Beginning in September 2019, we will send out a monthly PECE newsletter.
Be sure to sign-up to receive development updates, tips, and to learn how others are using PECE! 
Have a question about PECE? Be sure to post it on the PECE Slack Channel.

Engineering Studies: Engagements


I maintain that any scholarly field must transport the images it nominates beyond the boundaries of the field in order to be successful. 

Downey and Zhang 2015: 23

In a recently published interview, Gary Downey explains his dissapointment with continued privileging of the "linear model" of knowledge production, diffusion, and utilization that still dominates professional work among STS scholars, even though that model has been thoroughly discredited in the field writ large. Scholarship-as-we-don't-do-it-anymore, Downey explains, still continues to exert great pressure on how STS continues to operate -- evidenced for instance, in the continued salience of conventional indices of scholarship such as publications and conference panels and presentations. Not discounting the importance of robust scholarship, Downey nonetheless argues that what counts as scholarship itself must dramatically expanded to more fully map on to the range of activities that scholars actually do, including for example, teaching, policy work, and participation in various committees. Doing so, Downey explains, results in "refiguring the contents and relations among knowledge production and expression [...], and the travels of [...] knowledge beyond the boundaries of the field" (Downey and Zhang 2015: 4). Downey names his approach to achieving such broadening as critical participation: "practices that articulate, or connect, research-based analysis to other scholarly activities that critically inflect arenas beyond the field, or discipline" (Downey and Zhang 2015: 13).

The notion of critical participation thus disrupts straightforward distinctions between scholarship and engagement, arguing instead for a greatly expanded conception of scholarship that more closely maps on to the range of activities that scholars often undertake. Since the founding of the journal, Downey has successively refined this articulation of engineering studies as producing (following Italian political philosopher, Antonio Gramsci) "Scalable Scholarship," as "Critical Participation," and as a form of "Making & Doing" (drawing on an understanding of knowledge-production and dissemination as a nonlinear process).

One way of mobilizing this understanding in Engineering Studies has been to expand the types of contributions that the journal publishes. Starting Volume 5, two new categories of publication were introduced: Issues in Engineering Studies, and Critical Participation.

Essays published under the category Issues in Engineering Studies  seek to advance the journal's second stated goal, i.e. to become "a site for scholars to deliberate and debate issues of importance to the field" (Downey and Zhang 2015: 25). Contributions published as part of Issues in Engineering Studies feature collectively peer-reviewed (single-blind) 2000-4000 word commentaries that respond "to a prompt from a guest editor, articulating practices, stances, and commitments." Questions orienting such contributions include:

How might engineering studies scholarship better advance understanding of the situated commitments and practices of engineers and engineering? How might it better participate critically in practices of engineering education, labor, policy, research, and representation?

Downey 2009: 177

Downey attributes the idea for this publication category to historians of science who, according to him, have put this mode of exchange to good use. He further elaborates:

 I like the idea because, as my colleague Matt Wisnioski once put it in conversation, the role of the academic journal is changing; it is increasingly a gathering site for scholars, a place where people come together. No one has yet approached me to do a theme issue, but I see this as crucial to infrastructure-building for Engineering Studies. If the journal’s going to increase intellectual solidarity in a material sense, then it must invite scholars into active conversations, or at least share short two- or three-page position statements on a given issue. I think the format will become popular over the long term. One worry is that it might not be clear how to cite a lengthy conversation or debate, or to count those citations.

Downey and Zhang 2015: 25

In Volume 7, the journal published a double issue guest edited by Louis Bucciarelli and David Drew, Liberal Studies in Engineering. These are the only essays ever published by the journal under the Isssues in Engineering Studies category. As of volume 10, this category of publication has been discontinued.

The other category of publication that Engineering Studies introduced in Volume 5 was called Critical Participation. This mode of publication was imagined as responding to the journal's third aim of becoming a space for "sharing and discussing practices of making and doing." Explains Downey: 

Too often people come up with great ideas and practices that they don’t subsequently share. The practices live and die with them. So I’m actively soliciting manuscripts in which scholars show or describe what they are attempting to accomplish among engineers through Engineering StudiesI want to document and help share the range of ways that creative scholars are participating critically in arenas populated by engineers and engineering, both to advance quality knowledge and to address limitations in existing dominant images.

Downey and Zhang 2015: 25-26

Critical Participation essays that Engineering Studies has published have thus far featured reflections on pedagogy and the development of international collaborations grounded in engineering studies. Kacey Beddoes, the journal's Deputy Editor, points out that Gary Downey's inaugural essay, What is Engineering Studies For?, is an early example of a Critical Participation essay as well, even though the category was formally introduced only several years later. In addition, the journal has also published several reports from workshops conducted by engineering studies scholars. 

Currently, the Engineering Studies website explains that the journal publishes the following essay types: Research Monographs, Critical Participation in Engineering Studies, Book Reviews, Reports, and Editorials, Guest Editorials, and Special Issues.


Creative Commons Licence



Created date

August 7, 2018

Critical Commentary

This text describes the broadening of the very notion of scholarship that has been at stake in the journal, Engineering Studies.


Text crafted based on Downey's published interview, journal editorials, and information avilable on journal website. 



Group Audience