EASST Council work in progress

by Michela Cozza, Maja Horst

Dear Members of EASST,

Honouring the mandate that the STS community has assigned to the Council members comes with the responsibility of caring for the differences that such a community embodies and requires listening to different voices in the context of rapid changes and big challenges. 

In this regard, the Council is currently working on two matters of high importance such as the EASST Ethics policy and the future of conferences. Both are issues the community expressed interest in and manifested a commendable engagement with. On the occasion of the last meeting, hosted by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies of Leiden University (Netherlands) on April 18-19, 2023, the Council kept working on the above-mentioned issues as well as other activities such as the new initiative MetaROR (MetaResearch Open Review). The Council voted to become a stakeholder of the latter (for a description of MetaROR, see the related article in this issue of the EASST Review). We also discussed the next international joint EASST/4S conference, which will be hosted by the Athena Institute at Vrije University of Amsterdam from 16 till 19 July 2024. 

Following up on the news from the Council, published in the last EASST Review (41(3) December 2022), we announce that a working group was created back in January 2023 to develop the EASST Ethics policy. The group includes the president of EASST (Maja Horst), the secretary (Michela Cozza), the student representative (Sarah Rose Bieszczad), one elected member (Andrea Núñez Casal), and one co-opted member (Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, local chair of the EASST/4S conference 2024). In constant conversation with the Council overall and tuning in to the STS community, the working group is defining the EASST Code of Ethics as a guide for the EASST members as they carry out their ethical responsibility as members of the larger STS community. The goal is to design a document that should anticipate and accommodate ethical challenges that may arise by defining the role of an EASST Ethics Committee, its general operating rules, and guiding principle(s). Such an endeavour should lead to the making of the EASST community a more respectful, generous, open, safe, and welcoming space, where everyone is treated in a helpful, considerate, and supportive manner. More work is needed but we aim at having the EASST Code of Ethics in place this year. 

The second important question the Council is working on is related to the future of conferences with special regard to its format (see more in the related article published in this issue of the EASST Review). Considering the results of the ballot conducted during fall 2022 (814 members were balloted, 259 completed ballots received, 199 incomplete ballots: 56% turnout), the Council is pondering the pros and cons of three main models: face-to-face, hybrid, and nodal or multi-hub (where there are face-to-face gatherings at three or more locations while all content is online). Each model comes with specific financial costs along with different social and environmental implications as well as relevant consequences for community building. The discussion is highly important but requires avoiding simplifications. There are criteria for organizational feasibility and financial sustainability along with principles of inclusivity, sociality, and – not least – the quality of scientific knowledge-sharing that must be carefully balanced. The Council is fully committed to listening to those voices urging re-thinking how conferences are organised considering current global crises. However, it has the responsibility of doing it with the awareness that whatever decision is made, it has consequences that differently affect its different members.

Michela Cozza and Maja Horst (Secretary and President of EASST Council)