January 2016 – Notes From the Inside: What are We Doing?

One of the more surprising findings from our strategic plan was discovering that our members are not exactly clear on what the HSS Executive Office does. I am trying to remedy that, in part, by providing regular updates on our activities and most significantly through an annual report—the latest version appears in this Newsletter. I expect that only the most die-hard members will bother to read the report, so please indulge me while I tout some highlights from the past year.

Most members know that the Executive Office runs the annual meeting so I’ll begin there.

The 2015 conference in San Francisco proved a huge success (fire alarm not withstanding). Over 86 percent of attendees indicated that they were “very satisfied” with San Francisco and, in line with our strategic goal to facilitate networking within the meeting, over 84 percent reported that they had sufficient time to network and share ideas. And although it is difficult to measure the strategic goal of creating “vibrant HSS meetings,” we believe that we are at least on the right track (please see more on the meeting survey in this issue).

An important part of each meeting is the administration of travel grants, which takes a significant slice of our time. We are now in the third decade of our NSF-funded grants, which have allowed hundreds of graduate students, independent scholars, and recent PhDs to attend the conferences. For San Francisco we awarded eighty NSF-related grants, worth over $22,000 (we will highlight the impact of these grants in a later report); but because the NSF grants are limited to U.S. citizens or those attending U.S. schools, and because the HSS is an international society, we also funded students and other scholars not eligible for the NSF awards (these monies came from prior meeting excesses—please note that the annual meeting always loses money but the HSS budgets for this loss so that meeting registrations remain affordable). These HSS funds, of over $14,000, allowed 38 more scholars, many of them from outside the U.S., to come to the meeting. Thus, over 110 scholars (of the 785 attending) received some support to attend the conference, representing an important ingredient in the recipe for a vibrant meeting.

But hosting exciting conferences is just one of the six strategic goals and the Executive Office is intimately involved with the other five goals. Over this past year, and into the new year, we will continue to advocate for the history of science (on Capitol Hill and elsewhere), to refine the governance of the Society so that it serves you better, to publish and reward the best scholarship in the field, to explore ways that we can help all constituents of the history of science (i.e. those committed to doing, making, or advocating for the history of science, or who are learning to do so), and to engage the public and educators so that they can use the history of science in their lives and in their instruction.

None of this would be possible without you, our members. Please join us as we carry the flag for our field.

Thank you for your membership.

– Jay Malone, Executive Director