Essay Narrative: STS Publications

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The STS Publications digital collection showcases a wide variety of scholarly journals that publish STS research. The collection is not meant to be a comprehensive repository of all “STS” journals; rather we have aimed to showcase the diversity of orientations, contexts, and infrastructures that are shaping contemporary STS scholarship. In all, the collection features 13 journals, additionally, we have also borrowed digital collections focused on East Asian Science, Technology, and Society: An International Journal (EASTS) and Science & Technology Studies, which have been prepared independently for the STS Across Borders digital collection by other exhibitors. We discuss our methodology and potential limitations further in the “Elaborations” section, for now, we note that this is very likely the only such repository focused on STS Publications. Based on our reading of this collection, we offer here a few tentative observations about emerging trends and challenges for STS academic journals with the goal of broadening the vision for STS (in keeping with the sensibility that orients STS Across Borders), and toward orienting future iterations of this digital collection.

 

New Publications

The sheer number of new STS publications launched in recent years is noteworthy. These include, for instance, 4S’s Open Access journal, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, and Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society. Diverse intellectual and epistemological commitments have motivated some to advance sustained scholarship in particular domains such as feminist technoscience (Catalyst) and historical, social, and philosophical studies of engineers and engineering (Engineering Studies). Others have been motivated by a recognition of the asymmetries that characterize academic publishing in STS – East Asian Science, Technology, and Society: An International Journal (EASTS), Tapuya, and at an earlier historical moment, Science, Technology and Society, have all been established to provide avenues for scholarly publishing to scholarship emanating outside of established Euro-American centers. Reflecting on the motivations behind establishing Tapuya, for example, founding editor Leandro Rodriguez-Medina notes that

the main goal/motivation was to launch a new platform to increase the visibility of LatAm STS scholarship, which has been growing in the last decades. Additionally, another motivation was to think how to resist global practices of power imbalances (i.e. centers and peripheries in knowledge production) by developing a project in which Southern and Northern scholarly cultures can be bridged while recognizing their differences and asymmetries.

Venni V. Krishna similarly emphasizes the lack of quality avenues for publication for scholars in the global South as a key factor toward the establishment of Science, Technology and Society in the mid-1990s. Alongside the emergence of such new journals, we also witness newer thinking on the forms and purpose of scholarship, modes of access, as well as questions of how best to productively leverage regional, linguistic, and intellectual pluralism that already characterize the field of STS writ large. We draw out some of these ideas briefly in the following sections.

New Genre Forms

Across several STS Publications, we witness the emergence of new genre forms of writing. While research articles, special issues, and book reviews – which have traditionally characterized the academic publishing space – continue to remain the dominant genres of publication, we can also witness several new and experimental forms of writing across various journals. Often, as in the case of Engineering Studies, new genre forms arise out of an explicit commitment – that Gary Downey labels “critical participation” – to connect scholarship to audiences beyond particular fields and beyond university settings more generally. Others, as is the case with Catalyst, have imagined new and innovative genres, such as the “Lab Meeting” and the “News in Focus” sections curated by Banu Subramaniam and Deboleena Roy, as timely responses to ongoing political developments and global events. Similar impulses also orient the many different genre forms that 4S’s Open Access journal, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society publishes as well, or the widely popular “Special Forums” that Science as Culture has been publishing for several years now. Collectively, these journals outline a vision for an “engaged” STS, while also charging us to recognize a wide range of scholarly engagements – evident in teaching, mentoring, program development, and policy work, for example – as forms of scholarship.

Taking seriously the diverse writing experiments  that STS publications are collectively enacting brings forth a number of issues that will need figuring out. For instance, many of these emerging genres – by design – are dialogical, deeply collaborative, and involving multiple authors. These stand in stark contrast to the tradition of single-authored monographs that are the norm in STS and allied fields. How do norms/standards of authorship and associated questions of reward and recognition need to be updated in light of these new forms of writing? Are existing models of peer review adequate for authorizing such scholarship as knowledge? And what new kinds of STS knowledge result from these emerging genres forms? The STS Publications collection stands to provide a good basis from which to pursue these questions.

 

Open(ing) Access

Questions of access are prominently foregrounded in the STS Publications digital collection. In different ways, various journals are grappling with issues of widening access to scholarship and generating necessary infrastructures to further a generalized commitment to the “global exchange of knowledge.” Moreover, two recent controversies, one involving the journal HAU and the other involving the growing number of predatory journals in many national contexts, also point to the need for a broad-based discussion toward creating robust infrastructures and governance mechanisms that can support readily accessible scholarship.

And indeed, we can witness an emerging trend towards more Open Access scholarship: prominent professional societies such as 4S and EASST both now support open access journals: Engaging Science, Technology, and Society and Science & Technology Studies respectively (even though 4S’s flagship journal, Science, Technology, & Human Values still remains, as Ed Hackett notes, an “academic journal that is owned and published by a for-profit publisher with a traditional financial model,” creating its own set of challenges). Several newer ones including Tapuya and Catalyst have also been recently launched. Others that have had a longer existence, such as the Revue d’Anthropologie des Connaissances and most STS publications out of Latin America, have been Open Access for some time now. The journal Cultural Anthropology, which has been an important site for empirical, theoretical, and methodological elaborations in the Anthropology of Science and Technology, has notably been at the forefront of articulating what is intellectually and politically at stake in creating robust Open Access scholarship in response to, what Fortun and Fortun (2015) label, “an infrastructural moment in the human sciences.”

A closer look at the publication models of various journals, however, reveals a significant diversity of approaches and practices that are all gathered under the umbrella of “Open Access”: the actual mechanisms of publication (questions involving whether authors pay a submission fees or not, for example), publishers (universities, professional societies, and private for-profit for example), regimes of copyright, etc. all vary in non-trivial ways. A future iteration of the STS Publications collection would, therefore, be well-served by drawing out the specificities of Open Access publishing that characterize each of these journals and the particular challenges and opportunities that each presents. More generally, as Catalyst notes in its editorial policies, opening access and generating supporting infrastructures, reflexively foregrounds issues pertaining to the relationship between knowledge, digital technologies, and material labor – an avenue rife for further investigation by STS scholars.  

 

STS Across Languages

The STS Publications digital collection, we contend, also provides an excellent grounding from which to imagine STS Across Languages. The STS Across Borders collection richly demonstrates the different genealogies of STS scholarship across various formations. Notably, not all these formations speak the same language. We purposefully perform this dimension of STS scholarship when we include the original, unedited response to our survey in Spanish of Lucas Becerra, one of the editors of the Argentina-based journal, REDES: Revista de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología. 

To be mutually intelligible, then, will require infrastructures for connection and translation. There are several ways in which STS journals have thought about this challenge: several journals, notably out of Latin America, allow for publication in many languages (typically Spanish, English, and Portuguese). Others, like the Revue d’Anthropologie des Connaissances (R.A.C.), publish primarily in French, but also produce essay abstracts and metadata simultaneously in English, French, and Spanish, to make their essays more widely discoverable. R.A.C. also publishes introductory essays in each of its themed volumes simultaneously in all three languages as well.

What are the challenges of articulating a multi-lingual STS? What slippages inhere while translating across contexts? How might attending to these concerns help respond to the provocation for a richly TRANSnational STS issued by the 2018 4S Sydney annual conference, enacted, among other things, through careful translations of the conference theme into multiple languages?

License

Creative Commons Licence

Created date

August 15, 2018

Critical Commentary

This essay offers an overview of the STS Publications collection.

Source

Original commentary provided by STS Publications authors.

Language

English

Group Audience