4S Volume 1 Issue 3 (Spring, 1976)

4S Newsletter

Issue in brief (PDF is here: 1976 Volume 1 Issue 3 Spring).

  1. Presidential Address by Robert K. Merton
  2. Preliminary Program for the first Society for the Social Studies of Science meeting
  3. Report on STS training in the US

This is the earliest issue of the 4S newsletter we have and it contains the preliminary program for the first meeting (ever) of the Society for the Social Studies of Science. We learned that the first meeting was delayed. The first meeting, which was held at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), was supposed to be in late October (29-31); however, because of funding (unclear precisely what the issue was other than lack of funding) the conference was delayed one week until November 4-6 (one week later, which is oddly unfriendly to international guests, although so is holding a meeting in Ithaca). Never heard of delaying a professional conferences, but, at the time, it was a very young organization with small enrollment so perhaps this sort of thing just happens. The first meeting was a joint meeting (4S, apparently, has always had a history of joint meetings); held conjointly with the Research Committee on the Sociology of Science of the International Sociology Association.

In the presidential address, by Robert K. Merton, we learn that the social studies of science had 300 members at the outset (which is possibly untrue, given details in the next paragraph). With eloquence common to Merton’s writing, he mentions something that I still find true today: that in STS, though we are drawn from numerous disciplinary backgrounds, we feel more at home with the rag-tag bunch at 4S than we do in our parent disciplines. It also reminds me that while interdisciplinary was big news in mid-70s, it no longer seems so subversive (although that is up for debate). Merton encourages members to “avoid the double parochialism of disciplinary and national boundaries” as part of its “originating efforts.”

In the preliminary program, we learn that 22 papers were to hosted at Cornell that year that would be selected by a committee of 5. The newsletters are also a resource for advertising other events, in this issue, the International Symposium for Quantitative Methods in the History of Science, PAREX (a symposium on the Role of Research Organizations in Orienting Scientific Activities hosted by Karen Knorr), and Sektion Wissenschaftsforshung.

There is also a ballot for council members and we see some familiar faces: Nicholas Mullins on the selection committee (who we see in the research notes) and Dorothy Nelkin for a two year stint. Also, in the council meeting notes, we learn that the professional organization was working with the now flagship journal Social Studies of Science for a reduced rate for members. Interesting to consider a time when our primary professional society was haggling with journals for better prices from printed materials.

The report on STS programs in the US is more preliminary than conclusive, but it does identify 175 STS programs in various forms even in ’76. The “Eclectic-STS” category is particularly interesting, and the programs are detailed in the issue.


The issue concludes with some recent publications, new job appointments (apparently, Paul Allison just landed his first job at Cornell that year),

14 thoughts on “4S Volume 1 Issue 3 (Spring, 1976)

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  4. Pingback: 3:1 — Post-STS — 1 of 3 | Installing (Social) Order

  5. believe me I get the desire for community/like-minds that’s why I’m here (so to speak) in the blogosphere for all its all too real limits but I wonder if the achievements of STS/ANT types like journals, conferences, “centers” (minus ya know infrastructure/funding/etc) and all that comes short of independent tenure track depts of their/our own doesn’t just muddy the waters (at best, at worst becomes the kind of bait&switch false advertising/catalogs that I fell for) for untenured faculty/instructors, and students who are thinking about what to spend their resources on/in, especially grad students. As for research vs teaching that’s a broader problem and needless to say that money talks lecturing walks…


  6. Interesting claim: lost toys of the world unite … under STS! More of a battle cry than a description; more normative than empirical. Seems reasonable. Still, I would guess that dmfant agrees roughly with this too: an island of lost toys struggles to find support that is sustained beyond the founding fathers or supportive deans … there is a story like somewhere close to me, very, very close to me. https://installingorder.org/2013/03/27/sts-program-at-penn-state/


  7. Also in general: I remember reading that newsletter issue in particular – especially the Merton talk and the announcements. I was stunned by the tone of Merton´s talk: he sounded just like us, I thought, which is funny given the classic history of STS that we are used to tell (“from the darkness of Mertonian Sociology of Science STS arises”).

    Also: as a member of the “Sektion Wissenschaftsforschung” and a former Bielefeldian I find it totally interesting that next to PAREX (the Paris-Essex Exchange, a forerunner of EASST) the German “Sektion” was so early involved. I “grew up” in a “Wissenschaftsforschung” that is, at least in tendency, opposed to STS and far more disciplined (pun intended). Funny to see that in 1976 it was part of an emerging STS…


  8. The talk of interdisciplinary work — at least in the golden 70s, maybe still today — might have served also another purpose: Support projects of building and setting up new departments by doing legitimation work. The hope must have been, I suppose, that those who do feel more at home outside their discipline might be able to build new homes in a solid inter-disciplne. The fact that the same issue LISTS new departments would support that, too…


  9. oh yeah, I bought into it (literally with my now worthless doctorate) as I couldn’t find any one department/field that was covering the actual (on the ground if you will) happenings of human-beings but it all too quickly became apparent that for all the on paper (and lipservice) hype (that is stilling going on in some quarters) that the political realities of dept “silos” weren’t going away anytime soon. Part of why I find it too hard to mourn the end of higher-ed as we knew it, too bad the changes couldn’t have come from inside instead of from corporate raiders, c’est la vie I suppose…


  10. Good question. My read is that you’re right. Whatever cool hype there was gave way to dead tenure lines. Beyond that, most STSers are not in STS departments; we live in other departments such as sociology or history. Still, in 1976: the hype must have been palpable for Robert Merton to be singing their praises …


  11. my sense is that for all the hype interdisciplinary was and is DOA in terms of tenure/funding/etc is that wrong?


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