Dear BSHS members,
As you know, after each meeting of the BSHS Council, the President has the pleasant duty of sending round a newsletter so that all the members can see what we have discussed, and how we are working to deliver and develop the Society to serve our community.
At the Council’s most recent meeting last month, we continued with the new pattern that I have introduced. Each time a different person describes their particular responsibilities, and in April it was Adam Mosley’s turn as Conference Officer to give us an overview of how we sponsor conferences as well as run them. His account is at the end of this newsletter, and it shows how successful Adam and the Conferences Committee have been in organising BSHS events designed to attract a wide range of participants. (And yes, we did formally thank Adam for the enormous amount of work he has put in to promoting the BSHS and making sure everything runs smoothly.)
My plan in changing the agenda style was to make sure that the whole of Council gets the opportunity to look into and guide the main services the Society provides for you, including not only the Conferences, but also the Journal, grants, prizes, the Outreach and Engagement Committee (OEC), website, postgraduate matters, Viewpoint, archives and much else besides.
BSHS at Science in Public Conference 2019, 10-12 July
BSHS will have a substantial presence at the Science in Public Conference this year, following the unfortunate but necessary cancellation of our Edinburgh conference. This will include a special panel discussion on the Public History of Science (which will be a taster for the larger conference on 15-16 May 2020 in York, see below). Science in Public is happening at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School in central Manchester. Do come along; there will be many familiar faces at the conference, and this will be a wonderful opportunity to hear about the latest research, meet up with old friends and make some new ones. Butler-Eyles bursaries are available by application for attendance at this conference.
We will be hosting the BSHS EGM at Science in Public, at lunchtime on Thursday 11th July. In addition to electing your new Council, we will be having a discussion about what we as a Society can do in response to the climate emergency. Do come along with ideas and views.
Celebrating our Prize Winners
Council also heard from Lucy Santos, our Executive Secretary, who outlined her plans for how we can celebrate our prizewinners more effectively. We aim to strengthen the work that the prizes exist to do, namely to promote excellent work in all aspects of the history of science. The plan is to hold a fun event, probably at an appropriate festival, where people, including members and other interested folk, can get together over a drink to meet and hear about the people and projects that have won the BSHS Pickstone, Hughes, Singer, Ayrton and Great Exhibitions prizes over the previous year. We also plan to work harder at press coverage. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and delightfully!
We are pleased to welcome three new IAs to our community. Fuller details and photos are on the BSHS website, but they are: Geoff Bil (New York Botanical Garden, USA), Francisco Malta Romeira (University of Lisbon, Portugal), Catherine Brooke Penaloza Patzak (University of Vienna, Austria)
Our IAs help us to remain a global organisation by strengthening our presence throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The basic advantages are mutual: the IAs publicise BSHS activities and opportunities, while reciprocally informing Council about relevant events in their area. If you would like to know more about overseas activities, please get in touch with the relevant IA. And if you would like further information about becoming an IA yourself, please contact BSHS Vice-President Patricia Fara [email protected]
Council has decided to continue its policy of distributing relatively small grants to a wide range of recipients who might not otherwise be able to obtain funding. In particular, we have set aside money for undergraduate students who are writing a dissertation on any topic in the history of science, technology and medicine and who need to visit an archive as part of their research. Our awards, of up to £200, are specifically designed to cover travel, or similar costs, associated with archival visits. Please send a completed application form and address all enquiries to [email protected] Grant recipients will be invited to write a short account of their most exciting archival find for the BSHS magazine, Viewpoint. Council also agreed to increase the number of annual Masters bursaries from one to three, as all concurred that this is a key career stage supported by very few funders. BSHS will always be a small funder, compared with government, trusts and foundations, so Council is keen to place the Society’s modest means where they can be most effective.
Priority Areas: On the Public History of Science and On the Discipline
Our promised special conference on the Public History of Science will be held at the National Railway Museum in York on 15-16 May 2020. Ludmilla Jordanova will be giving a keynote address, and we are planning a packed programme discussing what’s special, what’s important, and what’s happening in the field. Look out for the Call for Papers, which will be circulated very soon.
The initiative on the HPSTM / STS sense of disciplinary identity, and how we are faring as a group of practitioners will feature at the next Annual Conference in Aberystwyth, provisional dates: Wednesday 8 to Saturday 11 July 2020.
If you are interested in getting involved in either of these initiatives, please e-mail me direct at: [email protected]
After feedback from members and some issues with emails not being delivered, we have decided to upgrade our membership system to the software Membermojo. The transfer will be effected automatically over the next few weeks. The Executive Secretary will be in touch directly with you if there is any further action required on your part.
Survey for Researchers who have Used Science Museum Group collections
BSHS members may well be interested in the Science Museum Group’s planning for future access to its collections. The Museum is currently undertaking its most ambitious project in a generation, to move over 80% of its collections to the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire. As part of this move, they are re-evaluating the service they provide for researchers who consult our archives, objects, and libraries in the course of their work. If you have ever been a researcher at the Science Museum, Science and Industry Museum Manchester (formerly MOSI), the National Science and Media Museum Bradford (formerly the National Media Museum), or the National Railway Museum in York, we want to hear about your research experience, and your suggestions for how we could improve in future. The survey should only take a few minutes to complete. You will be offered the chance to win a £50 amazon voucher for taking part in the survey – the draw will be made in June, and the winner notified by email https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/G276CBK
Conferences Committee: Present and Future – Adam Mosley Writes:
The main responsibilities of the Conferences Committee are supporting the organisation of the annual postgraduate conference (now held in the spring of each year, having moved from their previous spot in January); disbursing grants to other conferences on HSTM topics, and advising their organisers if advice is requested; and running the annual conference (or its equivalent, in years like 2018, when we hold a meeting with or for another society). Council has recently agreed that CC will soon also take on responsibility for awarding the BSHS grants that are particularly associated with conferences: the Carers’ Grants and the Butler-Eyles travel grants.
Looking to the future, we aim to get better at doing these things, in a range of ways. The postgraduate conference has grown to become a substantial event in its own right, and we intend to ensure that we make life as easy as possible for future organisers, by producing a manual that will help them to plan and run the event. We are also in the process of codifying our annual conference organisation, both to offer better support to our local organisers and to improve the experience for our delegates. The value of this manual is something that our recent experiences, which led us to pull out of holding a conference this year in Edinburgh, have made even clearer. But we actually began work on it in the wake of the ESHS meeting in London, as the size of that event magnified certain problems that we encountered. In future, we expect to use conference management software for abstract submission, communication of outcomes, programming, and publication of the programme – speeding up the process of putting the conference together, improving delegate access to the programme and abstracts in digital formats, and reducing the scope for human error.
We also want to get better at making our conferences points of contact between historians of STM and other scholarly and practitioner communities, and ensuring that the full range of historians of STM are represented at our events. Several different groups of scholars who have a demonstrable interest in HSTM topics, or whose fields intersect with ours, are underrepresented at our annual conferences. One idea we are developing therefore, as an extension and addition to the BSHS Ambassadors, is that of Subject Champions: people who can encourage colleagues working in their fields and adjacent ones to come to the BSHS meetings. We are also interested in the legacies of our conferences: enhancing the positive effects of having the BSHS visit a different location each year, and mitigating the negative ones. Longer-term planning, with more support for the local conference organisers, and better coordination with OEC, is one of the ways we hope to achieve the former. The latter will be addressed, in the first instance, by thinking about the climate impact of our events. That means developing e-conferencing as part of our annual events, and as alternative form of conferencing in its own right, and requesting the least environmentally damaging forms of catering available.
Clearer and more efficient communication with our membership is another one of our goals. We need to be better at advertising our grant schemes, to ensure that the Society’s funds are distributed widely and to best effect, and we also want to streamline the application process. But communication is a two-way process. If you have an idea for an academic meeting that you would like to discuss with us, are interested in hosting a future postgraduate conference or annual conference, have suggestions for how we can improve our events, or would just like to know more about any of the initiatives described here, then please contact us at [email protected]
With best wishes to all,
Dr. Tim Boon,