It is becoming a doleful cliché, but what a difference a few weeks makes. I last sent a Newsletter a little over a month ago, featuring a wide range of initiatives and events. Almost immediately after that, discussions about the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic began amongst your Council members, at first tentatively wondering about the potential need to scale back our conference activity, then rapidly turning to cancellation, postponement and/or moving online of the Society’s business. We have been very busy on your behalf even as we, as so many of you, have been learning the affordances and disadvantages of online meeting technology
As a discipline, we are well placed to be reflective about the role of science and technology and its relation to historical precedents in national emergencies, especially previous epidemics. Sometimes the events of the last few weeks have seemed like a public HPS / STS primer in the situatedness of science, the rational differences in national responses and scientific advice, and hopeful discourses on new technologies. At the same time, personal anxieties and, indeed, losses threaten to overwhelm the comfort our professional understanding provides. I’m sure Council would join me in sending best wishes to members suffering physically or mentally as a result of the epidemic and the control measures in place to limit its impact.
In the meantime, there was a palpable sense at the recent, shortened, Council meeting convened via Zoom, that there are many ways in which the Society’s offer to members, even as it is tested by social distancing and all the uncertainties about the timing of return to something like normal everyday life, can be strengthened by our current adversity. We ask you to join in the experimental provision that your representatives are developing.
Cancellations, postponements, and new forms
Council supported the organisers’ request to cancel the Postgraduate conference in Leeds. We very much hope that next year’s PG conference will take place in Leeds, and with many of the same participants.
Public History of Science and Technology conference. A subcommittee, meeting virtually on 16th March, decided to postpone this conference and subsequently agreed new dates: October 16-17, still at the National Railway Museum, York. The vast majority of speakers have responded that they are able to make those dates (as long as the emergency has been lifted). We will do a formal check in September whether to proceed and, if so, will advertise then. At that point, if lockdown is continuing or reinstated, we will consider the alternatives of further postponement or going online (armed with greater experience of the latter).
Annual Meeting. As you know from my previous communication, this conference will not now go ahead as a physical event in July. Instead, we will be running a five-day online history of science festival. We plan to publish details in the next fortnight of how you can get involved. The team developing the event have exciting and imaginative plans about how to not only reproduce, but improve on, many of the features that make conferences so valuable. Council remain committed to the value of physical conferences, and we are discussing future possibilities for meetings in Aberystwyth and other venues.
Council Publications: Online for the moment
Unfortunately, another casualty of the Covid-19 lockdown has been the production and global distribution of print copies of journals. We are very sorry to tell you that there will be a delay in receiving your print copies of both BJHS and Viewpoint in the post. We know that our members value the print copies, and we can reassure you that you will receive all issues published in 2020 as soon as possible – but the delay is not under our control, and could last for several months.
BJHS will continue to be available online to schedule, and will be available to members through Cambridge Core. To gain access, you will need to have your membership number to hand; this is quoted on the receipt for your membership payment. The instructions are:
To access The British Journal for the History of Science content online there are a few steps you need to follow to link your Society membership to your account on the website, Cambridge Core.
If you do not have an account with them, please visit Cambridge Core and register for an account by clicking on the “register” button in the top right hand corner of the page and then filling out the required form to complete the registration.
Once you have registered, please follow the below steps to activate your membership and access the content as required:
1. Go to www.cambridge.org/core and login with email and password.
2. Click on the ‘My account’ button in the top right hand corner.
3. Then click the ‘My Societies’ tab on the left hand side.
4. Enter the Society specific ID (1448100).
5. Enter your specific membership number.
With that achieved, you can use the search box to find our journals and specific articles, including the entire archive.
If you cannot find your membership number, please e-mail Lucy Santos, our Executive Secretary at: [email protected].
The spring issue of Viewpoint will appear shortly on the Society’s website. We will also distribute it directly to members as a PDF, and you will again receive a print copy later in the year. We look forward to sending it to you, together with a ‘bumper’ October issue, in the autumn.
Members will be pleased to hear that Council has decided that it’s time to do some work on the Society’s website, http://www.bshs.org.uk/, which is showing its age. Communications Officer, Nicola Sugden, has already been doing some pruning and archiving of older material. Working with Council members Louisianne Ferlier and James Sumner, she is also working towards an updating of the site’s look and feel, which we hope to implement later this year.
New Postgrad Twitter Account
Jemma Houghton, our postgraduate representative, has established a new Twitter account, @BSHSPostgrads, to reinforce solidarity and sharing, especially in these difficult times.
Maintaining your Society
Not only the epidemic, but also the climate emergency and pressure for Open Access publication, are having an impact on the long established offer the Society makes to you, its members. Times may seem hard. At the moment it feels, in Julian Huxley’s felicitous phrase, that we are ‘living in a revolution’. If so, hard times can accelerate evolution, and Council is committed to ensuring that, whatever the short-term pressure, the Society comes through this period stronger, with a rich and compelling offer to its members.