Tag Archives: Science Studies

Introducing Theresa MacPhail, Draper’s New Fellow in Science Studies

We’re delighted to welcome Draper alumna Theresa MacPhail as our new faculty fellow in Science Studies. Professor MacPhail will be teaching Introduction to Science Studies in the fall, and more information on the class will be available shortly. Her bio is below; please join us in welcoming her to the program.

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Dr. MacPhail received her PhD in Medical Anthropology from UC-Berkeley/UC-San Francisco. Her first book, Siren Song: A Pathography of Influenza and Global Public Health, is based on her dissertation research on the science and epidemiology of influenza in Hong Kong, the United States, and Europe, and is currently under development at Cornell University Press as part of their new series on expertise. Dr. MacPhail received her MA at the Draper Program with a focus in STS and Global Histories, and has a BA in Journalism from the University of New Hampshire.

Her work and research interests center on: the historical, cultural and social aspects of infectious disease; the development and utilization of new technologies within epidemiology and medicine; the production and circulation of information and knowledge in bioscience and public health; politics and the emergence of “global” public health policies; the construction of scientific expertise; new media, public communication, and the construction of narratives in the biosciences and epidemiology; and the process of decision-making in relationship to uncertainty and risk. Both her research and methodology integrate ethnography and anthropology with the fields of journalism, science & technology studies, history, and political science.

She is the current recipient of a writing fellowship from the D. Kim Foundation for the History of Science in East Asia and is a former recipient of the multi-year Chancellor’s Fellowship at UC-Berkeley. Her field sites and areas of geographic interest are Hong Kong, China, and the United States. Her next research project will examine the resurgence of bed bugs and the threat of dengue fever in the United States and in Hong Kong, focusing on local and national public health response, information campaigns, and how disease and pestilence play into the recent fears over the United States’ financial turmoil and intellectual and cultural decline as a “world power.”

Call for Papers/Posters: International Society for the History, Philosophy, & Social Sciences of Biology (Due 2/28)

Dear Students:

Please note that the International Society for the History, Philosophy, & Social Sciences of Biology (ISHPSSB) is also offering travel support for some participants in their upcoming conference. The Call for Papers/Posters is below, as well as information about the application for travel support. You can also refer to the ISHPSSB website for more information, here: http://www.ishpssb.org/meeting.html

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Call for papers

ISHPSSB Program Co-Chairs Chris Young and Mark Largent hope you are already thinking about papers and sessions for the 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City.

To be sure you are getting the most up-to-date information about the meeting, subscribe to the ISHPSSB listserv by clicking on the Listserv link at www.ishpssb.org

ISHPSSB officers have set up a bulletin board where you can suggest a session, or review sessions that have been proposed so far. For now, only members can post on this bulletin board, so you might check on your membership status and then start sharing ideas. The bulletin board link is http://ishpssb.onefireplace.com/

Our expectation for the Salt Lake City meeting is that we will have more cross-disciplinary sessions than ever before. In addition, we expect that all sessions will be geared toward wider audiences. This was a major thrust of the discussions that came out of the Brisbane meeting in 2009. Every scholar has numerous meetings in which to present work to her or his peers: historians speaking to historians, philosophers speaking to philosophers, sociologists speaking to sociologists, and biologists from across the spectrum speaking to biologists within their specialty. ISHPSSB is uniquely situated to provide us the opportunity to talk to each other, across disciplinary boundaries, about biology studies. In order for this to happen, we need to think broadly about each other as an audience. We hope you will begin now to look for ways of collaborating.

A new feature of the program for 2011 will be a poster session. Please view the separate Call for Posters by following the link at: http://ishpssb.org/meeting.html

Presenters should think about ways their work will potentially connect to other sessions throughout the meeting. We hope this can be accomplished by thinking about the larger themes that are illuminated by your work. These themes are meant to be broad and overlapping, but will help to provide benchmarks for organizing sessions as well as signposts for people at the conference seeking out areas of inquiry. Some themes we have identified include: Civic engagement; Race; Policy, science funding, and scientific progress; Sustainability, environment, energy, and economics; Gender and LGBT; Genetic testing; Evo-Devo; and Education. Details about several of these themes can be found on the bulletin board, and more will be posted as we move forward. Please note that not all papers and sessions are expected to fit into one of the themes, and we hope that as we see work that pushes beyond these categories we can all be more aware of the new directions scholars and members of ISHPSSB are taking.

Of course, we welcome sessions in all areas of our fields; individual paper submissions are also welcome. The basic time unit for sessions will be 90 minutes. As soon as the registration pages are up and running, you may submit a freestanding paper proposal. This should happen in late November. Until then, we encourage you to be looking for colleagues throughout the world who will complement your work in a session. We would like this to be a productive time for identifying collaborators. During this time, we encourage scholars to comment on the specific themes described above. You may contribute to this discussion online using the ISHPSSB bulletin board. If you would like to suggest a theme that will strengthen our multi-disciplinary and cross-session collaboration, please contact Chris Young and Mark Largent at program@ishpssb.org

The deadline for paper proposals will be February 28, 2011. We hope you will be checking back regularly on the bulletin board to identify how your work may connect with other potential proposals.

Please also keep in mind the ISHPSSB policy on multiple participation: no one may present in more than one session; exceptions are made for those who organize another session, comment in another session, or give a short plenary address. Individuals may serve more than one function in a given session, e.g., chair and presenter. In addition to these roles, individuals may also present a poster in the poster session.

If you have questions about your session or paper idea, or about procedures, please contact the Program Co-Chairs, Chris Young and Mark Largent: program@ishpssb.org

Chris Young, Department of Biology, PO Box 343922, Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI 53234; (414) 382-6197.

ISHPSSB would like to encourage sessions that:?

a) combine more than one disciplinary perspective;

b) include participants from more than one institution and/or nation;

c) promote the interaction of junior and senior scholars, including students.

Program guidelines include:

(1) The program co-chairs, in consultation with the program committee, and consistent with site constraints, will organize a rich, diverse, and high quality program.? While it is the intention of the Society to be as inclusive as possible, the program co-chairs have the discretion to reject papers or sessions that are truly inappropriate for these meetings or that do not meet basic standards of communication. The program committee is available to assist the program co-chairs in judging borderline cases.

(2) No one may present in more than one session. An exception is made for those who organize another session, comment in another session, or give a short plenary address. Individuals may serve more than one function in a given session, e.g. chair and presenter.

(3) Each regular session must have a minimum of three presenters.

(4) Multiple sessions on a given topic should be identified with titles that distinguish the particular focus of each session, rather than merely serialize the topic.

(5) All accepted participants must pre-register for the conference in order to be included in the program.

Members of the 2011 Program Committee include:

Callebaut, Werner callebaut@kli.ac.at

Millstein, Roberta secretary@ishpssb.org

Santesmases, María Jesús mjsantesmases@ifs.csic.es

Suárez, Edna ednasuarez@ciencias.unam.mx

Stotz, Karola karola.stotz@gmail.com

El-Hani, Charbel charbel@ufba.br or charbel.elhani@gmail.com

Largent, Mark (co-chair) program@ishpssb.org

Young, Chris (co-chair) program@ishpssb.org

Call for Posters

ISHPSSB Program Co-Chairs Chris Young and Mark Largent hope you are already thinking about papers and sessions for the 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City.

To be sure you are getting the most up-to-date information about the meeting, subscribe to the ISHPSSB listserv by clicking on the Listserv link at www.ishpssb.org

This will be a dynamic setting for scholars to present their work in progress as well as expand on the implications of work completed in an interactive setting. The program co-chairs are actively soliciting posters from a wide range of scholars, providing for interaction among all participants. This setting will engage biologists, historians, sociologists, and philosophers alike. Our local arrangements team is providing a comfortable setting with refreshments readily available.

Posters are always useful in broadening the participation of scholars. We expect to see graduate students as well as experienced scholars presenting and participating in the poster sessions. A time in the program will be dedicated to the poster session. During this time, creative presentations are encouraged.

Although less common in meetings of historians and philosophers, poster sessions are a standard venue for biologists, social scientists, and educators, where scholars regularly present their work. Of special note, a poster session offers the possibility of far more time to engage in dialogue with others about one’s work than a regular session does.

At ISHPSSB 2011 in Salt Lake City, scholars who are presenting a paper will also be allowed to present a poster, if proposals are submitted and accepted for both formats. In particular, posters that represent work that is in very early stages may be accepted for the meeting, and the ensuing dialogue may be most valuable to a scholar developing a new project.

As soon as the registration pages are up and running, you may submit a freestanding paper proposal. This should happen in late November. The deadline for poster proposals will be February 28, 2011. We hope you will be checking back regularly on the bulletin board to identify how your work may connect with other potential proposals.

Please also keep in mind the ISHPSSB policy on multiple participation: no one may present in more than one session; exceptions are made for those who organize another session, comment in another session, or give a short plenary address. Individuals may serve more than one function in a given session, e.g., chair and presenter. In addition to these roles, individuals may also present a poster in the poster session.

For those who may not have created a poster for an academic meeting before, good guides already exist on many scientific society webpages. Here are two

examples:

http://www.asp.org/education/howto_onPosters.html

http://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters/NewSite/

If you have questions about your poster idea, or about procedures, please contact the Program Co-Chairs, Chris Young and Mark Largent: program@ishpssb.org

Chris Young, Department of Biology, PO Box 343922, Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI 53234; (414) 382-6197.

Members of the 2011 Program Committee include:

Callebaut, Werner callebaut@kli.ac.at

Millstein, Roberta secretary@ishpssb.org

Santesmases, María Jesús mjsantesmases@ifs.csic.es

Suárez, Edna ednasuarez@ciencias.unam.mx

Stotz, Karola karola.stotz@gmail.com

El-Hani, Charbel charbel@ufba.br or charbel.elhani@gmail.com

Largent, Mark (co-chair) program@ishpssb.org

Young, Chris (co-chair) program@ishpssb.org

Graduate Student Travel Support for ISHPSSB2011 (application form)

ISHPSSB supports travel to the biennial meeting for graduate students using funds made available through memberships, donations to the society, and proceeds from past meetings. Some NSF funding may also be available. The society’s allocation of support for graduate student travel is determined by these priorities: (1) students who are presenting papers at the biennial conference or participating in ISHPSSB governance; (2) students who have never received previous funding; and (3) students who did not receive funding at the previous ISHPSSB meeting.

The society has the financial means to support only a portion of travel costs for students whose applications are successful. Award amounts will depend on the total amount of funding available to ISHPSSB, the relative cost of travel between the students’ locations and Salt Lake City, and the ability of applicants to access additional resources. For ISHPSSB 2009 in Brisbane, award amounts averaged about USD 600.

Application forms are available at http://www.ishpssb.org/GradStusupportISH2011.rtf. Send applications and supporting documentation to Lisa Gannett, ISHPSSB Treasurer: via email attachment to lisa.gannett@smu.ca; via fax to Department of Philosophy, Saint Mary’s University, (902) 491-6286; or via regular mail to Department of Philosophy, Saint Mary’s University, 923 Robie St., Halifax, NS, B3H 3C3, Canada.

For your application to be considered complete, you must (i) provide documentation of your travel costs (copy of receipt, travel agent quote, screen shot from airline website or site such as Expedia or Travelocity, etc.) based on best available fare, and (ii) ensure that your graduate advisor sends an email to lisa.gannett@smu.ca confirming the amount and source of any additional financial support you have available and that you are currently enrolled as a full-time graduate student in good standing.

The deadline for receipt of complete applications is april 15 2011 This deadline is firm: NO LATE OR INCOMPLETE APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED .

N.B.: Once you send in your application, it is your responsibility to keep your file up to date by providing prompt notification of any changes in your circumstances (attendance at the meeting, status as a full-time graduate student in good standing, itinerary, estimated travel costs, expected financial support, etc.). The Travel Support Committee will process the applications and notify applicants of the results by early to mid-May. Any award that you are offered at this time will be contingent on the information that has been provided and subject to adjustment should your circumstances change. To receive your award, you will be required to submit a completed reimbursement form and original travel receipts (including all boarding passes) within one month following the conference.

Draper Alumna Brooke Borel Published in Popular Science

Great news from Draper alumna Brooke Borel, who has been working as a successful freelance science journalist since she graduated in 2007: her first long form article, entitled “Almost a Mile Below South Dakota, a Race to Find Dark Matter,” has been published in January’s issue of Popular Science. She also has pieces forthcoming in the same outlet later this year. Congrats, Brooke!

The piece begins:

“Between 1876 and 2002, the people of Lead, South Dakota, extracted $3.5 billion worth of gold from the Homestake mine. It was the town’s main business, and when falling prices and diminishing returns finally shut it down, no one was sure what to do with the remaining 8,000-foot hole in the ground. Then, in 2007, the National Science Foundation decided that an 8,000-foot hole would be the perfect place to put its proposed Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, or DUSEL, a massive research complex that will include the world’s deepest underground lab.

Now a team of physicists and former miners has converted Homestake’s shipping warehouse into a new surface-level laboratory at the Sanford Underground Laboratory. They’ve painted the walls and baseboards white and added yellow floor lines to steer visitors around giant nitrogen tanks, locker-size computers and plastic-shrouded machine parts. Soon they will gather many of these components into the lab’s clean room and combine them into LUX, the Large Underground Xenon dark-matter detector, which they will then lower halfway down the mine, where—if all goes well—it will eventually detect the presence of a few particles of dark matter, the as-yet-undetected invisible substance that may well be what holds the universe together.”

To read Brooke’s article in full, see the Popular Science website, here: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-12/mining-dark-matter

To read a 2009 interview Draper conducted with Brooke about science journalism, check out in.ter.reg.num’s archives, here: http://draperprogram.blogspot.com/2009/05/interview-with-draper-alumna-brooke.html

As promised…Daniel Thurs’ guest post Part II

What is Good Scholarship?
Part II

Here I’d like to contribute something of my own, perhaps idiosyncratic, thinking about the nature of good scholarship (and I want to take special pains to emphasize that from here on out, everything you may take issue with is purely me). Chief among my scholarly touchstones is the notion of humility. I don’t mean a kind of obsequiousness that consistently favors engagement and fears criticism. Many scholars-in-training already tend to defer, understandably, to the intellectual giants of their fields. In those cases, I’d suggest a slightly more skeptical course. On the other hand, to move the metaphor back to land, those people whose words and behaviors provide the grist for scholarly mills are sometimes treated with a sort of disregard. In my own work, I’ve encountered too many historical actors—not the great intellects, but otherwise ordinary folks—who were as smart or smarter than I was, and knew more about what was going on around them to boot, to be comfortable with such a view. In approaching sources, I did bring an important set of tools, concepts, and questions they did not have, but our relationship worked best when I treated them as partners rather than resources to be exploited and when I kept open the ever-present possibility of being surprised by what they had to say.

One reason why I tend to value humility so highly, and possibly one reason why the question of what makes for good scholarship is so hard to answer in the abstract, is that scholarly endeavor takes place in a certain institutional context. Modern academia, whatever its substantial contribution to the world, is not a system that typically values or rewards being humble. Aside from the intellectual adventure and fulfillment it provides, the work of getting a Ph.D., of getting a job, of getting noticed often requires a kind of studied arrogance toward other scholars (who often have to be wrong in some measure for you to be right), toward sources (who sometimes become one-dimensional and conveniently easy to deconstruct), and toward the general public (which is occasionally either little more than the waiting and empty receptacle for scholarly knowledge or the passive “other” subject to scholarly analysis). Present-day expertise, rooted in and cultivated through the institutions of academia, is an important part of the world and can effect considerable change for the better. It also has a less fortunate side that can elevate experts over everyone else, in turn justifying their expertise. For me, at least, truly good scholarship is about keeping away from such currents.

I suspect, beyond the demands of particular disciplines and the institutions of academia, there’s one additional challenge to determining the nature of good scholarship, and that’s the magic word “scholarship.” As much as I’d like to believe it, to justify all those student loans I took out, I don’t think anyone requires a Ph.D. to either produce or appreciate good scholarship. That’s true whether you earned a BA five years ago or never went to college at all. The twin values of engagement and critical attitude are present in ordinary interactions at their best wherever they occur. What is required is a community of people dedicated to grappling with the world honestly and effectively. And that is what that Draper Program provides.

Perhaps that’s the ultimate meaning of humility for me—no one can do it alone. In that spirit, I should say that, while I’ve made passing reference to the collective Draperian wisdom, I have specific people to thank for the ideas above. So, humble thanks to Amber, Georgia, Larissa, Louis, Maia, Nina, Rebecca, Robert, and Robin.

And finally, I want to impart to you all, the most humble, most important, and most profound secret of good scholarship. In one word: scallops!

What is Good Scholarship? A guest blog entry by Daniel Thurs, Professor of Science Studies

We’ll be posting Professor Thurs’ excellent essay on scholarship in two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow…

Part I

What is good scholarship? That was a question a student recently posed to me. After a lot of thought and a few halting stabs at an answer, I decided my best option was to pass the scholarly buck. So, I re-posed the question to the staff and faculty here at Draper to get their views on the matter. What follows is my attempt to channel the program’s collective wisdom.

One of the first responses I found was that the nature of good scholarship depended on the particular fields involved. Some disciplines value testing established models, others look for the identification of causal relationships, and still others aim at tracing out complex and often messy webs of meaning. Certain areas avoid jargon and others encourage testing the limits of conventional language. In some cases, you can refer to yourself in the first person. In others, that’s a high crime. This makes the faculty, staff, and students at Draper and NYU more broadly, with all their varied backgrounds, valuable sources of insight into different scholarly traditions. In other words, you should feel free to pass your own scholarly bucks.

Still, there was consensus on some general elements of good scholarship that transcended particular disciplines. Perhaps the most important was engagement. There’s no immediately simple way to characterize the nature of engagement, though the common image is one of reaching out. It’s the close and careful reading of sources on their own terms, according to the rules and logics they set up, while doggedly and persistently seeking out the many possible meanings and facets that any given piece of material may contain or enable. It’s also stepping into the larger academic world, grounding conclusions in the work of other scholars, being aware of their views, and addressing the problems they raise with (in part, at least) the tools they provide. And it’s making your efforts matter, ideally to those both inside and outside of academia, which relies on the ability to successfully communicate your ideas, perhaps with a dash of enthusiasm.

The second element of good scholarship that came through clearly was the need for a critical approach, on three different levels. First, while you want to read your sources carefully, you can’t always accept every claim they make. It’s important to subject them to analysis of some kind. Neither should you always nod in your conversations with other scholars. Their work, even by the most well-known, should similarly be open to question. This isn’t to suggest you claim that X or Y is irredeemably wrong at every opportunity—that probably comes from a lack of engagement—but their ideas may not fit the particular case you’re working with or you may need to adapt or extend them. Lastly, you want to subject yourself and your claims to a critical eye. Are there reasons, beyond evidence and argument, that I think something is true? What are the limits, as well as the strengths, of my perspective? What are the implications of the conclusions I draw? What are the stakes of the questions I raise?

Given what’s been said, I think it’s fair to see engagement and criticism as the two poles of the scholarly globe, which raises another question. How do you navigate between them? Luckily, Draperian wisdom can still provide some guidance. To find your way, you’ll need a sense of balance between an openness to the world and a suspicion of its honesty, between faith in the reality of knowledge and skepticism that anything can be truly known, between construction and deconstruction. At the same time, you’ll want to rely on your ability to be creative. That doesn’t always mean coming up with a dramatically new argument or composing a revolutionary piece of literature. Most enduring knowledge builds by increments on what’s come before and the majority of scholarship—even some of the best—is more methodical than grandiose. There is creativity in finding (and recognizing) a new and valuable source of information, in saying things in subtly new ways that open up novel routes of thought and research, and in combining existing ideas in unexpected constellations.