining figure in the emergence and maturation of STS for more than three decades. He cut his teeth in the early sociology of scientific knowledge in the UK at Bath University as co-author (with Harry Collins) of Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science (1982, Routledge) and author of Confronting Nature: The Sociology of Solar Neutrino Detection (Reidel: 1986). He was co-editor (with Wiebe Bijker and Thomas Hughes) of The Social Construction of Technological Systems: new directions in the sociology and history of technology, a founding text in the field (1987, MIT Press). His subsequent co-authored books include Health and Efficiency: a sociology of health economics (with Michael Mulkay and Malcom Ashmore, 1989, Open University Press), The Uses of Experiment: studies in the natural sciences (co-edited with David Gooding and Simon Schaffer, 1989, Cambridge University Press), and with Harry Collins The Golem: what you should know about science (1993/1998, Cambridge University Press, Canto Classics (2012), translated into 11 languages and now in its 6th edition), The Golem at Large: what you should know about technology (Cambridge University Press Canto1998/2014); and Dr. Golem: how to think about medicine (2005, Chicago University Press ). Other books include Analog Days: the invention and impact of the Moog synthesizer (with Frank Trocco, 2002, Harvard University Press), How Users Matter: the co-construction of users and technology (co-edited with Nelly Oudshoorn, 2005, MIT Press), The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (co-edited with Karin Bijsterveld, 2012 Oxford University Press), and most recently a book of interviews on the foundations of the STS field and Sound Studies Entanglements: Conversations on the Human Traces of Science, Technology and Sound (with Simone Tosoni, 2017, MIT Press).

Pinch’s work with Wiebe Bijker, and Ronald Kline on the social construction of technology (SCOT) model has shaped scholarship on the culture of materiality for over three decades. In addition to its direct contribution to scholarship, The Social Construction of Technological Systems opened a space in the late 1980s that enabled both contemporaries and successive generations of scholars to find a home for empirically oriented social, cultural and historical analyses of technology. While it is now not hard to convince a reputable academic press to publish a book on any topic related to technology and society, that was not the case thirty years ago. This change is due in part to the remarkable success of MIT Press’s Inside Technology series, which Pinch co-founded with Wiebe Bijker and Bernie Carlson. Their steady stewardship of this series, and their support for emerging scholars, has made an enormous contribution to the vitality of the field of STS. Since the publication of Analog Days in 2002, Pinch has been a central figure in the growing field of sound studies, now among the most generative domains of inquiry across the social sciences and the humanities. He has helped to usher new topics into the foreground of STS consciousness, such as (with Nelly Oudshoorn) the role of users in technical change, and to broaden the publics of STS through the Golem trilogy.

From his co-editorship of the 1994 STS Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (Sage)—which came at a decisive moment in the institutionalization of our field—to his service as President of 4S in 2012-2013, Trevor Pinch has exemplified the opposite of narcissism in the academy. Those who have had the privilege of being his colleagues and his students know of his generosity in terms of time commitment, his openness to new ideas, and his willingness to always provide emotional support (including as well to his favorite team in another field, Norwich FC). In recognition of these outstanding contributions, we are delighted to award the 2018 Bernal Prize to Trevor Pinch.

2018 Bernal Prize Committee: Lucy Suchman (Past President), Lesley Green (Council Member), Wen-Hua Kuo (former Council Member), Margarita Rayzberg (Student Representative)

Acceptance Statement

I would like to thank the Nomination Committee and the 4S.  This award means a lot to me. I have been attending 4S regularly since the Bloomington meeting in 1978. It is my primary society for intellectual work, building collegial relations, and fun, and it has been gratifying to see the Society grow and internationalize over recent years. If I had a new idea or paper I would always try it out at 4S first. I have been lucky in that what I found natural to work upon has also been a source of joy. I could hardly believe it in the early 2000s when I found myself interviewing rock musicians as part of my Moog book. And this is STS?

It was a privilege to serve as president of 4S from 2011-13. My career has always been one where having collaborators in different countries and living in different countries has enabled me to grow as a scholar. Apart

rom Harry Collins and Michael Mulkay (both Brits) and Richard Rottenburg (a German) most of my collaborators have been Dutch: Wiebe Bijker, Nelly Oudshoorn and Karin Bijsterveld.  The Dutch (don’t underestimate their quiet negotiating skills) have become quite a power house in science studies during my career and it has been wonderful to be a fellow traveler with them.

My roots as a scholar are firmly in the sociology of scientific knowledge and I consider myself blessed to  have been part of and learn from the pioneers who were set on displacing the predominant Mertonian approach in the field.  Things were exciting back in the day when Bruno Latour used to come over to Bath and sleep on my couch. The moves to technology and sound followed from the inspiration that if we could change the fundamental understanding of science we could change anything. I dedicate this award to all my collaborators from whom I have learnt more than I could ever repay.