October 2019 – News From the Profession

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AAAS Annual Meeting: Envisioning Tomorrow’s Earth

The scientific endeavor has been at the forefront in developing innovations which have improved life on Earth in immeasurable ways. Now, life on this planet is facing new challenges from both nature and the built world, and scientific application is our best tool with which to react. By drawing on our current understanding of the world, and bravely experimenting with forward-thinking visions, the scientific community needs to respond with discoveries and developments to help solve many pressing problems.

The science of the next generation—from AI and robotics to gene editing to clean energy—and the policy and social implications of it must be explored. This Annual Meeting celebrates the scientific position on appreciating and addressing the future of planet Earth by considering and collaborating with advances across disciplines, and the ways in which scientists are building networks with policymakers and the public to work more effectively and best take advantage of the many new developments that science and technology is introducing at an ever-increasing pace.

Some research that may be addressed include:

  • Within the agriculture-water-energy nexus, the developments that are needed to provide sufficient and higher quality, sustainable food for an ever-growing population;
  • The science and technology that combat the risks of increasing air and water pollution;
  • Biology at the molecular, cellular and organism levels, and how discoveries in this area may lead to further human well-being;
  • How data from blood samples and advances in medical imaging can improve medical diagnostics, prognosis, and treatment;
  • Determining the value and means of maintaining natural ecosystems and biological diversity in a changing planet;
  • Changes in extreme weather events, preventative actions, and the possibilities and limitations to adaptation strategies;
  • Prospects to improve urban living and mobility;
  • The science of the next industrial revolution—automation, robotics, artificial intelligence—and the how to mitigate the social disruption of displaced workers.

Section L for the History and Philosophy of Science is pleased to announce that students presenting posters at the February 2020 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting are eligible for up to $400 in travel support. Section L will prioritize students who are either presenting on the history and/or philosophy of science or in the Science in Society category.

This portal for submitting poster abstracts is open until 17 October 2019. Undergraduate and graduate students can enter the student poster competition.

AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and a leading publisher of cutting-edge research through its Science family of journals. The meeting will be held 13-16 February 2020 in Seattle, Washington.

Contact Melinda Gormley at mgormley@uci.edu with requests and questions.


New Leadership at AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has announced that Rush Holt has stepped down as Chief Executive Officer. Former CEO Alan Leshner is serving as Acting CEO while the AAAS’s Board of Directors conducts its search. News of Rush’s retirement can be found here.


The International Commission for the History of Women in Science

The biennial meeting of the International Commission for the History of Women in Science, (ICWHS) an official commission of the International Union for History & Philosophy of Science, was held in Greater Tel Aviv on 17–20 June 2019. The Open University and Tel Aviv University served as the local host institutions for the meeting.

As befits its 2019 location in the all too often war-embroiled Middle East, the meeting organizers cleverly selected the relevant but also historiographically original theme of “Gender & Science in War & Peace.” The talks covered the role of women scientists in wars throughout the twentieth century from World War I to the present day. The almost two dozen speakers came from over half a dozen countries, including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Slovenia, Spain, UK, and US. After Israel, which supplied about half of the speakers, the maximum number of participants came from Czech Republic. A complete program is available here.

Some of the lucky attendees of the meeting on a field trip to Apolonia. Photograph supplied by Nurit Kirsh

Some of the lucky attendees of the meeting on a field trip to Apolonia. Photograph supplied by Nurit Kirsh

Two remarkable features of the meeting this year were the significant presence of male speakers and its temporal proximity to the annual meeting of the Israeli Society for the History, Philosophy, & Sociology of Science, held a day earlier at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. This thoughtful planning by the commission’s chairperson Nurit Kirsh, director of the Biological Thought Program at the Open University, who is also the co-Chair of the Israeli HSS, enabled several speakers to attend and present talks at both meetings.

Despite the gracious hospitality of the local organizing committee, it was difficult to gauge whether the meeting came to the attention of local students and faculty other than those on the program. Although the program included a nice balance of junior and senior scholars, there is little record of previous interactions, such as invitations to give guest lectures, between members of the Commission which include leading international scholars in gender & science and Israeli programs in the history of science. It is to be hoped that this well-organized international meeting held in Greater Tel Aviv will stimulate more frequent contacts between local universities and the international community of scholars in gender & women in science.

This article was shared by Pnina Abir-Am, Resident scholar, WSRC, Brandeis University and the sole living founder of the ICWHS to have attended the meeting.


Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth Century Perspectives Database Launched

The ERC-funded project Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth Century Perspectives at the University of Oxford is pleased to announce the launch of its database for researchers. The database contains a list of over 3000 references, gathered together by researchers on the project. The majority of these are primary sources, with a small selection of secondary sources which provide historical context, from seven of the thematic strands explored by the project: Finance and Speculation, Diseases of Professions and Occupations, Addiction, Climate and Health, Education and Overpressure, Nervous Diseases, Technology and New Inventions. Primary sources range from newspaper and journal articles to printed books, from across the long nineteenth century. The entries will be helpful for research ranging across nineteenth-century medicine, science and culture. It can be accessed online or downloaded for full functionality here. Please share this far and wide!

— Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford), Principal Investigator


Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences

The 16th Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences took place in June this year, once again on the lovely island of Ischia in the bay of Naples, courtesy of the Naples Zoological Station.  Twenty-seven early career scholars and nine speakers vigorously interrogated ideas about life and death from the early modern period to today, with a brief dash at Antiquity. The theme led us to engage with the way that doctors and researchers in the European tradition, explored the ambiguous boundary between life and death as expressed not only in the human body, and in definitions of death, in ageing, and in forensic pathology, but also in culture and literature, and on the cellular level, in cell immortality, decomposition, stem cell physiology, and cancer research. Life and death have generally been understood as opposites; we paid special attention to the various ways in which they have been opposed or united. Participants came from universities in Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, USA, UK, Italy, Germany, and Australia: the image shows one of the seminar sessions. Despite the gloomy potential of our theme the meeting was extremely buoyant and blessed by beautiful surroundings, good food, and sunshine. An introduction to the topic and the programme are available here.

Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences

The directors of the school are Nick Hopwood (University of Cambridge), Janet Browne (Harvard University), Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter), and Christiane Groeben (local organizer, formerly Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples). The event was supported by the Thyssen Foundation, the NSF, George Loudon, and History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. The next school will take place in 2021.


Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine

The 2018-2019 Annual Report of the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, which summarizes the past year’s activities of the Consortium is now available online. The consortium brings together educational, cultural and scientific institutions to promote public and academic understanding of the history of science, technology and medicine. Prominent activities and programs include fellowships for researchers, events for academics and for the public and the provision of online resources for teaching, learning and research. Originally established in 2007 as a regional collaboration of eleven institutions in the Philadelphia area, the Consortium began to extend its reach in 2014 and now boasts a membership of some 27 institutions in the United States, Canada & the United Kingdom. HSS is the only professional society that is a member.


American Institute of Physics (AIP) to Confer Gemant Award to Virginia Trimble for Championing the Social Perspective of Science

The AIP announced that astronomer Virginia Trimble, professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, and staff astronomer and member of the advisory board for the Las Cumbres Observatory in Goleta, California has been selected to receive the 2019 Andrew Gemant Award, an annual prize recognizing contributions to the cultural, artistic and humanistic dimension of physics. The award includes a cash prize of $5,000 and a grant of $3,000 to further the public communication of physics at an institution of Trimble’s choice.

The Gemant Award recognizes Trimble’s lifelong successes in the physical sciences and “for taking the broader view of how physics and astronomy is accomplished, creatively engaging physical scientists and the public throughout her lifetime, and commitment to establishing science within the social perspective.” The committee did not pinpoint one single achievement in granting this award, but rather, chose Trimble for the depth and breadth of her works that, for decades, has inspired scientists, piqued the curiosities of people, and permeated the world science psyche.

“We are extremely honored to present Virginia Trimble with this year’s Gemant award,” said AIP CEO Michael Moloney. “Dr. Trimble has devoted much of her life to exploring the historical and cultural side of physics and astrophysics. Her knowledge and professionalism are highly regarded in the international science community, and she is a most deserving recipient of this award.”

“I am deeply honored and grateful to be a recipient of the Gemant award,” Trimble said. “More specifically, I am deeply grateful to the colleagues who took the trouble to organize the nomination, which is by no means a trivial task.”

While Trimble’s widely popular work in astrophysics and astronomy is well known, her time at UCLA as an undergraduate student opened her world to many other disciplines, which gave her a unique insight into how the science of the stars related to many moments in history, and her writing often draws connections between scientific ideas and ideas from literature and the arts.

“Much of my recent work has been in history of science,” she said. “Many historians of physics and astronomy were trained as historians. Others of us are aging astrophysicists, etc., who find that things we remember as ‘current events’ are now regarded as ‘history’ (discovery of quasars, pulsars, the microwave background). The two communities are surprisingly different in ways of writing and speaking of their work and in choosing what to emphasize.”

Trimble was presented with the award on Thursday, Oct. 3, at an event for the Lyne Starling Trimble Science Heritage Public Lecture Series at Caltech. Funded by a generous donation from Virginia Trimble, the lecture series is named after her late father, Lyne Starling Trimble, who held patents for a number of color-reproduction systems and was an innovative chemist.

Read the full article about the 2019 Gemant Award here.


Dispatch from the National Humanities Alliance

Editor’s note: The state of the humanities is a matter near and dear to HSS, seeing that much of what we do falls under this umbrella. It therefore behooves us to keep ourselves in the know about advocacy efforts on its behalf. At the forefront of such efforts is the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) which recently launched a quarterly column for scholarly societies such as ourselves. Beatrice Gurwitz, deputy director of the NHA, offers an overview of the role that humanities advocates have played in securing continuing support from Capitol Hill as well as ideas for engaging Members of Congress in-district. She also invites scholarly society members to reach out if they would like to collaborate on these efforts.

A Moment to Take Stock (and Keep Advocating) by Beatrice Gurwitz

For three years in a row, the Trump administration has called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and other humanities funding streams. In both 2017 and 2018, thanks to robust advocacy from the humanities community, the Republican-controlled Congress rejected the administration’s efforts and passed increases for the NEH and several other humanities programs. This year, we are seeing support on Capitol Hill for even greater increases for the NEH and other humanities programs. The possibility of these increases is partly a result of the Democratic takeover of the House, but that isn’t the whole story—a Democratic majority has not always meant proposed increases for the humanities. Support for the NEH has grown on both sides of the aisle, largely as a result of our collective efforts to showcase just how valuable the humanities are to communities around the country.

In March, Humanities Advocacy Day participants urged Members of Congress to sign on to letters requesting increased funding for humanities programs, resulting in significant bipartisan support. In the House, a record-breaking 175 representatives, including 11 Republicans, endorsed a $12.5 million increase for the NEH, significantly higher than the incremental increases of $2 or $3 million over the past four years. A letter in the Senate, asking for the same increase, also received a record-breaking 44 signers (all Democrats). A record-breaking 106 Members of Congress, including 7 Republicans, signed another letter requesting a $44 million increase for the Department of Education’s international education programs (Title VI and Fulbright-Hays). This was a particularly ambitious request for programs that have not received increases for years.

More recently, the House passed funding bills that included significant increases for our priorities. In addition to passing the $12.5 million increase for the NEH and a nearly $17 million increase for the Department of Education’s international education programs, the House has passed increases for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Smithsonian, the National Park Service’s historic preservation programs, and the National Historical Publications and Records Administration, the grant-giving arm of the National Archives.

The Senate has yet to release its appropriations bills. While we know there is bipartisan support for humanities programs there as well, we are less likely to see increases of the same magnitude in the Senate’s bills. The House, Senate, and White House are currently re-negotiating caps for FY 2020 spending that were put in place nearly a decade ago under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Without renegotiated caps, FY 2020’s overall spending limit would be significantly lower than FY 2019’s. The House appropriations bills assume increased caps, and while the Senate bills will also likely assume increased caps, their assumptions will probably be somewhat lower than the House’s. In the end, the House might need to adjust the numbers in its appropriations bills downward if a final agreement sets caps lower than it is hoping. And if the House, Senate, and the President cannot reach an agreement, we may be heading to another government shutdown or a continuing resolution that maintains funding at FY 2019 levels.

While much remains to be seen, this is a moment to recognize the success of the humanities community’s efforts. In recent years, advocates have sent hundreds of thousands of messages to Members of Congress on behalf of the NEH, IMLS, NHPRC, and Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. We have also deepened research into the impact of federal funding and supported grantees in communicating their impact to local and national policymakers. We have organized in-district meetings that bring Members of Congress together with grantees from their districts so that they can hear first-hand about the impact of the humanities in their communities. (Interested in working with us on one of these meetings? Let us know). And we have hosted briefings for Members of Congress and their staff that bring grantees to Capitol Hill to showcase their work. In June, for example, we were joined by the hosts of the BackStory podcast, who held a live show in the Russell Senate Office Building on “The Divided States of America,” which offered staffers a look at the importance of humanities research to understanding our contemporary moment.

This is also a prime moment to think about ways in which you can engage Members of Congress when they are home for August recess. Our district advocacy guide offers tips on scheduling a meeting with Members of Congress and for inviting them to events in the district. Offering a Member of Congress or their district staffer a behind the scenes tour of a special collection, a new exhibition on campus, or inviting them to visit an NEH-funded summer program are just a few examples of the efforts that have been successful in engaging Members of Congress across the country. Campus government relations officers are great partners for this kind of outreach, and we are always happy to help and brainstorm as well.

The past few years have been a testament to the power of relationship building. And now is a great time to keep building them.

As a postscript to Dr. Gurwitz’s important message, it is worth mentioning that Jay visits Capitol Hill every year in his capacity as HSS Executive Director to argue for continued support for the humanities. During his last visit in March 2019, he met with Indiana senator Mike Braun, see photograph below.

Jay Malone and Indiana senator Mike Braun


US National Endowment for the Humanities Awards $29 Million for Humanities Projects

The NEH announced awards for 215 humanities projects in the United States. The grants are for humanities research, education programs, cultural preservation, films, exhibitions, and virtual reality projects. The awards are augmented by $48 million in funding from state humanities councils. Some project that may be of interest to HSS members are as follows:

Fayetteville, Arkansas

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

  • Outright: $160,000 [Institutes for School Teachers]
  • Project Director: Sean Connors
  • NEH Grant Awards and Offers, August 2019
  • Project Title: Remaking Monsters and Heroines: Adapting Classic Literature for Contemporary Audiences
  • Project Description: A two-week institute for 30 K-12 educators on Frankenstein, Cinderella, and adaptations of these classic texts.

San Jose, California

San Jose State University Research Foundation

  • Outright: $184,624 [Institutes for School Teachers]
  • Project Director: Susan Shillinglaw; William Gilly (co-project director)
  • NEH Grant Awards and Offers, August 2019
  • Project Title: John Steinbeck: Social Critic and Ecologist
  • Project Description: A three-week institute for 28 K-12 educators to study the writing of John Steinbeck.

Seaside, California

University Corporation at Monterey Bay

  • Outright: $74,989 [Media Projects Development]
  • Project Director: Meghan O’Hara
  • Project Title: Tektite Revisited: NASA’s Forgotten Underwater Mission
  • Project Description: Development of an eighty-minute documentary on the Tektite Program, an experimental underwater research station operated by NASA in the U.S. Virgin Islands between 1969 and 1970.

Washington, DC

Association of American Medical Colleges

  • Outright: $392,928 [Cooperative Agreements and Special Projects (Education)]
  • Project Director: Alison Whelan
  • Project Title: The Fundamental Role of the Humanities and Arts in Medical Education
  • Project Description: The planning for and creation of a monograph, curricular and evaluative resources, and faculty professional development opportunities for integrating the humanities and arts into education in the medical professions.

Chicago, Illinois

Newberry Library

  • Outright: $124,989 [Seminars for School Teachers]
  • Project Director: James Akerman; Kathleen Brosnan (co-project director)
  • Project Title: Mapping Nature Across the Americas
  • Project Description: A four-week seminar for 16 K-12 educators to study mapping as a lens for understanding the history of the Americas.

Madison, New Jersey

Drew University

  • Outright: $39,245 [Collaborative Research]
  • Project Director: Paul Kadetz
  • Project Title: Tracing the Historical and Cultural Trajectories of Antimicrobial Resistance in China (1920 to the Present)
  • Project Description: A scholarly workshop and conference in preparation of an edited volume on the history, causes, and effects of antibiotic resistance in China during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

New York, New York

Futuro Media Group

  • Outright: $500,000 [Media Projects Production] Match: $100,000
  • Project Director: Charlotte Mangin
  • Project Title: Unladylike 2020
  • Project Description: Production of 26 animated short documentary films about little-known Progressive Era women who achieved success in science, business, aviation, journalism, politics, medicine, exploration, and the arts.

Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum

  • Outright: $127,000 [Institutes for School Teachers]
  • Project Director: Lynda Kennedy
  • Project Title: The Cold War through the Collections of the Intrepid Museum Project Description: A two-week institute for 25 K-12 educators on the history and technology of the Cold War era.

Jennifer Vanderbes

  • Outright: $60,000 [Public Scholar Program]
  • Independent Scholar
  • Project Title: The Gatekeeper: Dr. Frances Kelsey and the Unlikely Heroes Who Foiled the Greatest Pharmaceutical Scandal of the Twentieth Century
  • Project Description: Research and writing leading to a nonfiction book on the 1960s scandal surrounding the German-made sedative thalidomide, which has been linked to birth defects in some 10,000 babies worldwide.

Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University

  • Outright: $15,000 [Preservation Assistance Grants]
  • Project Director: Nicole Milano
  • Project Title: Preserving the History of America’s Second Oldest Hospital
  • Project Description: The purchase of preservation supplies to rehouse the medical center archives of New York Presbyterian Hospital, the second oldest hospital in the United States and chartered in 1771 by King George III of England. The archives contain over 1,500 linear feet of materials including records of Aaron Burr, who served as a member of the Board of Governors; Alexander Hamilton, who supported the Lying-In Hospital of the City of New York; Dr. David Hosack, the personal physician for Hamilton and Burr; early illnesses and epidemics; and nineteenth-century medical and surgical casebooks.