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Special Forum: Futures of STS Academic Publishing
30 April 2023
Special Issue Editor(s)
Special Forum: Futures of STS Academic Publishing
As STS scholars understand, scholarly publishing is not simply a matter of disseminating research outcomes. Contingent formats of scholarly publishing profoundly mediate the practical and epistemic organization of research itself.
Rhetorical persuasion strategies have been central to modern scientific knowledge, as shown by historians of science and STS laboratory studies (Woolgar and Latour, 1979; Shapin & Schaffer, 1985). Another long-standing topic has been journal review and editorial practices. Often such analysis has focused on how scientific research is shaped by bias, epistemic frameworks and gatekeeping. STS scholars also have conceptualized review and editorial work as a form of invisible labor constituting knowledge practices (Fyfe et al., 2020; Strang & Siler, 2017; Kaltenbrunner et al., 2022a).
Moreover, publication criteria and pressures can affect research practices and knowledge-production more generally. Concerns about ‘publishability’ and ‘citability’ increasingly tend to structure research at a fundamental level (Fochler et al., 2016; Sigl, 2016; Torka, 2009), for example, by shaping researchers’ decisions about which kinds of collaboration and projects to seek out, how to frame contributions to maximize their impact, and when to consider projects to be completed . Partly as a result of such considerations, STS publishing formats have undergone major changes in recent decades: the research article has increasingly standardized, while essayistic or experimental writing has been marginalized (Kaltenbrunner et al., 2022b).
Moreover, the political economy of publishing can affect the kind of research that is being carried out. In most fields, academic publishing is dominated by an oligopoly of commercial publishers, potentially homogenizing the research process and dissemination. These pressures are compounded by metrics, such as the impact factor, which stratify publishing outlets into a seemingly one-dimensional hierarchy of prestige (Vann, 2017; Goldenfein & Griffin, 2022). Such metrics and rankings play out across the research process, reinforcing the hierarchy of prestige in funding, for example, and thereby further concentrating research resources (Katz & Matter, 2020).
These developments in STS publishing and research practices also have broader epistemic consequences, for example for the field’s conceptual development, substantive topics and research modes. Critical voices have observed a tendency for journal authors to coin concepts that are optimized for easy citeability and reuse, but whose intellectual novelty or value is disputed (Kaltenbrunner et al., 2022b). In turn, some concepts or theories are sidelined (Williams & Moore, 2019), some research topics can be marginalized (Kervran et al., 2018), and some research modes are undervalued or devalued (Reardon et al., 2015).
Although STS scholars have analyzed publishing and research practices across several fields, our own practices warrant greater attention. It remains important to examine the relationship between STS publishing, research practices and funding institutions, especially the field’s openness to diverse intellectual traditions. In light of the above developments, this SaC Forum invites contributions that reflect on STS publishing practices.
As guiding themes, we propose the following questions:
How are STS publishing practices affected by competition for jobs, funding, and publishing space?
How does the changing political economy of publishing affect STS publishing practices, for example as regards the ownership structures of the publishing industry and the role of journal metrics?
How do recent developments in STS publishing practices affect the kind of knowledge we are producing as a field? For example, how do strategies to maximize publishability and citeability affect the development of novel theories, methods, practices?
How do STS researchers experience changes in publishing practices and the political economy of publishing? How do such experiences vary across different levels of the academic hierarchy and different parts of the world?
What have been experiences with alternative forms of STS publishing, reviewing and editing, for example, collective forms of editorship or collective writing? How do these challenge dominant practices?
What can be done to ensure that STS publishing welcomes diverse intellectual traditions and concepts, as well as diverse forms of writing and publishing?
Fochler, M., Felt, U. and Müller, R. (2016). Unsustainable Growth, Hyper-Competition, and Worth in Life Science Research: Narrowing Evaluative Repertoires in Doctoral and Postdoctoral Scientists’ Work and Lives. Minerva 54(2): 175–200.
Fochler, M. and de Rijcke, S. (2017). Implicated in the Indicator Game? An Experimental Debate. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 3: 21-40.
Fyfe, A., Squazzoni, F., Torny, D. and Dondio, P. (2020). Managing the Growth of Peer Review at the Royal Society Journals, 1865-1965. Science, Technology, & Human Values 45(3): 405-29.
Goldenfein, J. and Griffin, D. (2022). Google Scholar – Platforming the scholarly economy. Internet Policy Review, 11(3): 1-34.
Kaltenbrunner, W., K. Birch, and Amuchastegui, M. (2022a). Editorial Work and the Peer Review Economy of STS Journals. Science, Technology, & Human Values 47(4): 670-697.
Kaltenbrunner, W., Birch, K., van Leeuwen, T. and Amuchastegui, M. (2022b). Changing publication practices and the typification of the journal article in science and technology studies. Social Studies of Science 52(5): 758–782.
Katz, Y. and Matter, U. (2020). Metrics of Inequality: The Concentration of Resources in the U.S. Biomedical Elite. Science as Culture 29(4): 475-502.
Kervran, D., Kleiche-Dray, M. and Quet, M. (2018). Going South. How STS could think science in and with the South? Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society 1(1): 280-305.
Reardon, J., Metcalf, J., Kenney, M. and Barad, K. (2015). Science & Justice: The Trouble and the Promise. Catalyst: feminism, theory, technoscience 1(1): 1-48.
Shapin, S. and Schaffer, S. (1985). Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life. Princeton University Press.
Sigl L. (2016). On the tacit governance of research by uncertainty: How early stage researchers contribute to the governance of life science research. Science, Technology, & Human Values 41(3): 347–374.
Strang, D. and Siler, K. (2017). From ‘just the facts’ to ‘more theory and methods, please’: The evolution of the research article in Administrative Science Quarterly, 1956–2008. Social Studies of Science 47(4): 528–555.
Torka, M. (2009). Die Projektförmigkeit der Forschung. Nomos.
Vann, K. (2017). Surplus and Indicator. Engaging Science, Technology, & Society 3(2): 92-107.
Williams, L. and Moore, S. (2019). Guest Editorial: Conceptualizing Justice and Counter-Expertise. Science as Culture 28(3): 251-276.
Woolgar, S. and Latour, B. (1979). Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
- Length: Forum articles are flexible, ranging between 2k-6k words.
- Format: Author’s contact details (postal address and email address) should be at the top of the file. Forum articles should contain an Introduction and Conclusion, but are otherwise flexible. Forum pieces have key words but no Abstracts, so the Conclusion should summarise the overall argument.
- Contributions should address one or more of the themes/concepts mentioned in the call
- Contact: please email Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner ([email protected]) or Maria Amuchastegui ([email protected]) with queries about suitability or abstract proposals, well before the deadline.
- Submission method: Send submissions likewise to Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner ([email protected]) and Maria Amuchastegui ([email protected]); Forum articles will be reviewed by the Forum Editors, perhaps with others on the SaC Advisory Panel. They will not be sent out for external peer review.
- Full-scale research articles (10k words maximum) on this theme are also welcome, but these need to follow the SaC editorial guidelines and undergo the normal referee procedure through the online system. If not ready in time for the Forum, they will be published in a later issue. See https://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/authors/csac_edit_guidelines.pdf
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