In response to increased attention to the mental health challenges of graduate students GECC has put together a mental health resource page. This is a project in progress if you have additional information or resources you think we should share please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please join us on Friday, November 10 at 9:00-10:30am for the Annual GECC Women’s Mentorship Event. Sponsored for the first time in conjunction with the Women’s Caucus, this informal roundtable features a handful of invited women scholars in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. With both facilitation from GECC Mentorship Officers and ample time for questions from participants, we aim to create a safe space to discuss issues that female-identifying persons in the field deal with on a day-to-day basis, from work-life balance, sexism and negotiating the job market, to mentorship, professionalization and career development.
This year’s panelists include:
Aileen Fyfe (University of St. Andrews, Scotland)
Ruby Heap (University of Ottawa, Canada)
Sally Kohlstedt (University of Minnesota, USA)
Megan Raby (University of Texas-Austin, USA)
Myrna Perez Sheldon (Ohio University, USA)
Adelheid Voskuhl (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
Please RSVP to Kris Palmieri by November 5 at email@example.com.
For more information, contact Kris and check the Meeting Program for the Women’s Caucus Breakfast. The event will be held immediately following the breakfast in the same location.
For our final interview of the summer we’re profiling the “In Vivo” section of the history of science journal Endeavour. To learn more about “In Vivo” and other aspects of the journal I spoke with co-editors Joseph D. Martin and Richard Bellon. Joe is a historian of American physical sciences and technology and is currently a teaching associate in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge. Previously, he taught at Michigan State University and Colby College and was a research fellow at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Rich is a historian of British science and holds a joint appointment at Lyman Briggs College and the Department of History at Michigan State. In addition to history courses Rich teaches classes on science policy in biotechnology and biomedicine.
Sarah Naramore- Could you tell us a little bit about Endeavour, and specifics on “In Vivo”?
Joseph Martin- Endeavour is a general interest history of science journal. We focus on publishing accessibly written scholarship, image-rich articles, and increasingly its becoming a forum for non-traditional article formats. We offer a great deal of editorial care to early career scholars and non-native English speakers, which distinguishes us from other journals. We’re also focusing on making it a forum for cohesive papers that speak to some larger issue in the profession.
Richard Bellon- “In Vivo” is part of our larger attempt to provide a forum for different types of writing beyond simply the review of academic monographs or the traditional research essay.
SN- Who do you picture as the audience for “In Vivo”?
RB- The primary audience is other scholars, but we want this to be not just necessarily for specialists, but historians of science or people in science and technology studies more broadly. A recent article on education policy, “Knowing by Number: Learning Math for Thinking Well,” captures what we want In Vivo to accomplish. It was written by Christopher J. Philips, who had previously done two things which I thought were extremely good. One, is an article in Isis on postwar American math-education policy with all of the Isis apparatus, really densely researched. He also wrote a really nice op-ed that appeared in The New York Times. “In Vivo” aims to be somewhere in between those. Not with the density that you would have for writing for fellow specialists, but with more of the apparatus and detail and more of the intellectual scaffolding than you could get away with in The New York Times.
JM- “In Vivo” came out of discussions about what we could do with Endeavour that other journals weren’t doing at the time. This was about the time when forums like Aeon and Medium were starting to gain a lot of traction. There was a lot of excellent stuff written by historians of science in those to reach a popular audience, and it seemed to us that there was this space in between to draw connections between history and contemporary issues with the scholarly rigor you expect in a research article.
SN- Do you feel that there is any particular role in public debate or policy that you’re hoping to foster? What skills do historians bring to some of these policy questions?
JM- We share the conviction that the role historians play in these issues is not as big as it could be or should be. Naomi Oreskes wrote eloquently about this in the Isis Focus Section on The History Manifesto. She said that we can reject the either-or model of scholarly versus popular and strive to present our work in a manner that is both. One of the things that we hope sections like “In Vivo” can do is encourage people to practice the skills that are required to build those connections and make our discipline more welcoming to people who might find it useful in cultural contexts and policy contexts.
RB- Being able to bring our historical knowledge to bear on a contemporary issue requires a different skillset. Giving people a place to apply those types of skills is important. I think historians can help break us out of these calcified political and cultural divisions and attitudes. We know where we stand on these kinds of things because this is where our tribe stands on these things, and where our tribe stands may be contingent. Taking a longer view offers a richer understanding of the issues that we face, that aren’t as inflected with whatever is trending now on Twitter. However, a standing problem for any type of scholar who tries to engage contemporary issues, is avoiding backlash and preventing your scholarship from being infected with your current tribal positions or your cultural or political positions. A distorting presentism is a real danger which we’re trying to minimize with “In Vivo” through scholarly apparatus and review.
SN- “In Vivo” might be the first time for a scholar moving in this direction, what are you looking for editorially and how do you help shape something towards that goal?
RB- We think we think about this as teachers. Knowledge of what works in a classroom and what doesn’t work can help us shape this for people without a deep grounding in the specialist literature. We try to shape that by trying to minimize technical jargon and push for readability in a way that I don’t think is tremendously different than a lot of editorial processes work.
JM- I think there are a couple of components. It’s the topic, which Rich mentioned- is this something people are going to care about and understand the significance of when you state it to them simply? Does it effectively demonstrate how history can help us understand that topic is a big component of that? Is it based on trenchant scholarship? I think the hardest part for a lot of professional historians is style. Can I read this 2,500 to 4,000 or 5,000-word article without getting tired? That is what a lot of our back and forth about these articles ends up being. We find that our authors have a good sense of the topic. They know the history inside and out. They can explain why it’s important, but often don’t have much practice writing in an engaging way. That’s something that we try to balance- the rigor with an engaging style that makes it understandable to wider audiences.
RB- I think that the way we teach is interesting. If you’re teaching you can’t just go in and assume things are endlessly fascinating to everybody. One of the rookie mistakes that I made when first teaching an introduction to history, philosophy and sociology of science is that I built the class around the idea that we already know that this is fascinating. That didn’t work. The first thing I had to do was convince students that this material is interesting in the first place. I think with our own writing, we always write with the assumption that our readers will find it interesting. We don’t do that type of evangelism the way we do in a classroom. I think there are some transferrable skills there between good teaching and more accessible writing. Because Endeavour is a peer-reviewed journal when you’re applying for jobs or going through annual review that it counts in a way that fits traditional molds. One of the things that we are looking at trying to do with “In Vivo” is giving people the opportunity to do this type of writing in ways that will get, that will look good on the CV.
SN- Can you give tell us a bit about what’s new?
JM- We have implemented a number of changes in the journal recently. In addition to “In Vivo,” we have also expanded our review section. Traditionally, the Endeavour review section was monograph reviews, and in the past couple of issues, we have started opening up the review section to reviews of novels, films, video games, museum exhibits, and any other type of medium that is relevant to the history of science, technology, and medicine. We certainly encourage anyone who wants to review something like that to get in touch with our Reviews and Commentary editor, Layne Karafantis.
SN- There’s the “Lost and Found” section as well, right?
JM- The “Lost and Found” section of Endeavour started under our predecessor, John Waller, and is edited by Ebony Andrews. It’s a section that does short articles on history of science ephemera. One we had recently that was particularly interesting was this article by Henrik Kylin, who discovered a photograph of his grandmother.
RB- It was a book actually, published before World War II by a Norwegian race scientist. The author’s grandmother was one of the first women to go to Uppsala University. The race scientists thought she was the embodiment of Nordic womanhood, and so in this book on race type, there is a picture of a naked woman! The author as a very young boy stumbled across this book and, as he was flipping through it, asks, “Dad, what is this? Who is this?” And [his] Dad said, “Well, that’s your grandma.” Then he reflects upon not only his own reaction by what it means that this “science” existed in the first place. It’s really an interesting way of taking an object and reflecting upon what it means both historically and in a contemporary sense.
JM- And the lovely irony in that article is that his grandmother was Jewish, being held up as the Aryan ideal.
RB- One of the characteristics of not just “Lost and Found,” but “In Vivo” as well, is the level of the personal. The hallmark of most of our academic writing is it’s depersonalized. “In Vivo” and “Lost and Found” allow people to bring themselves into their scholarship. It exists when we’re talking about it over beers with each other, but gets scraped away in the professional record. That’s also an aspect of what we’re trying to accomplish.
SN- Any final thoughts or suggestions before we sign off?
JM- Some rough and ready advice I would give, is that you shouldn’t be shy about getting in touch with the editor. Often, if you have an informal conversation over email about your idea for an article, that will help you better frame it for that particular journal. We’re certainly open to that. In my experience, most journal editors are open to having those conversations because it makes their job easier down the line. It makes it easier to evaluate the work that comes in. It ensures that the work that is coming in has been framed thoughtfully for the purpose and mission of the journal. It’s a collaboration and not a game.
RB- The more of these collaborative relationships you can build, the better. Like any profession, a lot of it is networking, seeking and offering guidance, mentorship. Talking to people who can help you through the process of publication can be really valuable, and like I said before, at Endeavour, we take a particular pride in working with early career scholars for that reason.
Richard Bellon and Joseph Martin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Layne Karafantis, Reviews Editor: email@example.com
Ebony Andrews, Features Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher J. Philips, “Knowing by Number: Learning Math for Thinking Well,” Endevour, 41.1 (March 2017): 8-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.endeavour.2016.11.001
Naomi Oreskes, “Let’s Make History More Welcoming,” Isis, 107.2 (June 2016): 348-350. http://doi.org/10.1086/687214
Kenrik Kylin, “The Missing Skull- Professor Lundborg and the mismeasure of grandma,” Endeavour, 40.2 (June 2016): 131-134. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.endeavour.2016.03.001
In this second post of the summer we’re highlighted the work of the digital magazine Lady Science. In the interview below I spoke with co-editors and creators of Lady Science Anna Reser and Leila McNeill. Leila is currently an independent researcher and freelance writer. She studied History of Science at the University of Oklahoma and Literary Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. Anna is a PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma in History of Science, and previously studied art at the University of New Mexico.
Sarah Naramore: Where did the idea for Lady Science come from? Also, what were the steps you needed to take to go from idea for full-fledged digital magazine?
Leila McNeill: I don’t think we had that idea in mind when we started. It was the year after I had left OU [University of Oklahoma]. Anna was a year behind me and we wanted to keep working together so we started a women in science newsletter. It started as a TinyLetter, just us writing some essays, and it got popular quickly. It became clear that it couldn’t just be a newsletter anymore. There was more potential to it than just us writing a newsletter every month.
Anna Reser: Yeah, once we realized that there was a potential audience, I think that was motivating to try to figure out ways to grow the project and kind of knuckle down and be like, “Well, people are going to read this. We should be serious about it.” Think about the future of what we want to do and start making some plans. We just kind of jumped into it. Once we got a little bit of a readership, that was sort of all the push that I think we needed.
SN: What is the readership at this point like?
LM: It’s a lot of different people. It started out, with the H-Net post and most of the people signed up in that initial launch were historians and academics. Then, over that first year, it steadily grew beyond just academics. Then we got covered in Slate on the “Bad Astronomy” blog, and that brought in a lot of more science-y people, not just history people. And we’ve gotten a couple surprising plugs as well. One was from a fashion and makeup magazine that featured us in a Snapchat thing. So it’s really cool that we’ve been able to see how this content appeals to so many different people.
AR: I don’t know what our numbers are right now. We’re a little bit spread out over different platforms. We still have the TinyLetter. We’re syndicating with the The New Inquiry, and then we have our own website. We have about 580 TinyLetter subscribers.
SN: On that note, would you describe your content a bit? Is there anything that’s been recently published that you’re excited about?
AR: We don’t focus just on women as practitioners in science. We look at women as having been objects of scientific inquiry, like the gendered understandings of nature and science and we’ve had several issues unpacking that, and we also look more, at the structural things going on there. So not only do I think we tell different stories about women in the history of science, I think we also tell stories about science.
LM: What makes us different than others writing about women in history of science is that we don’t do profiles. And we don’t like to that whole unsung women in the history of science type of stuff. We like to do more critical theorizing about things. Right now we’ve got our special series on “Fascism, Gender, and Science”. Part of that was because we wanted to address things that people were thinking about with what’s going on right now, and give people a historical context for where we’re at. I think historians always have a lot to offer when it comes to that, and I think that a lot of academics don’t know how to do that or don’t know what platforms are out there.
SN: Speaking of practice, that leads into something else that I wanted to talk about, your collaborative editorial process. Why is that something important that you and how does it affect the magazine?
AR: When we first decided to have outside contributors, one of the things that we were really adamant about was that there wasn’t going to be any revise and resubmit kind of journal-type format. We wanted it to be more like a traditional magazine in that you would submit a pitch instead of a finished piece, and that the process would be a collaborative one between writer and editor. As an editor, one of the most surprising things that I found about working on this project after we started having other people write for us is how rewarding I find that process and how useful it is for me as a writer to have editing experience. I have found it really rewarding and really a rich experience to work with all these different types of writers and to get to know their style, and it’s nice to hear that the work that you did with someone is something they’re proud of.
LM: Yeah, I like that we personally respond to all of the pitches. We are the ones who edit them. We use Google Docs on purpose because it is collaborative and you can see who is doing what. We do have a certain style and word count that we have to stick to so that there is some consistency that our readers come to expect from us. But we’re also really careful to try not to change someone’s voice and tone and that they get to write the way that they want to, or the way that feels good for them or natural for them. We want them to feel that at the end of it that it wasn’t just a chop job that we did because it was what we wanted. We want it to be something that they’re also happy with and proud of.
I’ve been freelancing a little bit, and there is just so much variation in the way that editors work and the things that they expect from their writers and that they expect from cold calls or prior relationship pitches or whatever. I wish it was the way that we did it everywhere because it’s meant to be welcoming to people who don’t have experience, sort of writing out there in digital media. And I think that sets the tone for a less adversarial kind of interaction. You know what we want and you show us what you want and we will work together on it.
SN: If people are interested in writing, what would you be interested in hearing about?
AR: We are always accepting pitches on our website. Fill out the form, it will send us an email, and we’ll get back to you usually within a week. If we decide to go ahead and assign it, we will send you a writing guideline, and ask that, if you haven’t already, look through some old issues to get a feel for the essays that we publish. Then we’ll assign you a month to write in, set some deadlines up, and then you can get started. Right now, we’re particularly interested in more non-western history of science as well as pre-modern. Can we add one thing about our crowdfunding? Right now we are crowdfunding using Patreon in order to expand how much content we can offer and also to be able to host all of our content ourselves.
LM: Yeah and did we mention that we do pay you for the essays? If you pitch and we assign you a piece, it’s $50 per piece. Because of that, we’re locked into only two essays per issue, but it would be really nice if we could do more than two essays.
SN: Is there anything, looking over your experience with you found important or surprising, just either from the experience of putting this together or the feedback you’ve gotten from people?
LM: Any of it! That we’re still sitting here talking about it at all!
AR: I think part of the reason for that is that there are a lot of things that we didn’t know that we would be able to do until we did them, and for me, that was the big lesson of this project. We would talk about doing something, and we would be like, “Do you have any idea how to do that?” “No, do you?” “Well, I will just figure it out.” So everything was like that. It’s also much less scary, I think, to say “I have no idea how to do that; I will just figure it out,” if you’re not doing it alone. So forming and growing our partnership has been really rewarding, both for us as friends but also all of the things that I’ve learned how to do because I have Leila’s support. If we’re just going to jump into something, I know that if I screw it up, she’s there to back me up or fix it. It becomes a lot easier to try new things and learn new skills. That’s something that is a really important part of the project to me personally that was also surprising.
LM: I feel the same. I never would have done any of this on my own for sure, and something that was surprising—the full-time thing that I did outside of the thing that I got paid for, I turned out to be okay at it, and something that I want to be doing as a full-time thing eventually. That part of it, the personal trajectory is a thing that I would probably never have done without being partners with Anna. So it’s been really rewarding. We do try to have, to make it feel like a team. Academia can be so isolating. Even if you’re in a cohort together, at the end of the day you still go back to your thing, to your books, alone, sad, crying in fear. Whatever your method is.
Last February, graduate students at Yale University hosted a conference entitled “Critical Histories, Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence.” To kick off our summer blog series I spoke with one of the organizers, Sarah Pickman. Sarah is a PhD student in History of Science at Yale. Her research centers on the history of exploration, anthropology, and natural history of polar regions in the long-nineteenth century. In our conversation, we discussed the goals and outcomes of the conference and continuing activism among Yale graduate students in history of science. Below is an edited portion of our interview followed by links to resource and communities Sarah recommended for further reading.
Sarah Naramore: Could you give us a quick introduction about the conference?
Sarah Pickman: The full title was, “Critical Histories, Activist Futures: Science, Medicine, and Racial Violence, Critical Histories” as shorthand, which took place February 24 and 25 at Yale. Most of the conference occurred at the School of Medicine at Yale in the Medical Historical Library, our unofficial home of the history of science and medicine program (HSHM). The speakers were a mix of current graduate students, faculty, and healthcare providers and the moderators were all Yale faculty. There were a mix of history of science and medicine professors and also instructors and clinicians from the medical school. And in addition to the five panels, we also had a lunch session that focused on combining scholarship and activism, moderated by one of my colleagues in HSHM, Maya Sandler. The discussants were current medical students and PhD students in history and history of science and medicine.
We found that one of the perks of putting out a wide call for papers and asking for people from different backgrounds was that the attendance was really mixed as well. We had about 150 people over the course of the weekend. Yale has a medical school, a public health school, and a nursing school, so there were people who registered from all of those schools. There were also some undergrads. And we had a lot of non-Yale attendees. So that was one benefit. And in terms of how it actually went off, we tried to put people together thematically, rather than based on what field they represented.
SN: Did the conference foster cross-discipline dialogue and what was the value of such dialogue?
SP: Yeah. One of the things that we found out in the process of organizing this conference—and I should also say that the official conference organizations are a group of HSHM grad students who are doing something called the History of Science and Justice Collective. The HSJC website has a section for the conference, but we’re a group of students in the program who want to bring social justice into our work and what we do as young scholars. That was the official organizing body for the conference. One of the things that we found when we were putting together our CFP, we really wanted to get a broad spectrum of people and we wanted to bring people in from outside of academia. But once we had to do that, it was more challenging than we had naively assumed, because as an academic program, we don’t have a lot of links to the immediate community outside of Yale’s walls. In fact, Yale has historically had a really bad relationship with the larger New Haven community, based on things that have come out of the medical research that Yale has done and services that it has provided to the community, which is not a story that is unique to Yale. So one of the challenges for us, thinking about our role, is that we’re graduate students at this very privileged university. How do we go about doing something that has social justice in the name? What’s our position in that? We really had to do some soul searching in the process of putting this conference together
The whole idea started about a year ago, this past spring. There were a group of us in HSHM who were inspired by the activism that came out of the undergrad community at Yale. Things like Next Yale and people may be familiar with the protests around Calhoun College and the imagery around campus and certain aspects of Yale that undergrads really led the charge in trying to change. We were inspired by that, and a group of us sat down together and said, “What can we do as grad students in this institution?” So that’s where the History of Science and Justice Collective came from. The first thing that we did was call the Fall Forum, which is a group of speakers that we brought to campus this past fall semester, and then the conference. So now that the conference is over, we’re trying to figure out what our next steps are and ways that we can kind of carry those conversations on.
There was a group of us within the Collective who signed on specifically to handle some of the logistics. I did local arrangements. My colleagues, Tess Lanzarotta and Marco Ramos, headed up the programming committee, and we wrote a CFP together. They read all the abstracts with some of our other colleagues and put the program together. And then we’re very fortunate here that we have wonderful program administrators who helped me pull together the logistics of a conference for 150 people.
SN: Yeah! It’s no joke!
SP: Yeah. I’m happy to talk individually about the steps of putting together something like that. In fact, one of our pieces of follow-up, we’ve been putting together a document to help others. We had this idea that we would like to take this Critical Histories, Activist Futures lens on the road and maybe use it as a template that other universities can use when they’re hosting conferences. We could have Critical Histories, Activist Futures 2 hosted by another school, so one of the things that we’re doing is putting together a document with everybody’s experiences that we hope will be useful for whoever takes this up next, and we hope that somebody does.
SN: So much of what we do as historians is solitary, each in our own little box. It is so singular, and it seems like what a lot of this is doing, the idea of groups like this and collaboration, is really sort of breaking down some of those walls as well.
SP: One of the things that came out of this conference, and which for a lot of us was one of the most exciting parts was the lunch panel on combining scholarship and activism. We had two discussants from Yale medical school—Maya Sandler, my colleague who is in my cohort kind of moderated. We had two of our colleagues from the broader history department, Viet Trinh and Amanda Joyce Hall, and a student from the medical school at Brown. Also it should be mentioned that Viet wrote an open letter published on the blog Conversation X. And that was one of our inspirations. He talked about a high-ranking Yale administrator who at an open house that happened about two years ago and made a dismissive comment basically saying that, “Diversity awareness is the purview of people in the humanities and social sciences, but that it’s not really relevant or easy to teach it to people in the sciences or the medical fields.”
The idea was to get them talking and then get the whole room talking about how we could combine scholarship and activism, because a lot of the pushback that people who are passionate about these things have gotten is that activism is the sort of activity that you could do on the side. But really, as a graduate student, the focus needs to be on your work. It’s like the activism part is separate from the scholarship, and so we wanted to get people to think about the really practical ideas about how they see combining this things, whether it’s—somebody brought up a great idea, a great insight, that if you are working on a particular community, but you don’t produce work that that community is familiar with, if you only write in English, and let’s say you’re working on populations that aren’t majority English-speaking, that is one way that your work is isolated from those people and kind of replicates some of the power dynamics that we don’t want to replicate.
But you don’t have to have as dramatic examples of that in your work to bring, to have a justice-minded scholarship, whether it is acknowledging where the absences are in your work, that you’re only working on certain communities while other voices haven’t been recorded in the historical record or things like that. I mean, I, on a personal level, I work on dead white men. In the nineteenth centuries, and they’re American and British white men. So this is something that I have been trying to think about a lot and sort of you know, not just saying, “Oh, my historical actors are all white dudes, so my project can’t be activist in some way,” and trying to think through how to challenge that.
SN: To start wrapping up, do you have anything coming up in the pipeline that you would like to share?
SP: Definitely the listserv. We’re going to start with the Google listserv and then see where that goes, so that is email@example.com. We’re [the History of Science and Justice Collective] also on Facebook and Twitter, and we’re also thinking about more traditional academic ways to follow up the conference, so we’re pitching conference reports. That will be good to have a permanent record of that weekend. What we’re most interested in doing is following up the conversations that happened with actual further steps and not just saying, “Oh, this was a great academic event. Let’s memorialize it in text somewhere and do something else.” But that part is going to take a little bit of figuring out. Again, that’s part of the process of trying to integrate scholarship and activism, figuring out exactly how we’re going to do that in a way that people find useful and how we’re going to connect with our colleagues at other academic institutions and outside academic institutions.
Want to learn more about social justice and scholarship? Check out the following:
- History of Science and Justice Collective- http://historysciencejustice.wordpress.com/
- Viet Trinh’s open letter (edited by Amanda Joyce Hall) on scientists’ need to understand the history of science as essential to their work- http://www.conversationx.com/2015/12/01/on-science-and-racial-violence/
- And some sources that helped Sarah :“think about how even ‘pale, male, and stale’ historical actors can be the focus of scholarship and activism”- Donna Zuckerberg “How to Be a Good Classicist Under a Bad Emperor”,; Johanna Hanink “More Women Classicists Need to Write Big”; Sierra Lomuto, “White Nationalism and the Ethics of Medieval Studies”; Nicole M. Wright “Alt-Right Jane Austen”.