Writing in STS as a transnational collaborative practice

Mariana Pitta Lima
07/17/2023 | Reflections

In December 2022, I attended the joint ESOCITE/4S Meeting conference in Cholula, Mexico, for the first time in person. I had previously participated in the 4S Meeting in 2021, but remotely. The 2022 meeting was a milestone since it was the first in-person conference after two years of being held remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, I was there to attend the two days STS writing workshop, on 5 and 6 December, which prioritized participants from the global South (Editorial Collective, 2022). The workshop, organized by editors of Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) affiliated journals, brought together early career researchers from different universities around the world, and editors of leading STS journals, including Catalyst: Feminism, theory and technoscience, Science, Technology, & Human Values (ST&HV), Engaging Science, Technology, and Society , Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society , Social Studies of Science , and East Asian Science, Technology, and Society : an International Journal.
Participants at the STS writing workshop
Editors and Early Career scholars at the pre-meeting writing workshop, ESOCITE/4S joint meeting, Cholula, Mexico 2022

As a new assistant editor of the Backchannels editorial team, I would like to begin my collaboration by writing about the importance of collaboration as a practice for STS writing, especially among colleagues who are in the global South. I describe the experience as a participant in the afore mentioned writing workshop, and discuss its outcomes, since it took place just over six months ago.

The discussion around the transnationalization of the STS field (Invernizzi el al., 2022) has demonstrated that the historically predominant centers maintain hegemony in terms of publications in leading STS journals, making invisible productions originating from certain regions and, consequently making those productions peripheral. Among the elements that reinforce these inequalities are the linguistic inequalities. This occurs regarding theoretical frameworks and research agendas, representing an epistemic loss by ignoring perspectives that emerge from certain regions. The stimulation of a culture of collaborative writing practices, whether with co-authorship or with constructive reading and review of colleagues' texts, may be one of the strategies to strengthen the field in these regions. Since I approached STS as a research method and theoretical perspective for my own research on biomedical technologies in maternity hospitals in Brazil, it has been a concern to develop writing skills for publication. This is especially relevant in spaces that circulate knowledge in different contexts around the world, such as the most prestigious journals in the field, as a way to produce theoretical contributions from the South.
The workshop took place over two days. On the first day, we started with quick introductions of the editors and participants, where we had the opportunity to learn about the research topics of our colleagues, with whom we would work during the two days. In the afternoon, two information session panels were held. These sessions were dedicated to the editors to speak more broadly about the submission and review process in the journals, followed by Q&A. It is worth mentioning the coffee breaks were truly transnational, because we had long conversations with colleagues and editors in a more informal way about our research, in different languages. There, even though we were in an ambiance of multiple nationalities, it was possible to find ways to communicate and to create a collaborative and generous community.

During the morning of the second day, we worked on the actual papers, which were shared with the group previously. We formed five small groups with 4 or 5 papers. In each group, we received constructive feedback from two or three editors, plus helpful comments from our Early Career Scholar colleagues, for thirty minutes. We also read the other papers, offering our comments, taking the place of reviewers. An opportunity to exercise collaborative reviewing of colleagues' papers. At the end of the second day of two intense days of work, we had a final session with the whole group for reflections, feedback and closing.

Further outcomes
Since the conclusion of the workshop, I have kept in touch with colleagues from Brazil, Latin America, and other countries. We continue to communicate online, exchange references, and help each other with information about interesting opportunities and writing collaborations. For example, in April 2023 I presented my PhD research in the Abortion at the borderlines conference, co-organized by one of the workshop participants. I often exchange references with another colleague in Mexico. Also, I frequently exchange with a Brazilian colleague who works in the US, just to name a few among the many in the rich network that we have built using this opportunity. After the workshop, I also engaged in LAB Escritas, a writing community in my home department that has recently been growing stronger. In this space, I was able to share with colleagues about questions discussed in the workshop held in Cholula. I am still working on the manuscript I sent to the workshop, to be submitted to a journal soon.

In conclusion, based on this experience and its outcomes, I suggest that writing as a collaborative practice is a powerful tool. It is important to have colleagues who show interest in your research and take the time to read and comment on what you have written. The support for early career scholars, especially those doing research in the global South is a recognition of your research, and it demonstrates the relevance of the research we are developing in our countries.

Making space and encouraging the participation of early career researchers in experiences such as the writing workshop held at ESOCITE/4S in Cholula is also a way to transform inequalities into publications in prestigious STS journals. Strengthening the possibility for writing also makes it possible to engage plural voices, experiences, and knowledge production from different parts of the world, which is essential to enrich STS as a theoretical field.
Mariana Pitta Lima holds a PhD in Public Health from the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. She is currently collaborating on an interdisciplinary project on Digital Health at the same University. She is one of the Assistant Editors in the Backchannels Global South team.

Published: 07/17/2023