Tecnoscienza, Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies – Short-Circuits, Alternative Geographies and New Paths for Scientific Publishing in STS

by The Editorial Coordination

Tecnoscienza – Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies (www.tecnoscienza.net) is an independent online peer-reviewed journal, released under the Creative Common license. As we also stated in the opening of the very first issue of the journal, we could define Tecnoscienza as the outcome of an intellectual and academic short-circuit.

From an academic perspective, the short-circuit mainly concerns the process (started in 2005) that led a group of researchers to set up an association and create STS Italia, the Italian Society for Social Studies of Science and Technology. The aim of the journal was to give visibility to a debate as much established and acknowledged at the international level, as it was disregarded at the national one. On the other hand, in the Italian scientific and academic environment, the association has also represented an original form of aggregation able to attract researchers, not exclusively Italian, not only sharing the same areas of interest, but also willing to challenge the current production and circulation of knowledge in academic settings.

Although supported by STS Italia, we never wanted Tecnoscienza to be the journal of the association. The publication of Tecnoscienza is a proof, and the result, of the commitment and energy of an emerging generation of researchers, who have been going through the traditional issues of science and technologies studies, and have also expanded the scope of their own interests by drawing on different areas and research fields.

Since the beginning, the subject areas Tecnoscienza focused on have involved both ‘classic’ STS topics (such as laboratory studies and public communication of science) and more cross-sectional ones (such as postfeminist debates, cultural studies, design and media studies). In fact, we are interested in expanding connections and intersections with areas that are mostly affected by innovations and transformations: economy, organisations, design, art and everyday life. The aim of Tecnoscienza, therefore, is to continue this work by following two parallel research paths. On the one hand, the journal will be contributing to the already existing and today flourishing STS debate. On the other hand, it will be drawing a transversal line across the existing categories and boundaries, by questioning fields, objects and methods, involving a heterogeneous set of knowledge, disciplines and topics.

The sense of having a new STS journal, more than just topics and contents, concerns a reflection on the evolving geography of STS at global level. When referring to the intellectual policy animating the journal, we can say that this policy is especially targeting the wider process of reconfiguration of the cultural geography of STS. Initially started in specific countries (UK, France, Netherlands, US), the STS landscape has been characterised by the raising of newer increasingly international and globally interconnected networks, journals, and research. Today, the presence of STS scholars has expanded in many different countries all over the world. In this scenario, one of the aims of Tecnoscienza is to relocate the geography of the global STS community by giving resonance to the relevance of the local embeddedness of STS perspectives.

Thus, not only Tecnoscienza represents a significant attempt to drawn attention to a relatively new, ‘indigenous’ Italian STS community, but it also supports more generally a revaluation of the role of smaller national communities. This policy is aimed at appreciating in a new way the multiple, locally embedded, alternative STS perspectives, as well as the local trajectories of researchers, communities and countries where STS have in the meantime developed.

This reflection on STS geography can be recognized in some of the actual contents and sections we present in the journal. The section named “Cartography” aims to map histories and current developments of local STS communities: from Croatia to Portugal, from Spain to Germany, from Italy to Norway. Contributions published in this section serve as well as intellectual reflections on STS: while conceptual frameworks are increasingly globalized, actual STS research work and activities still occur in connection with, and in the context of, national academic, intellectual and scientific environments. In the same vein, although the section “Book review” could appear merely as a way to comply with an academic routine, Tecnoscienza has turned it into a further tool to articulate the STS geography, more sensitive toward peripheral (but for this reason not less meaningful) voices. So, our book review editors constantly work to include books written in various European languages (up to now French, Spanish, Danish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian and Russian), all reviewed in the shared working language of English. The idea is thus to bring light on books and research that otherwise would have not had the chance to be noticed outside their national borders.

Beside the aforementioned “Cartographies” and “Book Reviews”, the journal is constituted of “Essays”, “Conversations”, and “Scenarios”. In the “Essay” section, where theoretical and research articles appear, contributions undergo a blind peer review process, involving three expert scholars. In this section, we encourage authors not necessarily to subscribe to the STS literature, but rather to critically engage with it. “Conversations” intend to represent a field of encounter among different disciplines and perspectives (also involving people from outside the academic community). Finally, “Scenarios” is devoted to address new or controversial issues emerging from the STS debate.

The journal features two issues per year and has been thought to be distributed in the way today most dynamic and accessible: as an online open-access publication. Thanks to open source platforms such as Open Journal System, we have been able to work without a traditional publisher, managing everything by ourselves and taking care of all aspects of the publication process. Such an independent practice and open access policy set Tecnoscienza apart from most of the current STS journals, providing an example of alternative scientific publishing practices away from the existing oligopoly of international academic publishers.

As other journals in the field, we also occasionally publish special issues that can be based on conferences or workshops (as we did with the extended versions of the keynotes’ papers presented at EASST 2010) or, more often, on a specific topic. In the latter case, the special issue includes articles submitted in response to an open call for contributions and is managed by one or more guest editors. Special issue editors write an introductory article that orient the readers, oversee the process of blind peer review and work with the Editorial Board on the whole publication process. The success of the special issues published so far convinced us to maintain this path, accepting new proposals for the next few issues. The special Issues intend to privilege emerging themes from the STS debate and can be proposed by STS scholars who are interested in collaborating with us.

In terms of people involved, the journal consists of an Editorial Coordination,an Editorial Board and an International Advisory Board. The Editorial Coordinationinvolves three members of the Editorial Board who are in charge of the journal management for three years. The Editorial Board is constituted by agroup of 14 Italian STS scholars who share a variety of tasks and duties. This is organized with Section Editors, who are in charge of one of the aforementioned sections, and Editorial Board members, whose role is to advise and support the work of the relevant sections. As for the Editorial Coordination, Section Editors are also in charge for a limited amount of time. Temporary roles allow us to have a flexible organization of the journal that can adapt to academic needs as well as biographical contingencies. The process of reconfiguration of the STS cultural geography, in this case, is represented by the increasing number of members of the Editorial Board who live and work outside Italy. The international dimension of the journal is also fostered by the participation of well-known STS scholars to the Advisory Board. Besides reviewing submitted papers, in fact, the role of the Advisory Board members is acting as ambassadors for the journal within their academic and national contexts.

Finally, given that the distinction between science and art is just a modern invention, we like to invite artists as well to contribute to our journal, by allowing us to publish an image of one of their work as a front cover (see fig. 1). In this way, we hope to offer to our readers and the STS debate suggestions and contributions also from an aesthetic point of view. And to stimulate other short-circuits in the next future of STS.

Figure 1 – Two examples of Tecnoscienza’s covers.
Figure 1 – Two examples of Tecnoscienza’s covers.