by Jay Malone, HSS Executive Director
When a member of the HSS asked me for the Society’s annual report, I was surprised (and delighted) by her request. Surprised because, during my many years at the HSS, I had not been asked for an annual report by a member (I do file biannual reports for the Executive Committee) and delighted because it affords me the chance to describe our numerous activities.
Since many HSS members interact with the Executive Office as a byproduct of the annual meeting, there is the perception that the EO focuses solely on that event. And while we estimate that approximately 50% of our time is devoted to each conference—handling duties that range from the call for papers, to abstract submissions, to assigning rooms, to ordering coffee—the other half of EO duties focuses on myriad activities, all of them devoted to our charge to “foster interest in the history of science.” And that is just the Executive Office. The Editorial Office, led by Society Editor, H. Floris Cohen, and housed at the Descartes Center in Utrecht, oversees the publications of the HSS, from Isis, to Osiris, to the Current Bibliography, as well as occasional publications. The important thing to remember is that most of these duties involve volunteers, those who give their time to furthering the history of science. And many of these volunteer hours are accounted for by the Society’s officers.
The officers of the HSS—the President, Vice President, Editor, Secretary, Treasurer, and Executive Director (ex officio, non voting)—comprise the Executive Committee. These officers contribute hundreds of hours to the business of the Society, overseeing the functioning of the HSS. They report to the Council (16 elected members), the ultimate authority, but the officers handle the heavy lifting. It is they who provide the Executive Office and the Editorial Office with guidance and who are intimately involved in formulating the goals and priorities of the HSS. The Editorial Office, which includes the offices at Utrecht (Isis), the University of Oklahoma (Isis Current Bibliography (CB)) and the University of Rhode Island (Osiris) are under Dr. Cohen’s supervision, with advice provided by advisory editors and the Committee on Publications. The Executive Office, run by Executive Director, Robert (Jay) Malone is staffed by our indefatigable Coordinator, Greg Macklem, our part-time (in name only) Director of Media and Engagement, Jessica Baron, and an ongoing rotation of students all of whom focus on a smorgasbord of activities: the annual meetings (and the biennial meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association); development work (from soliciting donors to finding friends for the Society); the HSS Web site, from content to functionality; the Society’s financial accounts; the continuity of programs; the work of the standing committees and prize committees; the creation, editing, and distribution of the quarterly Newsletter; the supervision of NSF travel grants; good member services; the maintenance of relations with other scholarly societies and the public; oversight of occasional publications; and supervision of the Sponsor A Scholar program. Although this list is not comprehensive, it does describe in outline the major activities of the Executive Office.
The Executive Director’s position was created in 1998, with one of the goals being to establish a more permanent presence for the HSS. Before that time, volunteers served as temporary secretary. And although the position of Executive Director is fixed, the location of the Executive Office is not. In 1998, the office was housed at the University of Washington. The University of Florida made a successful bid for the office in 2003 and in August 2010, the Executive Office relocated from Florida to the University of Notre Dame. Each relocation has benefited the Society by offering substantially more tangible support for the Executive Office.
Greg Macklem, our Society Coordinator who began in September 2010, functions as the can-do person. As is the case in all small offices, Greg works on the finances, the annual meeting, the website… in short, he is involved in all aspects of the EO’s functioning.
Although much of their time is devoted to assisting with conferences, our two ND grad students help us with multiple projects, such as Newsletter creation and editing, handling the prize committees and travel grants, and many other important activities, such as finding reviews of our prize-winning books (over 100 reviews) which are posted to the HSS web site.
We were exceedingly fortunate to add Jessica Baron, our Director of Media and Engagement, to our staff this past year. A Notre Dame PhD, Jessica, handles our social presence (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), along with many other duties. Her position is a quarter time one, one we share with the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values here at Notre Dame.
As mentioned above, much of the Executive Office’s activities center around the annual meeting. The first step in this activity is finding meeting sites. Because the HSS meetings are so large (ca. 650 attendees and ten to twelve concurrent sessions) and we meet in the last quarter of the calendar year when most schools are in session, we use conference hotels, rather than dorm rooms, for our annual meeting. Our members strongly prefer downtown properties in interesting cities. That combination usually means high hotel prices (something our members do not want) but the last recession provided an opportunity to negotiate reasonable room rates with hotels in the central districts of Boston (2013), Chicago (2014), San Francisco (2015), Atlanta (2016), Toronto (2017) and Seattle (2018). Each of these site visits required multiple hotel stays, meeting with the cities’ convention and visitors’ bureau, contract negotiations and lawyer’s review, and multiple other steps. And although we have no set geographic pattern, we try to meet at various locations throughout North America to give our members a somewhat local opportunity to attend the conference every few years. Some 70% of HSS members live in North America, but we identify ourselves as an international society and to fulfill that identity the Society will hold its first meeting outside North America, in Utrecht, The Netherlands, in 2019.
HSS will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024. With that anniversary in mind, we undertook a wide ranging and, we hope, thorough strategic planning process (see the strategic plan in this Newsletter). Involving over 100 members, the strategic plan was a byproduct of months of work and it will help us set our course into the future. It is my hope that this annual report will give members an idea of what it is the HSS does (one of the surprising findings from the plan is how poorly we have conveyed the range of our activities to the membership).
Program Continuity and Committee Oversight
The HSS boasts six standing committees: Committee on Education; Committee on Honors and Prizes, Committee on Publications, Committee on Research and the Profession, Committee on Finance, and the Committee on Meetings and Programs. Each committee runs solely on the strength of volunteers, over 40 individuals. And in addition to these are the prize committees, overseen by the Committee on Honors and Prizes, the Nominating Committee (elected each year) and the various interest groups and caucuses, again, all staffed by volunteers. Here is a precis of the caucuses and interest groups:
Four Caucuses—distinguished by their professional goals
- Graduate Early Career Caucus (GECC)
Organizes mentorship programs, mixers, and informational sessions to help students and those launching their careers.
- Women’s Caucus
Our oldest caucus, it is dedicated to furthering the interest of women in the history of science and in promoting excellence in scholarship on the history of women in science.
- HSS at Work
Dedicated to helping those who love the history of science and who choose to pursue a career outside of teaching.
- Joint Caucus for Socially Engaged Philosophers and Historians of Science
This caucus, formed in 2014 and which is also an official caucus of the Philosophy of Science Association, works on ways to make the history and philosophy of science socially relevant. Its early activities have focused on helping historians and philosophers of science engage the public in broad ways.
Eight Interest Groups—distinguished by their intellectual interests
We have seen a surge in our number of interest groups, with two new groups added in recent years. Our interest groups, listed approximately from oldest to newest, include the Forum for the History of Science in America, the Forum for the History of Human Science, the Forum for the History of Early Science, the Earth and Environment Forum, the Forum for the History of the Mathematical Sciences, the Forum for the History of Science in Asia, the Forum for the History of the Chemical Sciences, and the Forum for the History of the Physical Sciences.
Also vital to our programs are our delegates and representatives who serve as liaisons for the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Historical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Humanities Alliance, the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science, and the Consortium of Social Science Organizations. These are the groups with which HSS has a formal relationship, and they are an essential part of our societal relations.
This past year we launched our redesigned Web site (hssonline.org), a years-long endeavor that would not have been possible without our volunteers. Using WordPress as our content management system, we aimed to provide a site that could be updated easily and also serve as a useful resource for our members and for the public.
NSF Travel Grants
For over 20 years, the HSS has relied on the US’s National Science Foundation to provide travel grants to support the research and work of graduate students, independent scholars, and recent PhDs in the history of science. And because of the stability and resources of the HSS Executive Office, we were able to expand the reach of the grants so that they benefited seven other academic societies, helping them professionalize their students and increase the diversity of their conferences: Philosophy of Science Association (PSA); Society for the History of Technology (SHOT); the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS), the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Study of Biology (ISH); the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH); the International Society for the Psychology of Science and Technology (ISPST); and the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA). Although these grants require a great deal of work, much of it uncompensated, the HSS feels that the grants are important enough to devote HSS resources to them. The grants also benefit greatly our interactions and relationships with other societies.
Relations with Other Societies
I continue regular contact with the secretaries and officers of numerous societies: SHOT, Society for Social Studies of Science, PSA, American Association for the History of Medicine, American Council of Learned Societies, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Historical Association, International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science, and many others. Much of this contact is facilitated by HSS’s membership in the ACLS.
NASA/HSS Space History Fellowships
We are in the third iteration of our five-year agreement with NASA to provide an annual fellowship to foster research in the history of space science. I am particularly grateful to NASA Historian, Bill Barry for his support and for the members of the fellowship committee which examine the applications and award the grants.