Minutes of the HSS 2014 Business Meeting

9 November, Westin Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL

Officers attending: Angela Creager (President), Janet Browne (Vice President), Floris Cohen (Editor), Adam Apt (Treasurer), Marsha Richmond (Secretary), and Jay Malone (Executive Director)

Meeting called to order at 8:37 a.m.

President’s Welcome (Angela Creager)

[For more extensive comments please see Angela’s President’s Report on page 1.]

Welcome and thank you for coming. There has been a lot happening in HSS over the last year. Last year’s meeting included an informal retreat to brainstorm about strategic planning. In March we had a formal retreat with 40 members of the Society participating; this resulted in the creation of 6 goals. This meeting was followed by a further process of deliberation by different task groups about how best to implement these goals over the summer. The Strategic Plan, which has now been approved by Council, is now available and we welcome feedback.

Another important development was the transfer of the Editorial Office to Utrecht in The Netherlands. This has gone very well, and she thanked members of the Isis Editorial Office who are present. This coming year we will be negotiating a new publishing contract. This is not prompted by our being dissatisfied with the University of Chicago Press, but because they extended us a new offer. We will, however, be reviewing the offers of other presses to assess the value of our journal. We are also instituting the new Elizabeth Paris Memorial Lecture, which will be given by Peter Galison this afternoon as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. We are half way over meeting our Paris endowment goals, and Angela welcomes those who would like to contribute.

Angela particularly welcomes international members to the meeting. Yesterday she held an international breakfast, which went very well.

What lies ahead is discerning the next steps in our strategic planning process. As we move towards implementation, she does not want to lose the momentum we gained in the active year-long process. She recommended that members look over the Strategic Plan and find an activity that interests them and volunteer. Also, she encouraged everyone to invite friends, colleagues, and graduate students to join HSS if they have not done so already. Think about supporting the Society financially. Of course, you already do so through your membership and attendance of the annual meeting. But there also issues HSS works on that need extra funding, and if there are activities you care about, please consider donating to the Society.

Secretary’s Report (Marsha Richmond)

Approval of Minutes (Copies of the Business Meeting Minutes from 2013 are available at www.hssonline.org/Meeting/ and a few paper copies were distributed). There was a motion to approve the 2013 Minutes, which was seconded and approved. [Note from April 2015: the 2013 Business Meeting Minutes are now at https://hssonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/HSS_Business_Meeting_Minutes_Fall2013.pdf]

Executive Director’s Report (Jay Malone)

Jay is pleased to see so many in attendance [ca. 50 total]. He is grateful for all the volunteers who contributed to the Strategic Plan, especially the Leadership Team, Lynn Nyhart and Angela Creager. He also is particularly grateful to HSS workers Greg Macklem and Jessica Baron, whose activities have made a dramatic improvement in the operation of the Society.

Here are some highlights from the past year:

  • Mike Sokal (HSS delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies) has put together a wonderful report on the activities of the ACLS, which you may be interested in reading. It can be found at https://hssonline.org/about/groups/ under the ACLS link.
  • HSS will no longer be organizing the biennial conferences of PSA. But we will still be meeting with them.
  • We have now approved an anti-harassment statement, and we will be working on framing its implementation.


Is there a temporary structure or Ombudsman who can handle any complaints in the interim?

Jay: We haven’t done so yet, but that seems reasonable.

Editor’s Report (H. Floris Cohen)

Floris is beginning to settle into his new position, which is no longer a dream but is increasingly real. None of this would be possible without the support of the Descartes Centre, and he particularly thanked Bert Theunissen. The Office is also supported by the Museum Boerhaave (Dutch National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine) and the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands.

He particularly welcomes fostering the international focus of HSS.
The July HSS Newsletter had a short piece on the Utrecht office operations. For three months there were piles of manuscripts, books, and file boxes, and the staff found it necessary to develop a process of handling them. After a lot of work, the three able assistants—the Managing Editor Desiree Capel and the two book review editors, Eric Jorink and Ad Maas—have done a wonderful job of getting the Editorial Office up and running.

They are planning to introduce Editorial Manager as the online system accepting manuscript and book review submissions by January or February. Isis will also have a new cover in March 2015. This issue will not have a Focus section, but future issues will. He is planning to entertain proposals discussing future directions of the history of science.

Treasurer’s Report (Adam Apt)

The primary news is that the Society is in good financial condition. The Executive Office has been thrifty in their operating budget and every year it somehow manages to pull out a surplus. The stock market has been healthy, and our endowment is presently a little over $3.3 million. However, now that we will no longer be receiving funds from PSA, we will have to review our operations. PSA funding has in the past been around 5% of our annual budget. Also, the Strategic Plan implementation will involve extra expenditures. We may need to launch a capital campaign to increase the endowment in the future, but these conversations are just beginning. So, in short, in the next few years the HSS budget will face a few new challenges.

There are copies of the Society’s financial report available. Payments from the University of Chicago Press are 50% of our budget. We also draw on our endowment. He aims for the draw on the endowment to be under 4% each year, and so far we have been able to meet this goal. Another difference is that the Editorial Office in Utrecht costs less than we were previously paying when the office was at York University. Our new relationship with the Descartes Centre to host the Editorial Office benefits the Society.

He thanked the Finance Committee for their work.


  • Has the Society developed a financial analysis of what will be required to carry out the Strategic Plan?
    • Adam: Not yet; this will probably take around six months.
  • How do we account for in-kind contributions?
    • Adam: This is almost exclusively coming from Notre Dame, which houses the Executive Office. In terms of our tax status, it may be necessary to do an accounting of the in-kind inflow and outflow. Thus it may be necessary in the future to account for the Descartes Centre’s in-kind contributions.
    • Jay: Our IRS 990 reporting each year also tries to account for volunteer activities.
    • Adam: We are not in any kind of crisis, but we are looking forward to our centennial celebration in 2024. We want to make sure the Society is stable enough to accomplish all the goals it has set for itself.

Committee Reports (Synopses by Jay Malone)

Electronic copies of the various committee reports are available (look for the Business Meeting link).

Committee on Honors and Prizes

Please encourage graduate students who presented at the conference to submit their paper for the Reingold Prize. Also, encourage nominations for the Hazen and Sarton Prizes.

Committee on Meetings and Program

Sue Lederer and Florence Hsia are the Program Co-Chairs for 2015. Brian Dolan and Dorothy Porter (University of California, San Francisco) will be helping with local arrangements. There will be some changes to the program organization next year. Jay encourages members to fill out the post-meeting surveys, which tell us what does and does not work well.

Committee on Education

The committee is exploring holding special sessions for high school teachers at our annual meeting.

Committee on Research and the Profession

CoRP’s activities are being re-evaluated as part of our Strategic Plan.

Joint Caucus for Socially Engaged Philosophers and Historians of Science

Dawn Digrius, co-chair, described the committee’s activities, which included over a dozen tables at the opening reception devoted to strategies for engaging the public, the media, and others.

HSS at Work

Carin Berkowitz noted that they hosted a networking event on Friday night, and a noon-time roundtable session. This is the group’s second year and activities have already been robust.

Women’s Caucus

Constance Clark (co-chair) mentioned how supportive the Society has been for the Caucus’s activities. She appreciates the fact that Bernie Lightman and Floris Cohen have attended the Caucus’s past two meetings to provide information about publishing in Isis.

Graduate and Early Career Caucus

Attendance at the GECC event this year attracted a lot of energy.


Jane wanted to thank all the officers and volunteers of the Society, who have devoted much time and made many valuable contributions.

New Business

Presentation of the new HSS Strategic Plan [the final Plan can be found on the Society’s front page at hssonline.org]. Angela solicited questions and comments.

Bill Summers: Some members are involved in scientific societies that have historical groups. The Strategic Plan does not seem to include these. Is this intentional?

Angela: No, it’s an oversight and we will be refashioning this. Jay noted, for example, how important interaction with the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science is.

Peggy Aldrich: Strongly suggests re-wording Objective 3.2 concerning “the stigma….” Suggested that it be replaced with “encourages career options inside and outside the academy.” Angela will take such an amendment to Council.

Robert Fox: Making contact with the science community needs to be stressed. He lives this every day as a historian editing a history journal within a science society. The history of science as seen by Fellows of the Royal Society is not quite the same as we see the discipline, and this needs to be finessed very carefully.

Angela: Scientific societies are a target audience for our own outreach. But another consideration is that they should be included in our activities. The Strategic Plan should include “learned and scientific societies.”

Dawn: We should use “engagement” rather than “outreach.”

Luis Campos: Goal 2: Almost everything mentioned in this goal is digital, and while this is exciting at this moment, there are other activities that should also be included.

Angela: Members of this group noted that we need to do more in digital publication, but of course we also want to encourage maintaining what we do well, like our print publications.

Lynn Nyhart: This is simply a document that has a limited lifetime. It isn’t written in stone, but is a plan that lays out where we need to get to for the next two years.

Michael Sokal: 1.1.A and 1.1.B seem mutually opposed. Is this a big or a small society? We shouldn’t take for granted that we are a small society.

Angela: We think they work together in this way. If we have more than 10 concurrent sessions, members are not happy. But in B, we might have more people participating in sessions rather than 3 giving 20-minute papers. Also, we need to make sure that our experimentation is working. If we change the annual meeting structure and it’s not satisfactory, then we will rethink how we can implement it differently. That is, we can abandon particular activities. This is where the feedback of members will be especially important. Historians are peculiarly unable to handle change, but we are going to have to think creatively.

Jane Maienschein: Will we post it online and invite members to provide feedback?

Angela: We will try to include a robust feedback mechanism.

Cornelis Schilt: There are goals. Is there a time frame for when and how these are to be met?

Angela: We will have to figure out the sequence and see how they work out. Some things don’t require much funding and so can be implemented more quickly.

Marc Rothenberg: Cost projections are to the Society rather than to the individuals. Making the meeting longer makes it more expensive to members. Has there been any considerations about this?

Angela: No, we didn’t think precisely in those terms.

Zuoyue Wang: We have members who travel all over the world. It would be good to involve them in promoting the HSS and for these members to connect with each other.

Motion to adjourn. Seconded and approved. Meeting adjourned at 9:36 a.m.

Electronic copies of the various committee reports are available (www.hssonline.org/Meeting/ and look for the Business Meeting link).