HSS Annual Report

by Jay Malone, HSS Executive Director

Under the leadership of Angela Creager (HSS President), the Society accomplished a great deal in 2015. In addition to ongoing and important activities, such as the annual meeting, the prizes, the publications, and the website, the HSS undertook numerous initiatives. Here are some highlights, in no particular order:

  • Signed a new 5-year contract (2016-2020) with the University of Chicago Press, which gives us more pages and more money, two dreams of every society. The Society has been with Chicago Press since 1991, and we continue to value that relationship
  • Completed the first full year of our new editor, Floris Cohen, who oversaw the relocation of Isis to the lowlands, and who gave us a striking cover redesign for the journal, as well as a new format, to accommodate the best scholarship in the history of science.
  • Made many deliberative efforts to strengthen our ties with international groups, thanks largely to the efforts of President Creager.
  • Joined the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, a Philadelphia-based organization with international reach and dedicated to promoting scholarly and public understanding of the history of science, technology, and medicine.
  • Partnered with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and numerous other societies to create a Chinese reader for the history of science, technology and medicine.
  • Began the groundwork to establish a fund-raising structure that will help the HSS secure its future.
  • Completely rewrote our bylaws, starting from the ground up, to incorporate our new strategic plan and further democratize the HSS.
  • Rewrote our Articles of Incorporation, on the advice of our attorney, to bring the HSS into line with new laws in the District of Columbia (where HSS is incorporated).
  • Administered NSF travel grants (SES-1058613) as part of an 8-society consortium that provides travel grants to hundreds of graduate students, independent scholars, and recent PhDs so that they can attend their professional meetings.
  • Revamped the conference in San Francisco, with a new emphasis on roundtables and posters.
Continuing its long association with the University of Chicago Press, HSS pens a new 5-year agreement. Seated (l to r): H. Floris Cohen, HSS Editor; Angela Creager, HSS President; Michael Magoulias, Director—Journals; Standing: Desiree Capel, Isis Managing Editor; Adam Gannaway, Publisher, Journals.

Continuing its long association with the University of Chicago Press, HSS pens a new 5-year agreement. Seated (l to r): H. Floris Cohen, HSS Editor; Angela Creager, HSS President; Michael Magoulias, Director—Journals; Standing: Desiree Capel, Isis Managing Editor; Adam Gannaway, Publisher, Journals.

The Details

Since many HSS members interact with the Executive Office (EO) as a byproduct of the annual meeting, there is the perception that the office focuses solely on that event. And although we estimate that the EO spends approximately 50% of our time on the 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 focus on myriad activities, all of them devoted to our charge to “foster interest in the history of science.” And that is just the EO. 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. And given the wide range of activities pursued by both offices, neither the EO nor the Editorial Office could function without volunteers, those who give their time to furthering the history of science. 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, the ultimate authority, but the officers handle the heavy lifting. It is they who provide the EO and the Editorial Office with guidance and who are intimately involved in formulating the goals and priorities of the HSS.

The EO, run by Executive Director, Robert (Jay) Malone and 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, focuses on a broad array of activities: the particulars (and the generalities) of the annual meetings; development work (from building infrastructure to finding friends for the Society); the HSS Web site, from content to functionality; the Society’s financial accounts; continuity of programs; the standing committees and prize committees; the quarterly Newsletter; the administration of NSF travel grants; member services; good relations with other scholarly societies and the public; the sponsor a scholar program, and many other activities.

What makes much of this possible is the stability of the EO, a stability that was enhanced by the establishment of the Executive Director’s position in 1998. Before that time, volunteers served as temporary secretaries who handled the many administrative functions of the Society. And while the position of Executive Director is fixed, the location of the EO is not. In 1998, the office was housed at the University of Washington. In 2003, the Office and the Executive Director moved across the country to the University of Florida, where they remained through 2010. In August of that year, the office again relocated, this time to the University of Notre Dame, marking the beginning of an ongoing and fruitful relationship. Each relocation has benefited the Society by offering substantially more tangible support for the EO, and we are grateful for these partners. Indeed, university support of academic societies is a crucial component of their functioning and such support brings increased professionalism and research opportunities to a wide swath of disciplines.


Greg Macklem, our Society Coordinator who began in September 2010, just celebrated his 5th year with the HSS, our longest-serving coordinator. He is our “can-do person,” as evidenced by his work on the finances, the annual meeting, the website, student supervision, and creative name tags… in short, he is involved in all aspects of the EO’s functioning. And he does it with wit, good humor, intelligence, and fierce determination—we are lucky to have him on our team.

Although much of their time is devoted to assisting with conferences, our two ND grad students help us with multiple projects, such as ordering books for the prize committees, helping with 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.

Jessica Baron, our Director of Media and Engagement, is a Notre Dame PhD (dissertation on Florence Nightingale and public health in British India). She handles our social presence (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), along with many other duties. Her position is a quarter time, one we share with the Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values here at Notre Dame. She brings creativity and flair to our engagement activities and has raised dramatically the Society’s profile in the virtual world.

Annual Meetings

As mentioned above, much of the EO’s activities engage the annual meeting. The first step in planning the conference involves finding meeting sites. Because the gatherings are so large (650 – 850 attendees and 10-12 concurrent sessions), and we meet in the last quarter of the calendar year, when most schools are in session, we meet in conference hotels rather than on university campuses. Our members prefer downtown properties in interesting cities, but 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 Chicago (2014), San Francisco (2015), Atlanta (2016), Toronto (2017) and Seattle (2018). Each of these site visits required multiple hotel stays, meetings with the cities’ convention and visitors’ bureau, contract negotiations and lawyer’s review, and many other steps. And although we have no set geographic pattern, we try to meet at various locations to give all of our members an opportunity to attend the conference.

Since some 70% of HSS members live in the United States, the Society almost always meets in North America. But we also 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. And since U.S. members tell us they feel pressed for time when HSS meets in North America in November (it is a big continent), we are planning an August meeting for Utrecht, on a somewhat expanded timeline, to afford everyone a chance to experience the conference in a more relaxed atmosphere. Of course, we hope that European members will take this opportunity to attend.

Strategic Plan

HSS will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024 and 2025 (the articles of incorporation were signed in the District of Columbia by Florian Cajori, Davis Eugene Smith, Frederick E. Brasch, George Sarton, Lynn Thorndike, and others on 31 Dec 1924 and the articles were recorded (No. 17814) on 30 Jan 1925). With that anniversary in mind, we undertook a wide-ranging and, we hope, thorough strategic planning process in 2013-2014 (the plan is available on the HSS website at https://hssonline.org/history-of-science-society-strategic-plan-2014/). 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. Here are the 6 priorities identified by our volunteers:

  • Create vibrant regular HSS meetings and facilitate networking through other associations and venues.
  • Foster a publishing environment that promotes top-quality history of science scholarship in diverse media for diverse audiences.
  • Support professional development of emerging history of science scholars in and outside the academy.
  • Promote general interest in history of science among educators at all levels and the public, in part by providing opportunities to scholars to expand their audiences and make their work more effective and relevant.
  • Promote history of science in the United States by advocating on behalf of the field and its practitioners to the public, to government officials, to universities, and to potential employers of historians of science; and support advocacy of history of science in other countries.
  • Produce a sustainable governance and financial system for HSS that will promote a welcoming, culturally and internationally diverse, and interdisciplinary organizational culture.

In addition to yielding 6 goals, the plan helped us revise our mission statement (To foster interest in the history of science, promote discussion of science’s social and cultural relations, and bring this understanding to others worldwide) and to identify our constituents (People committed to doing, making, or advocating for the history of science, or who are learning to do so). One of the surprising findings from the plan is how poorly we have conveyed to our members the range of our activities. So two objectives will be to broaden our communication to our members, as well as to our potential donors.

Program Continuity and Committee Oversight

The HSS has reorganized our committee structure to help implement the strategic plan. We kept our Committee on Honors and Prizes (COHP), Committee on Publications (COP), Committee on Finance (COF), and Committee on Meetings and Programs (COMP) in their pre-plan configurations but we expanded the role of our Committee on Education, renaming it our Committee on Education and Engagement (COEE), and further democratized our Executive Committee so that the positions of Secretary and Treasurer are popularly elected, along with the President, Vice President, and the new position of Council delegate. Only the Editor and the Executive Director are now chosen by Council (our elected board of directors). We also added three new committees: Committee on Technology and Communications (COTT), Committee on Membership (COM), and the Committee on Advocacy (COA). Each committee runs primarily on the strength of volunteers, and in addition to these governance groups 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 are some highlights from last year’s activities:

Committee on Education and Engagement:
(Chaired by Kristin Johnson)

Discussed ongoing hopes for a History of Science Society session on the history of science and STEM initiatives in K-12 education, with a view toward future HSS activities within this area. Particular interest exists on this topic given the expansion of the CoE’s responsibilities to Engagement, and Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan. Members reviewed and approved the nomination of Joe Dauben as Hazen Lecturer for 2015. The committee has been particularly interested in developing a long-term strategy for increasing the role of the society in building upon and taking advantage of STEM initiatives in K-12 education, and has good expertise in this realm represented on the committee. Discussions regarding eventual workshops for local educators at society meetings highlighted the need for strategic and careful long-term planning for the success of such initiatives. Committee members have also expressed interest in discussing encyclopedia writing and similar work, given the increasing role of historians of science in such publications, both online and in print.

Committee on Finance:
(Chaired by Adam Apt, Treasurer)

Created a gift acceptance policy for Council approval, reviewed investment policy, monitored HSS’s endowment, and helped establish the Society’s budget, along with other functions.

Committee on Honors and Prizes:
(Chaired by Sarah Igo)

Instituted a new short nomination process for the Sarton Medal and for the Hazen Education Prize, resulting in a record number of nominations. For the Sarton Medal, the Committee requested 5 full nominations and then selected 3 individuals from this list to be sent to the Executive Committee. The 2015 Medal, which is decided by the Executive Committee, was presented to Robert Fox (Oxford University) at the annual meeting. The Hazen Prize went to former HSS President, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, who received a standing ovation from her many colleagues, students, and former students when she received the prize in San Francisco. CoHP also monitored the many prize committees, and recommended that long-time member and publisher Neale Watson be given an Outstanding Service Award for his work on behalf of the Society, a recommendation heartily endorsed by the Executive Committee.

Committee on Meetings and Programs:
(Chaired by Rachel Ankeny)

Selected a program co-chair for the 3-Societies’ meeting in Edmonton in June 2016; oversaw format changes to the annual meeting, including the addition of more roundtables, and will evaluate effectiveness; gave guidance to program chairs; examined other models for annual meetings; and began deliberations for choosing a program chair for 2017. Ongoing issues include:

  1. An annual meeting outside of North America (and outside of the usual time period) in Utrecht;
  2. Use of various technologies to enhance or augment our annual meetings;
  3. Review of models for policies on meetings (e.g., AAHM bluebook);
  4. Continued monitoring of the prize ceremony/reception format;
  5. Fostering more and higher quality interaction with the Philosophy of Science Association and their co-located biennial meetings with HSS.

Committee on Publications:
(Chaired by Soraya de Chadarevian)

With the new editorship now well in place, the most important issue on the CoP agenda this year was the planned tender for a publisher for Isis and Osiris. After reviewing the efforts and costs involved in a full tender (one bid came in at $50,000 U.S.), Council in agreement with Floris decided to renegotiate the contract with Chicago that was already on the table. CoP has unanimously supported this decision and has provided some input on Floris’s “wish list” for the new contract. CoP will work with the new Committee on Technology and Communication to explore digital media opportunities and ways that the Society can support digital scholarship. The Committee is also working a process for appointing an interim editor in case the Editor cannot fulfill his or her duties.

Committee on Technology and Communication:
(Chaired by Stephen Weldon)

The Committee, newly formed this past year, held an online discussion this past summer over three issues:

  • Assisting with a 1-paragraph publication statement (Strategic Plan: 2.1.A)
  • Finding ways to recognized outstanding digital products in the field (Strategic Plan: 2.1.B)
  • Studying costs and benefits of publishing more digital products (Strategic Plan: 2.2.B).

The Committee also met in San Francisco and will review the Society’s social media policy.

Caucus and Interest Group activities

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. Also sponsors sessions at the HSS meeting.
  • HSS at Work Dedicated to helping those who love the history of science and who choose to pursue a career outside of the traditional structures of academe.
  • Joint Caucus for Socially Engaged Philosophy and History 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.
  • 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.

Eight Interest Groups—distinguished by their intellectual interests

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 Group, 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. Each group holds a business meeting at the HSS conference, sponsors sessions, and many of them offer distinguished lectures and prizes for work in their respective fields.

Also vital to our programs are our delegates and representatives who serve as liaisons for those groups with which HSS has a formal alliance. These relationships are a vital part of HSS activities, helping the Society to further its scholarship and engagement in multiple ways, and the Executive Director serves as the main contact person for all of these organizations. These groups include the following:

  • American Council of Learned Societies,
  • American Historical Association,
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science,
  • National Humanities Alliance,
  • International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science,
  • Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine,
  • Consortium of Social Science Associations.

Web Site

Using WordPress as our content management system, we try to provide a site that can be updated easily and can serve as a useful resources for our members and for the public. New features include an emphasis on member news, a continually updated main page, and a dedicated effort to make content more accessible.

NSF Travel Grants

For over 20 years, the HSS has relied on the U.S.’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 7 other academic societies (NSF SES-1058613), 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 awards 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: Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), Philosophy of Science Association (PSA), American Association for the History of Medicine, the International Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (HOPOS), the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSA), the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Study of Biology (ISH) and many others. Much of this contact is facilitated by the NSF travel grant and the members of our grant consortium, which is dedicated to supporting the history and philosophy of science and technology around the world: PSA, HOPOS, ISH, SHOT, and SLSA.

NASA/HSS Space History Fellowships

We are in the third iteration of our 5-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 who examine the applications and award the grants.