Activities of the HSS Committees, Interest Groups, and Caucuses

by Jay Malone, HSS Executive Director

Twice a year, the Executive Office asks our volunteers to report on their activities over the prior six months. The Executive Committee discusses these reports at its biannual meetings, where it offers guidance, considers various action items, prepares motions for presentation to Council, and, always, expresses deep appreciation for the dozens of volunteers who devote their time and intellect to Society business.

Since we are in the midst of implementing our strategic plan, I will try to provide more updates on the activities of the committees (members may wish to refer to my annual report, beginning on page 20 of the January Newsletter, to help with context:

Standing Committees

Under our current bylaws, which we are in the process of changing, the HSS has 6 standing committees, each title describing the nature of each committee’s work (each standing committee has at least one Council member who serves). We also have a nominating committee, elected by the membership each year. The following provides a summary of each committee’s activities (not included are the deliberations of the Society’s many prize committees):

Committee on Honors and Prizes (CoHP)

(Chair Sarah Igo, Lorraine Daston, Gregg Mitman, Jimena Canales, Larry Principe)

CoHP members sit ex officio on our various prize committees, offer guidance on procedures and help with guidelines so as to ensure consistency in our prizes. The members do not read books or portfolios. The CoHP’s major activity is providing 3 nominations to the Executive Committee for the Sarton Medal (the Executive Committee determines the winner). Due to a new procedure, where we invited short nominations, CoHP examined over 20 nominations, arrived at a short list of 5 for which they requested full nominations. They then forwarded 3 of these nominations (not ranked) to the Executive Committee. The Sarton Medalist will be revealed at the 2015 conference. The committee also considered and approved a nomination for the Outstanding Service Award, a prize established in the early 1980s for recognition of HSS members who provide outstanding service to the HSS.

Committee on Meetings and Programs (CoMP)

(Chair Rachel Ankeny, Arthur Daemmrich, James Fleming, Karen-Beth Scholthof, Debbie Coen, Matt Stanley, Sue Lederer, Florence Hsia, Brian Ogilvie, Sigrid Schmalzer, Ken Alder, Brian Dolan, Dorothy Porter, John Krige)

CoMP is a large committee because we include the program chairs and local arrangements chairs for 3 meetings (prior, current, next) to provide continuity. Since the annual meeting is one of the more important activities of the HSS and the strategic plan calls for us to create more dynamic meetings, CoMP has been especially busy trying to reach that goal (the record number of submissions for San Francisco (over 600) suggests that we are on the right track). In addition to implementing the strategic plan, CoMP is helping plan the 2019 meeting in Utrecht (our first meeting outside of North America), reviewing models for meeting policies, discussing the use of various technologies to augment the meeting, monitoring aspects of the meeting to see what is working and what requires adjustments, nominating program chairs for future meetings, examining proposals for possible sponsorship at the American Historical Association meetings, and many other activities.

Committee on Education (CoE)

(Chair Kristin Johnson, Secretary Dawn Digrius, Muriel Blaisdell, Lloyd Ackert, Erik Peterson, Marsha Richmond (ex officio))

In addition to organizing and sponsoring sessions and workshops at the annual meeting, CoE provides nominations for the Joseph H. Hazen lecture, given biennially in New York; examines requests for educational sponsorships; provides advice on the Hazen Education Prize; and, most importantly, is implementing components of the strategic plan that call for increased engagement. For the latter, CoE is 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.

Nominating Committee (Nom Com)

(Chair Jan Golinski, Lissa Roberts, Luis Campos, Erika Milam, Neil Safier)

This year’s committee created a slate for the Vice President (2 candidates); Council (10 candidates); Nominating Committee from Council (4 candidates); and Nominating Committee at Large (6 candidates). We heard numerous positive comments about the international nature of the slate and the high qualifications of the candidates resulted in some tight election margins (with one race ending in a tie and requiring a run-off election). Because our strategic plan will require more of our nominating committee, we plan to increase the length of the terms (from one year to two years) to help with institutional memory and process.

Committee on Finances (CoF)

(Chair Adam Apt, Karen Parshall, Edith Sylla, Rich Kremer, Hamilton Cravens, Richard Sorrenson)

The finance committee, chaired by HSS Treasurer, Adam Apt, provides advice and guidance for our Treasurer. The committee reviews the budgets (Adam creates budgets for the next 3 fiscal years), examines investment policy, and provides feedback on the uses of the Society’s endowment (currently at $3.5 million).

Committee on Publications (CoP)

(Chair Soraya de Chadarevian, Secretary Florence Hsia, Michael Gordin, Katharine Anderson, Matt Jones, Janet Browne (ex officio))

The Committee has been focused on a pending press tender and how our strategic plan’s emphasis on digital scholarship will figure into that tender. CoP also discussed the Hackathon and THAT camp being organized by HSS Bibliographer Stephen Weldon, as well as creating a statement that will be issued from the HSS on the value of digital works and publications and the guidelines for evaluating such works.

Committee on Research and the Profession (CoRP)

CoRP is the only committee without specific tasks to guide it. Its prior activities, such as the employment survey and membership diversity, had been taken over by other entities in the HSS, thus creating uncertainty about CoRP’s purpose. Our strategic planning process has called for a reorganization of CoRP, possibly as a membership committee, and we will be providing updates on these changes.


Graduate and Early Career Caucus (GECC)

(co chair Bridget Collins)

GECC is devoted to the needs of graduate students and early careerists in the discipline. At the annual meeting they host CV review sessions, mentorship programs (including a special mentorship tea for women), and a mixer for grad students.

HSS at Work

(co chairs, Carin Berkowitz and Jessica Baron)

HSS at Work provides a space and resources for historians of science who are not engaged in typical academic employment. It continues to maintain an online presence (website, Twitter, Facebook) and gathers resources related to work outside the tenure track. The Caucus is sponsoring a roundtable on “Communicating Beyond the Ivory Tower” at the 2015 HSS Meeting. In addition, HSS at Work will also sponsor a reception at HSS 2015, perhaps jointly with GECC.

Joint Caucus for Socially Engaged Philosophers and Historians of Science (JCSEPHS)

(co chairs Rachel Ankeny (HSS) and Janet Stemwedel (PSA))

JCSEPHS is focused on activities to create more engagement in the history of science. They are focusing on practical events, such as the one in Chicago where over a dozen experts provided advice on topics ranging from how to speak to the media to hosting local events. They are supported in part by the Elizabeth Paris Endowment Fund, which is dedicated to increased engagement in the history of science.

Women’s Caucus

(co chairs Gina Rumore and Kimberly Hamlin)

HSS’s oldest caucus continues to host the ever-popular Caucus breakfast at the annual meeting, an important networking event. The Caucus also provides support for dependent care grants, lactation rooms at the annual meeting, and gender challenges in publishing.

Interest Groups

Our 8 forums include the Forum for the History of Science in America, Forum for History of Human Science, Earth and Environment Forum, Forum for the History of the Mathematical Sciences, Forum for the History of Science in Asia, Forum for the History of the Chemical Sciences, the Physical Sciences Forum and the Early Science Interest Group. Each group is engaged with a subset of the membership and is actively planning for events at the annual meeting, including prizes, lectures, lunches, and other special gatherings, creating an increased dynamism at the conferences. There are some possible changes afoot for our oldest forum, History of Science in America, as its leaders ponder its future now that its main goal of seeing more sessions on the history of science in America at the annual meeting has been met.