HSS News – April 2020

HSS@Work: A Personal Appeal from Jay

Shortly after receiving my PhD, I worked as a freelancer, unable to land the tenure-track job that had been my goal during my graduate life. Having a supportive spouse helped tremendously but with our second child on her way, we knew that I needed work that promised more stability. I was on the cusp of dropping out of the history of science altogether, when my advisor encouraged me to apply for the new position of HSS Executive Director. Somehow, I landed that job, and I have had the privilege of working with some of the most talented people on the planet these past years. I was lucky, but I still remember the despair those many years ago, that after having given myself to the history of science, that there would be nothing to show for it (which, on the other hand, might have offered some relief in that I would no longer have to explain to my mother what a historian of science actually does).

I wish that there had been a group to which I could have turned during those times and so was delighted when in 2013 Tania Munz and Carin Berkowitz helped us launch HSS@Work, our caucus devoted to those who had fully embraced the history of science but who then faced the prospect of doing something outside of academia. After a successful initial run, HSS@Work is now at a crossroads. We have been unable to find individuals who are willing to lead the caucus and organize events at the annual meeting. If this disinterest continues, we will have to close the caucus, and that saddens me. So, if you believe that we still need HSS@Work, please volunteer your time to help it succeed. I can guarantee you that it will pay dividends to the HSS and to the profession. Please contact me at jay@hssonline.org.

Seeking HSS Ombudsperson Successor

As previously announced, HSS seeks a successor to Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, the first Omsbudsperson, whose term will expire in June 2020. 

The Ombudsperson is a volunteer position for an HSS member whose main task will be to receive inquiries and complaints relating to HSS’s Respectful Behavior Policy. Speaking with the ombudsperson about an issue in no way obligates any further action (as is the case at some university campuses) and the intention is to provide information. Thus, the ombudsperson will also serve as a resource to meeting attendees regarding respectful behavior and general questions regarding the Society’s support of, and advocacy for, diverse constituencies of its membership, especially students and early careerists. The ombudsperson’s role is to

  • review with any interested member of HSS or meeting attendee the Respectful Behavior Policy, to which every meeting registrant agrees during the registration process;
  • listen to the concerns brought forward by a person, and review with them the formal complaint process;
  • carry out a formal complaint investigation if the complainant so desires, which includes interviewing both the complainant and the accused party or parties; and
  • present to the Respectful Behavior Review Committee the findings. The ombudsperson shall prepare an annual report for the HSS Council, detailing activity (or lack thereof) over the previous year, being careful to maintain anonymity of all persons. The ombudsperson shall make clear to all parties that the ombudsperson is not providing legal advice and that the availability of an HSS ombudsperson is not intended to substitute for a complainant either making use of their affiliated institution’s mechanisms for addressing complaints of discrimination or for consulting expert legal advice. Moreover, it is not the role of the HSS ombudsperson to assist individuals through their institution’s internal mechanism for pursuing a complaint of discrimination.

The ombudsperson contributes to HSS efforts in informing/educating HSS’s membership about the HSS’s Respectful Behavior Policy. The ombudsperson consults, as needed, with the Executive Director, Council, and the Respectful Behavior Review Committee, and also serves ex-officio on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The ombudsperson should, if necessary, be able to consult with a complainant rapidly, within a 24-hour period, and therefore is expected to attend the annual conference. The duties of the ombudsperson concerning discrimination and sexual harassment, as well as contact information (a secure email address) will appear on the HSS website. The ombudsperson will be appointed by the HSS Council for a 3 year term (July 2020 to June 2023, or extended by at least 60 days after an HSS annual meeting), on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, which shall solicit input from the Respectful Behavior Review Committee, Graduate and Early Career Caucus, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and Women’s Caucus.

If you are interested in serving as ombudsperson, please contact HSS Executive Director, Jay Malone (jay@hssonline.org) to express interest. You may also contact the outgoing ombudsperson Dr. Kohlstedt, who has very kindly agreed to share information.