EASST Review Editorial

by Niki Vermeulen, Sarah Maria Schönbauer, Jose A. Cañada, James Besse.

Dear all, 

This issue of the EASST Review is dedicated to Research Cultures. This is an important topic to discuss together in light of recent events around #MeTooSTS and broader (inter)national attention for research culture and its (e)valuation, e.g. the Wellcome Trust work on research culture. This aligns with transformations towards responsible metrics and evaluation, including recognition and rewards and the recently established European Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA). As we all know, the terms and debates look different across countries, but from an STS perspective it is important to note an increase in reflexivity about the importance of good research environments, not only for good research and epistemic diversity but also for the wellbeing of researchers. As this is a core issue of STS, many of us are studying transformations in research cultures, while also actively working to transform policies and change practice. Often this concerns developments outside of our own field, but of course they are never unrelated to our own experience and practice. Therefore, an important question concerns the relationship between these broader debates and our own field. How is STS as a community engaging with transformations of research cultures?  

From the EASST meeting in Madrid we vividly remember discussions on the role we as a community play and can play in debates and actions regarding climate and biodiversity crises, also in terms of reducing our own footprint through transformation of future conferences. This Autumn discussions on twitter and beyond, addressed issues of inequality, power abuse and sexual harassment, and how this also plays out in our own STS community. While we might hope we are immune to this, as we definitely should know better, it would be naïve to think we are an exception just because we study research cultures and their various inter-related problems. Perhaps we can be an exception though, as a community that acknowledges that also our research cultures are in need of improvement, being reflexive about our own daily practices and the ways in which we discuss these issues across our community. This is easier said than done, but we have seen various initiatives developing and we are devoted to keep up debates and especially focus on ways to change practice for the better where possible. 

EASST has already taken various steps to engage with these topics of concern, including the discussion on the EASST ethics policy, and broader discussions on the ways in which we can shape future conferences (see News from the council for more information). Moreover, we want to provide a space to address these issues in the EASST Review, in order to stimulate constructive debate and share initiatives and experiences that aim to improve research cultures, including our own. In this current issue’s STS Live we offer contributions from various authors, ranging from activism in STS and reflections on #MeTooSTS and #WeDoSTS to thoughts on needed transformations in academic and publishing cultures in STS and beyond. We want to thank all the authors who took the time and effort to share their thoughts with us and we invite everyone to add to the next issues or contribute in other ways to improve our STS community. We strongly suggest that a debate on research cultures should be an intergenerational debate and the EASST Review has the potential to be a key space to keep these conversation open, since it is one of the main sites for conversation about STS by STS. Together we can sustain EASST and STS as an open community that welcomes and treats all with respect and learns from each other’s experiences. 

One person, who was always open to chat to researchers from all walks of academia was Loet Leydesdorff. Since he sadly passed away in March, we pay tribute to him and his work in this issue through the people he supported and inspired. He connected various scholarly communities and found ways to bridge different ways of thinking. As you will read, chocolate was an essential part of his exchanges, and this might be something we can take forward, to remember him amidst all of his many writings. 

Finally, some news from the editorial team. We are very pleased to introduce Jose A. Cañada from the University of Exeter as our new member. Jose has engaged with STS scholarship since their master’s research, back in 2009, and worked on topics as diverse as water infrastructures, pandemic preparedness, antimicrobial resistance and biobanks. Across these topics, there is an underlying interest on more-than-human relations, especially in terms of health, care and ethics, a topic they now continues to explore in the study of marine ecosystems. An active member of the STS community since 2013, they are really looking forward to join the EASST Review team and contribute to create a space to encourage discussions among community members. 

We are now looking for two more members to join our team in Autumn, so if you are interested, please read the call at the end of this issue and let us know. The EASST Review is an important part of the STS publication infrastructure, and it provides an opportunity to take active part in EASST and the wider STS community, putting important topics on the agenda and shaping debates.

We are looking forward to hear from you and the editorial team can be reached at review(at)easst.net.

Niki, Sarah, Jose and James