4S Council Meeting, 21 August 2018

In attendance: Kim Fortun, Stephen Zehr, Paige Miller, Wes Shrum, Roopali Phadke, Noela Invernizzi, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Gloria Baigorrotegui, Gwen Ottinger, Anita Say Chan, Aadita Chaudhury, Erika Szymanski, Steve Jackson, Sara Wylie, Joan Fujimura, Maria Belén Albornoz

Kim Fortun called the meeting to order at 10:00 am and reviewed the agenda.

The July 2018 Council meeting minutes were unanimously approved.

Fortun reviewed key features of commissioned reports:

  • The size of 4S membership was discussed relative to growth worldwide in the number of STS scholars and programs.
  • Whether we should more actively enroll members engaged in practice.
  • The 4S business model, which is heavily dependent on the annual meeting.  Should we seek out other revenue streams to support additional work in the society?
  • Transparency of the society: should we openly share more financial and other business-related information?

Accountability, Transparency, Resolutions:

UCS2017 (assets from: 2017 990)

The issue was discussed in the context of the recent HAU (Journal of Ethnographic Theory) controversy.  Aadita Chaudhury reported on abuse of power allegations at the journal, especially involving junior scholars, and raised the question of whether and how 4S might intercede.  Fortun emphasized that an important way 4S can respond is through review and improvement of its own transparency practices and accountability structures.   Fortun noted that the HAU controversy pointed to the need for both financial and organizational transparency. Fortun referred to the 4S Operations Update Ad Hoc Committee Research Report (posted on the 4S website), which includes a chart with links showing how different scholarly societies disclose financial information. Fortun also noted that critical organizational problems brought to light in the HAU controversy included inadequate complaints processes and the lack of a clear protocol for succession of journal editors.

Council discussed various issues related to transparency, junior scholar expectations, handling complaints, and providing people sufficient academic credit for their professional work.  Discussion included ideas about how initially to proceed: form a committee, survey the membership, develop a workshop, or borrow codes of conduct from other societies?  Additional discussion addressed transparency in the nomination process for 4S prize committees.  In particular, the selection process for the Mentoring Prize has been difficult.  In addition, honoring mentoring practices through an award could risk contributing to an elite status for senior scholars, which Council members recognized as part of the problem in some misconduct cases discussed above.  Although the idea behind the Mentoring Prize – to highlight work that all too often goes unacknowledged – still has full support from Council members, the form chosen may not be ideal.  In this light it was suggested that we eliminate the prize and substitute a mentoring best practices presentation at annual meetings (see Council votes below).  Additional discussion focused on a complaints process.  Council agreed that before we open up a complaints process, procedures and the range of complaints that the society would handle need clarity.

Financial Disclosure: Paige Miller reported on current budget reporting procedures.  Miller indicated that the 4S budget has been small for most of its history.  Past Councils expressed concern about disclosure of financial information on our website, which increases potential for fraudulent activity.  There have been past instances of attempted fraud.  Fortun suggested that we need more budget disclosure than current practice to clarify what work is done and people paid.  Council discussed what information could be made available for transparency purposes and how it could be communicated.  A final decision was tabled until the next Council meeting.

Digital Infrastructure and Communications

Website: Regarding redevelopment of the website, Steve Jackson recommended that we receive estimates of costs from vendors of different web options before we proceed.  These options range from small changes of the existing site to full-scale redevelopment.  Discussion ensued about the time and expertise necessary for overseeing the design change.  Fortun raised the possibility of hiring a project manager.  No final decision was reached.

Backchannels: Steve Jackson expressed concern about the lack of content for Backchannels:  Jackson reported that according to collected data few people are reading it, which is discouraging given the amount of work required for its production.  In discussion some Council members defended Backchannels because it provides a way to share reports about STS activities around the world. Erica Szymanski indicated that as a blog Backchannels is a failure, but as a report on meetings it has had success.  Roopali Phadke reported that Backchannels is complex with its six different modalities.  Editing requires extensive recruitment of new material.  It is important to recognize the work requirements for its maintenance.  Fortun suggested the possibility of streamlining content and simply posting new material as it is submitted and be less concerned about the total amount of content.  Szymanski recommended more clarity about the purpose of Backchannels.  Jackson expressed concern about simply posting material as it arrives because new material needs editing.  Some discussion ensued about whether the material in Backchannels might be folded into Technoscience, or Engaging STS.

There was lack of consensus within Council about the best direction to take and whether the overall project is worthwhile, or whether a partial version is sufficiently beneficial.  Council concluded to request ideas from current editors and, for the time being, recommended that editors be less proactive in obtaining fresh content to reduce workload. Council will further discuss Backchannels at its October meeting.

Social Media: Council discussed a need for a social media strategy as part of an overall communications strategy – directed at both (differently positioned) 4S members and outward. There was some discussion about appointing a Communications Director.  Concerns, however, include the expense and procedural challenge of working with a non-STS communications person.

Institutional Membership: Fortun raised the issue of institutional memberships within the society.  Council questioned the meaning of institutional membership and its impacts on revenue flow.  Fortun again referenced the 4S Operations Update Ad Hoc Committee Report which has a section (p16) that describes how other scholarly societies handle institutional memberships.  Fortun will start an exchange with Council about potential benefits in advance of the October Council meeting.

Conference Scheduling: Questions were raised about the scheduling of 4S annual meetings.  Concern was expressed about meeting at the beginning of the academic calendar for academics on a semester system.  Wes Shrum reported that this time of year was less expensive.  Given the expanded size of our meetings, we have been priced out of the late October/early November time frame, which is a popular convention time.   It was also acknowledged that it is difficult to find a good time for all 4S members given different academic calendars.  Council agreed that part of the solution was to schedule the conference at different times each year so that scheduling difficulties don’t impact the same people each year.

Response to HAU:

Teun Zuiderent-Jerak introduced draft text to 4S Council concerning misconduct cases:  Given a series of cases of alleged academic misconduct, including at the journal HAU, as well as issues around scholars like Avital Ronell, the 4S Council discussed how we might prevent similar problems from occurring within 4S. Acknowledging that we are neither immune to misconduct within the society’s activities, nor believe it is useful to develop incident-based policies or statements, discussion focused on how to highlight scholarly values 4S holds dear and build infrastructure to protect them.  Discussion led to the following motions.

1. Gwen Ottinger moved that we develop a complaint and misconduct policy, taking into consideration recommendations reported below.  Joan Fujimura seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.

  • Install a reporting process for members to raise concerns regarding misconduct taking place within 4S activities. These activities include:
    • Website postings;
    • Conference organization and practice:
      • Program and organizing committee conduct;
      • Serious misconduct by individual members or member groups – a simple code of conduct at conferences, including possible consequences of non-adherence, will be included in conference registration;
    • The Journals Science, Technology, and Human Values and Engaging Science, Technology, and Society;
    • Awards (Nomination, awarding, and post awarding processes).
  • Reporting can be done through:
    • a confidential form on the 4S website;
    • a confidential email to:
      • any of the 4S Officers;
      • Council members or;
      • Student Representative members;
  • There will be a process for handling reported concerns, e.g.:
    • All complaints could be discussed by an ad-hoc group of three 4S Council members, selected by the Secretary, taking into account possible conflict of interest (CoI);
      • Members would be fully bound to confidentiality;
      • Members would be fully bound to disclose any CoI;
      • Members would be obliged to report back to council on the case and the proposed actions.

2. Roopali Phadke moved that we discontinue the annual mentoring award and replace it with an annual session at the 4S meeting that honors best practices on mentoring as selected through a nomination process.  Anita Say Chan seconded.  Discussion was based on the justification below.  The motion passed unanimously.

  • Good mentoring is crucial for fostering scholarly values 4S holds dear.  It needs to be a collective and infrastructured endeavor. In that light we discontinue the 4S Mentoring Award and replace it with an annual session at the 4S meeting that focuses on good mentoring practices.
  • This session can focus on:
    • Responsibility for mentoring by academic collectives;
    • The way academic seminars are run;
    • Ways of supporting junior scholars with career choices, including for non-academic careers;
    • Intervention (intercollegial learning) practices between or across senior and junior scholars;
    • Etc.
  • This session will be coordinated collaboratively by 4S and 6S, mindful of the importance of supporting junior scholars regarding mentoring issues while making mentoring a society-wide responsibility.

3. Kim Fortun moved that 4S will clarify and publicize the way in which 4S journals are run including the succession of editors, a complaints process, and other editorial procedures.  The ideas below can be used to facilitate the clarification process.  Gwen Ottinger seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.

  • Review policies on:
    • Selection and appointment of editors;
    • The need for a journal-based ombudsperson;
    • Requirement for what it takes to qualify as an author on co-authored papers;
    • Other policies that might come up, studying the journal editors survey carried out in 2018.
  • Revisions will be formulated in conversation and collaboration with the editors of 4S journals (ST&HV, ESTS);
  • These revised procedures will be presented to Council for approval;
  • They will also be made available to 4S-related journals (e.g. those represented in the Journal editors’ roundtable at 4S Sydney), asking them to respond to how they relate to these polices and if they have suggestions for improvements;
  • Affiliated journals will be asked to share their policies for handling issues such as those listed above, or to adopt the 4S’s policies.

4. The 4S president in consultation with Council will develop a letter of advice for the 4S membership involving how to relate to the HAU controversy.  This advice might include some or all of the ideas below.

  • This advice may read:
    • until current allegations have been properly investigated and, if found true, acted upon, please consider:
    • Not submitting their draft articles to HAU;
    • Consider not prescribing HAU published articles in teaching, or at least adding a mention that this journal has unresolved issues of conduct;
    • Using their memberships of other societies, like AAA, to support calls for scrutinizing the problems at HAU.
  • The advice includes references to reliable information about the HAU controversy;
  • and will be published in a letter by the 4S president and highlighted in Technoscience.

Regularizing our Editorial Process:  Kim Fortun proposed that we need a year overlap in editorships of our journals.  This is customary in many journals and seems particularly important in the current publishing environment (in which editors need time to be attentive to issues like open access, durable scholarly infrastructure, and so on).  A five-year term for 4S editors with a one-year cross-over would mean forming a search committee for ESTS now for the next editor to be in place by July 2019 to overlap with Daniel Kleinman by one year.

Request from Catalyst: Kim Fortun reported that the journal Catalyst has requested additional support at the level of $5000 per year for three years.  Discussion ensued about this request and Council members voiced appreciation for the attention given to collaborative governance of Catalyst (as described in their letter).   Concern was expressed about what this type of commitment would mean in the relationship of the society to other STS related journals.  Council members voiced strong concern that approving this funding would not be fair if the opportunity were not opened up to all STS-related journal through an open call for proposals. There also was discussion about the general problem of funding open access journals.  Since the society does not have a specific program for funding regular requests such as this one, Council declined the funding request.

Futuring 4S: Anita Say Chan reported on the results of the committee’s efforts to think about the future of 4S.  Chan described the work procedures of the committee, focusing on how data was gathered.  Recommendations of the committee focused on a variety of low-cost opportunities for the society.  They included opportunities for improved pedagogy and reaching practitioners.  Fortun expressed interest in the recommendations.  Fortun recommended that we focus on all of them but decide how to pace out their implementation.

Kim Fortun provided an overview of key sessions that Council members should attend.

Meeting was adjourned at 4:45 PM.