In 2013, the History of Science Society celebrated the centennial of Isis. In 2024 we will celebrate the centennial of the HSS itself, and the HSS Executive Committee believes that the Society should examine our mission and position ourselves favorably for our second century. To that end, in the fall of 2013 the Executive Committee began a strategic planning process with the assistance of Andrew Searle, a development consultant for non-profits and educational institutions.
Working with the Strategic Planning Leadership Team of Lynn Nyhart, Angela Creager and Jay Malone, Andrew has been guiding us through the steps of the Drucker Foundation self-assessment process. At the HSS Annual Meeting in November 2013, three groups (Council, Committee on Meetings and Programs, and attendees at the Business Meeting) analyzed the mission statement and identified the need to change it. Also in the fall, we formed a 15-person Strategic Planning Committee, which has worked hard to provide background information on key demographics and values held by the membership and by our potential membership, as well as studying features of the broader economic, publishing, political, and academic environment in which we are placed. Complementing this broad background information-gathering, Andrew conducted in-depth interviews with four individuals who are significant stakeholders in the Society. The planning process (thus far!) culminated in a retreat on 29-30 March in Chicago, where 40 HSS members and supporters, including almost all the HSS Council members, gathered to think through our mission, how we touch people’s lives, what activities we should strengthen, reassess, or abandon, and what our goals and results should be.
The present report summarizes our work to this point, bringing together the main themes emerging from the different modes of data-collection and ending with proposed goals. The reader will note that participants were asked to think broadly and that they not hesitate in suggesting radical beginnings for new programs and/or dramatic ends to existing efforts. Everything was on the table. The next task is to create specific objectives and action steps to achieve those goals.
Mission and Mission Statement
The three group discussions at the November 2013 HSS meeting made it clear that the mission statement should be changed—not much, perhaps, but participants voiced a desire that our mission reflect a more up-to-date representation of who we are and what we wish to do. Angela Creager, John Alaniz, and Marsha Richmond are currently revising the statement.
Most Significant Challenges and Opportunities (not ranked)
- Political and cultural threat to the humanities; questions about the relevance of history
- Declining membership numbers
- Finding an appropriate and sustainable financial model amidst declining membership numbers and rise of open access (and quasi-open access) publishing
- Finding the right balance between supporting scholarship and public engagement to create synergies between them
- Flat or declining public funding for research in history of science
- Mismatch between number of PhDs in history of science and number of traditional tenure-track jobs in universities and colleges
- Dealing with the changing demography of HoS: increasing internationalization of consumers, diversity of kinds of work, more emeriti, the potential for an increasing generational divide
- Creating a clear vision of the discipline’s future
- The possibility of informing contemporary discussions across many potent issues involving science
- Education and museum initiatives
- Other public history initiatives, e.g. federal and local governments, corporate history, archives, libraries, etc.
- Deepening connections with scientists
- Promoting cross-disciplinary research
Items that are both challenges and opportunities
- The changing job outlook: declining numbers of traditional tenure-track academic jobs, but skills appreciated elsewhere
- Changing publishing and media models, including open access publishing: how to disseminate research in different media
- The need for an inclusive and diverse profession, including not only gender, sexual, racial, and cultural diversity but also diversity of content
- Diversifying HSS’s disciplinary profile; scientists and their professional organizations; sibling disciplines and interest groups
- Extending HSS’s geographical reach to become less U.S.- and Canada-centric
- Mobilizing friends of the HSS
The Primary Consumer
(Note: As part of our self-assessment process, we strove to identify our primary consumer—“the person whose life is changed by” the History of Science Society. Unlike the mission statement, which will become a public part of our identity, identifying the primary consumer is simply a tool for the process of identifying what the results of HSS’s work should be and what values these support.)
People committed to doing, making, or advocating for the history of science, or who are learning to do so.
What the Primary Consumer Values
- Professional satisfaction: community; validation and recognition; excellent scholarship based on rigorous and fair standards; jobs (inside and outside academia); making our work matter
- Professional resources: networking, mentoring, and other career development support; tools and materials for research and teaching; ready access to those tools; material support
- Personal satisfaction: a vibrant community, friendships, collegiality, sense of identity, opportunities for service
- Intellectual satisfaction: intellectual stimulation, keeping up to date, inspiration
- Supporting the field of history of science: expanding public interest in and visibility/recognition for the field; advocating for and protecting history of science; setting and maintaining scholarly standards in the field
Individuals and groups who must be satisfied for the History of Science Society to produce results.
- Direct economic supporters: donors to HSS; funders of history of science research (including federal science and humanities agencies, state and local agencies); employers of historians of science
- HSS employees and volunteers
- Those whose intellectual interests engage with history of science: scientists (and their scholarly organizations) interested in history; humanists and social scientists (and their scholarly organizations) engaged with science and culture/society, including “sister societies”; former HSS members, “alumni” of the field, users of HSS publications
- Those who use the results of history of science research: journalists, policy-makers, K-12 teachers and administrators, textbook authors and editors, undergraduates, museum curators and other informal educators, filmmakers, writers of science fiction and historical fiction
- Those seeking data on the history of science: search engines, people who want to know about history of science scholars and careers
- Those who supply facilities and materials for history of science research and consumption: libraries/librarians, archives/archivists, editors/publishers, book dealers
- Those who provide or control jobs for our primary consumers: university administrations and committees, museums and heritage organizations, science-oriented corporations, publishers, non-profits and NGOs, government agencies at all levels
What Supporting Consumers Value
- Direct economic supporters: how we contribute to their mission; metrics of effectiveness—specifically, history of science’s value outside of the academy; defending government support of science (federal funders); educating the citizenry; effective education at all grade levels; good public relations; policy analysis; reputation; explanations of how science and technology advance through time; factors that retard or advance science
- Those who provide or control jobs for our primary consumers: bridge between sciences and humanities/social sciences; prizes; healthy class enrollments; effective teaching; transformative scholarship; well-tuned professionals; good analytical skills; clear communicators
- HSS employees and volunteers: tasks that make a difference, e.g. opportunity to join together for public engagement and public service; intellectual rigor and stimulation; wide support; mentoring emerging scholars; curiosity; interdisciplinary collaboration
- Those whose intellectual interests engage with the history of science: crucial insights; meeting scholars at annual meeting (interdisciplinary collaboration); sharing research in a professional setting; good writing
- Those who use the results of history of science research: Isis; CB/HSTM database; illuminating the present state of science through a historical lens; clean story lines; writing/producing to deadline; curriculum guides; access to experts; reliable information
- Those seeking data on the history of science: Isis; Newsletter, CB/HSTM database; article hits; easily searchable website
- Those who supply facilities and materials for history of science: use of materials and collections; enthusiasm for topics; book/journal sales; article hits; accessibility of information; identifying authors
HSS’s Successes and Challenges
- HSS has been very successful in publishing excellent scholarship, especially in the “traditional” history of modern science, and validating it through prizes.
- HSS has been very successful in providing professional development and support for those in or seeking tenure-track academic positions, though it has been less successful in recognizing the anxiety and disillusionment among early career scholars.
- HSS has been very successful in providing smooth and successful management of a complex operation and its finances.
- HSS has had mixed success at creating a lively forum for scholarly interactions via the annual meeting.
- HSS has been less successful at communicating to members what we do.
- HSS is just beginning to be successful at embracing and supporting those who do history of science beyond our traditional demographic, geographic, subject-oriented “core.”
- HSS is not successful at advocating for the profession and promoting the relevance of what we do to broader communities.
- HSS is not successful at embracing new people who may not be plugged into existing networks.
- HSS is not successful at sustaining the engagement of former friends and leaders.
- HSS is not successful at developing good metrics: measuring the impact of our work on those beyond ourselves; tracking career paths of historians of science over the long term.
What Results Should Be
- Improving the understanding of science as a field of human endeavor among students, scholars, and citizens.
- Nurturing and empowering a body of intelligent, thoughtful, engaged, intellectually demanding people who use the approaches incubated in their intellectual community of history of science to change things in the rest of the world.
- Introducing future scientists, physicians, and engineers, to the humanities and giving them a broader perspective on their chosen field of work.
- Educating the public and policy-makers about both the potentials and limits of scientific and technological solutions to social, political, economic, and environmental problems facing our society and the world.
- Demonstrating the importance of history for understanding the social and cultural consequences of science, as well as for understanding the effects of cultural assumptions on the development of science.
- Creating a human face for science that invites non-scientists and science educators to engage with science more thoughtfully by offering a sense of science as art and adventure.
What to Strengthen, Abandon, or Analyze
- The annual meeting should be made more vibrant by recruiting more people from beyond the usual suspects; balancing the number of sessions with giving people access to a place on the program; and explore models of other organizations that do it well.
- Modes of communication internally to Society members and externally to the public need to be reimagined, with increased emphasis on web presence and assessment (based when possible on actual usage analytics) of what information/services should be provided for free to the world and what should be member-oriented; alternative models should be sought, assessed, and evaluated for implementation. As part of this broad reimagination, the modes of delivery, content, and audience for the HSS Newsletter and the Critical Bibliography should be revamped.
- Means of disseminating peer-reviewed scholarship and reviewing functions traditionally embodied in Isis and Osiris need to be reassessed, with Osiris as a candidate for abandonment or radical reconfiguration.
- HSS-sanctioned college-level teaching tools such as syllabi, literature reviews of fields, and information about resource collections need to be brought up to date and reflect international diversity of historians and audiences, including information about non-English-language materials.
- Mentoring and professional development of early scholars, especially at the annual conference, should be strengthened (e.g. career workshops involving representatives of non-traditional academic careers; and advertise this aspect). Graduate student and emerging scholars should be part of the process of determining what constitutes useful professional development.
- HSS should strengthen its public outreach efforts, including to non-specialists, journalists; decisions about what efforts to make should be coupled with analytics of use and success.
- HSS should analyze its efforts toward K-12 education: are these already being sufficiently covered by educators and curriculum requirements? If not, what should we be doing that would be most effective?
- HSS should strengthen its advocacy activities to potential funders, policy-makers, potential employers, and other supporting consumers.
- HSS should find specific ways to strengthen its commitment to diversity of underrepresented groups, disciplinary and professional situations and perspectives, and geographical locations.
Internal Systems that Should be Assessed
- Website and structure of communications with members
- Member information (availability to other members; how to update)
- Governance and interest group/caucus structure and recruitment into volunteer positions
- Membership model, including dues structure and what you get for your membership fee
- We need to develop a plan for fundraising and development
Draft Goals (with team leaders)
- Meetings/Networking: Create vibrant regular HSS meetings and facilitate networking through other associations and venues. (Jay Malone and Liba Taub)
- Publishing And Standards: Foster a publishing environment that promotes top-quality history of science scholarship in diverse media for diverse audiences. (Janet Browne and Fred Gibbs)
- Professional Development: Support professional development of emerging history of science scholars in and outside academy. (John Alaniz and Tania Munz)
- Broadening Our Reach: 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. (Greg Macklem and Karen Rader)
- Advocacy: Advocate on behalf of field and its practitioners (to the public, to government officials, to universities to support value of history of science, to potential employers of historians of science). (Mike Sokal and Conevery Bolton Valencius)
- Membership: Produce a sustainable governance and financial system for HSS that will promote a welcoming, culturally and internationally diverse and interdisciplinary organizational culture. (Adam Apt, Angela Creager, and Lynn Nyhart)
Facilitator: Andrew Searle
Leadership Team: Lynn K. Nyhart, Angela Creager, Robert (Jay) Malone
Strategic Planning Committee: Rodolfo (John) Alaniz, Adam Apt, Jessica Baron, Janet Browne, Angela Creager, Joe Dauben, Fred Gibbs, Greg Macklem, Robert (Jay) Malone, Tania Munz, Lynn Nyhart, Marsha Richmond, Mike Sokal, Edna Suárez Díaz
Leadership Team: Lynn K. Nyhart, Angela Hooper Creager, Robert (Jay) Malone
Retreat Participants (*Strategic Planning Committee Members)
Rodolfo (John) Alaniz*
Soraya de Chadarevian
Sally Gregory Kohlstedt
Judy Johns Schloegel
Andrew Searle – Pang*
Edna Suárez Díaz*
John Harley Warner
Goal Development Groups (*Goal Leaders, (C) = HSS Council)
Rodolfo (John) Alaniz*
Adam Apt* (C)
Janet Browne* (C)
Sandy Gliboff (C)
Paul Lucier (C)
Carla Nappi (C)
Marsha Richmond (C)
Conevery B. Valencius
Zuoyue Wang (C)
Angela Creager (Chair)
Other contributors (C) = HSS Council
Daniela Bleichmar (C)
Darryl E. Brock
Sarah Igo (C)
Bernie Lightman (C)
Lissa Roberts (C)
Facilitator: Andrew Searle Pang