Interim Editor announced

Dr. Megan Raby, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, will serve as interim co-editor of Isis this summer while Dr. Alix Hui takes family leave.

Dr. Raby, whose work centers on ecology and biodiversity in the circum-Caribbean region of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is a member of the journal’s Advisory Board. She will serve as interim co-editor with Dr. Matthew Lavine from May through August of this year.

HSS Newsletter – April 2021

Incredible as it may seem, it has been a whole year since the HSS Newsletter has been created and distributed under  COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. It’s been a strange and disturbing, even harrowing, year for many of us, but somehow HSS members have been hard-working and productive as ever, as borne out by the various parts of this issue of the Newsletter.

We have a cover story about another story that was not a cover, a film review disguised as a lecture, an interview with the author of an award winning book, an account of the many guises of a single innovative course, and sadly, a farewell from Jay. That plus our usual offerings from individual members, our Society, our bibliographer, and the profession at large rounds out the April 2021 issue, with something we hope, for everyone.

Read the Newsletter.

Download a pdf.

HSS Accepting Applications for Executive Director

The History of Science Society is now accepting applications for the position of Executive Director. The full position description can be found here. Review of applications will begin on 2 May 2021 and continue until the position is filled. Full details are in the position description.

Featured article: Yvan Prkachin on the origins of neuroscience

Yvan Prkachin’s article, “‘The Sleeping Beauty of the Brain’: Memory, MIT, Montreal, and the Origins of Neuroscience,” appears in the March 2021 issue of Isis.

Our manuscript assistant, Samuel Green, asked Dr. Prkachin to talk about his research into the tangled mid-century roots of the “unified” sciences of the brain. Read the full text of their interview here.

Call for Papers: 2021 HSS Annual Meeting

The Call for Papers for the 2021 HSS Meeting program can be accessed here

Please note that the deadline for submissions is 18 April 2021, 11:59 EDT.

If you were part of the 2020 Meeting Program but did not present as part of the Virtual Forum, you have several options to re-submit for the 2021 Meeting. Please go here to see the re-submission guidelines.

For more details about the meeting, please visit the meeting website.

Update on Isis submissions and gender during the pandemic

The co-editors of Isis have updated their report from August of last year on the effect that COVID-19 has had on submissions, and its disproportionate impact on women. Six months later, the striking gender gap that arose in the middle months of 2020 has narrowed considerably, but new challenges have arisen.

2021 HSS Annual Meeting

The 2021 Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society will be held 18-21 November in New Orleans, Louisiana. The meeting will be held jointly with the Society for the History of Technology. Details on the meeting will be posted to the meeting website here. The HSS thanks you for your patience as we finalize details for the meeting.

The state of the journal, January 2021

A note from the Co-Editors of Isis, Alexandra Hui and Matthew Lavine.

Like many scholarly journals, Isis has seen its normal rhythms disrupted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic and political turmoil. After an initial decline in article submissions in the spring of 2020, we received an unusually large number in the second half of the year. 

At the same time, however, there has been a remarkable constriction in the number of available reviewers. In late 2019, nearly 70% of our initial reviewer invitations were accepted. A year later, that rate has fallen to just above 25%. Reviewers who have accepted our invitations to review manuscripts have often needed extra time to complete their reports. The reasons for this decline are as obvious as they are understandable, and the Isis office is moving as quickly as it can to find suitable reviewers for the manuscripts in our pipeline.

We mention this in the interests of transparency: even as we have made an efficient editorial timeline a high priority, we are seeing the time that manuscripts spend under consideration rise as a result.

But we also want to record here, for our collective disciplinary memory, another data point about the profound effects this crisis has had on our institutions, and on our colleagues’ lives.

We are enormously grateful to the authors, reviewers, and readers of Isis, who inspire us with their continued engagement in the life of our discipline under these trying circumstances. 

Isis Current Bibliography published

With the December issue of Isis comes the annual edition of the Isis Current Bibliography, a phenomenal resource for scholars in the history of science and allied disciplines. Readers tell us they use the print edition as a ready reference for recent scholarship in their field, or a shopping list for books they may have missed.

For a comprehensive online bibliographic resource, available without subscription, editor Stephen Weldon and his staff have assembled IsisCB Explore. This enormous searchable database includes listings for decades of scholarship and can be filtered by subject, time period, geographical region, and author.

The Isis Books Received List

A note to the readership from the Isis Book Review Editor, Projit Mukharji.

Dear Isis readers,

Some of you have noticed by now that we have not been publishing the list of books received over the past few months. I thought it might be helpful to fill you in on why this has happened.

While we try to review a large and inclusive (though not exhaustive) cross section of books published in our field, it is impossible to review every single book that is sent to us. The process for those that are reviewed, naturally, takes a certain amount of time from our first receipt of the book to the review appearing in print. The “Books Received” announcements are therefore a quick way of acknowledging to publishers that we have received and considered the books they sent, while also alerting the larger field that the book is now out in the world.

Last year’s life-changing disruptions completely upended our operational procedures. Initially, we were locked out of our Book Review Office in Philadelphia due to the pandemic. The continued difficulties of access eventually forced the Book Review Office to temporarily relocate to Starkville, so that it could function out of the main Isis office at Mississippi State University. During the same period, several publishers closed down their physical offices. Above all, the postal departments of various countries struggled to maintain the usual delivery schedules. In many regions of the United States, events leading up to and following the general elections that directly targeted the postal department also stretched its ability to maintain optimum service times.

All this meant that for several months we completely stopped receiving physical copies of recently published books. Happily, we have gradually begun to once again receive some copies, but compared to our pre-pandemic numbers this is a very small number. We have kept the Book Reviews section going by directly soliciting books from publishers based on publishers’ catalogs, and by pivoting to the use of electronic copies for review rather than physical books.

Like everyone else, we hope that some semblance of normalcy will return to our work, and soon. Even before that, we hope that we will be able to recommence the Books Received announcements. Until then, we hope you will bear with us and continue to support us in maintaining as much of the basic rhythms of our scholarly lives as we can.

Thanking you,

Projit Bihari Mukharji
Book Review Editor, Isis.