The Membership Development Committee is charged with promoting membership in ISHPSSB and attendance at ISHPSSB meetings. Of special concern are the promotion of disciplinary and regional diversity.

In the past, the Membership Development Committee has designed a membership flyer for distribution at meetings and for downloading from the Society's website. This flyer included information about the Society, the benefits of membership, and the next meeting.

Relevant Bylaws


    Membership in the Corporation (which may be referred to as "The Society") shall be open to all persons interested in the history, philosophy and social studies of biology.
    There shall be three (3) classes of Members of The Society, which are designated as follows:
    1. Regular Members. Any individual interested in the purposes of The Society may apply for Membership as a Regular Member upon filing the member application form and payment of dues.
    2. Student Members. Any individual registered in a program of study in any field relevant to the purposes of The Society may become a Student Member upon filing the member application form and payment of dues.
    3. Emeritus Members. Any individual who is fully retired and interested in the purposes of The Society may become an Emeritus Member upon filing the member application form. Emeritus Members shall not be assessed dues.
    Each member, regardless of class, shall have the right to vote in the election of each officer and Director of The Society, except that only Student Members shall be entitled to vote for that Director designated as the "Student Member of the Board of Directors".
  4. DUES.
    The dues for Regular Members and for Student Members shall be established by the Board of Directors, which may be referred to in these By-Laws as the "Council." Any member in arrears of dues for more than one (1) year may be dropped from the list of Members thirty (30) days after the Secretary mails notice of such one year arrearage to that member.

2015 Membership Development Committee Report

Prepared Alan Love (Co-chair)

Members: Alan Love (Co-Chair), Emily Schultz (Co-Chair), Ingo Brigandt, Katherine Liu


Main goals
(1) Generate strategies for increasing the representation of history and sociology within the society
(2) Coordinate with program committee about the implementation of strategies that increase the representation of history and sociology within the society


Planned Events:
(1) History of Science Society, Graduate Student and Postdoc Breakfast – November 2013 (cancelled due to lack of financial support from Council)



Pre-ISHPSSB2015, Montreal:

- coordinated with program committee to track distribution of disciplinary representation on iterations of the program
- coordinated with local organizing committee to have membership diversity meeting on the program

During ISHPSSB 2015, Montreal Events:


Attendees: ~40

Facilitated a discussion of questions about how people perceive problems with diversity in the society and what kinds of strategies might be helpful (or harmful) in addressing them.

A report on the meeting with a summary of the ideas generated is appended as a separate report.


Post-ISHPSSB 2015, Montreal:

- organize regional action groups from new committee composition

- build a task list out of the strategies derived from membership diversity meeting

- implement strategies in various forms beginning mid-Fall 2015


ISHPSSB 2015, Membership Diversity Meeting Report

2:00 - 3:00 PM, DS-R515, Wednesday, July 8th

Attendance numbers: ~40 attendees

Interdisciplinarity has been central to ISHPSSB since its inception; as its name suggests, it aims to include historians, philosophers and social scientists that study biology. However, the proportion of members who are philosophers of biology has for some years been significantly greater than proportions of members from other disciplines. The consequences of this disproportion in disciplinary representation have raised concerns among historians and social scientists that have felt marginalized by some practices of the society.

This session at the 2015 meeting in Montreal was sparked by a conversation between Emily Schultz and Alan Love, members of the Council’s Membership Committee: Schultz (an anthropologist) had described her own experiences of marginalization, which were leading her seriously to consider not attending the 2015 meeting in Montreal, after having attended every meeting since 2005. However, Love suggested (and Schultz agreed) that a better solution might be to address the issue of disciplinary marginalization directly, by collecting statistics about paper submissions and by organizing a meeting on membership diversity to get input from other members about their own experiences and concerns. The program committee agreed, and the meeting became part of the 2015 program.

Alan Love began the meeting by sharing the statistics about organized and individual paper submissions by discipline for the 2015 Montreal meeting. (Note: these do not reflect final adjustments due to cancellations and failures to register.) Designations are self-assigned by those submitting session or paper proposals. Interdisciplinary includes sessions with scientists and therefore does not reliably pick out sessions that combine history, philosophy, and/or social studies. For example, Alan Love’s session was “Diverse Format” and “Interdisciplinary”, but was composed of one philosopher of biology, one philosopher of physics, and two biologists.

Standard Format Sessions

Total Entries = 291

Philosophy = 170
Interdisciplinary = 92
History = 29

Diverse Format Sessions

Total Entries = 32

Philosophy = 11
Interdisciplinary = 21
History = 0

Individual Paper Sessions

284 Total Entries = 284

Philosophy = 163
Interdisciplinary = 78
History = 34
Social Studies = 9

Next, in order to render these abstractions more concrete, Emily Schultz described the challenges she had encountered at ISH over the 10 years she has been a member. Love and Schultz then opened the floor to a wider discussion, asking about any additional diversity issues that might concern the members who were present, as well as any suggestions of changes they thought might help improve matters at future meetings. The goal was to collect these comments and communicate them to the program chairs so that they might take them into consideration early in the process of preparing for the next ISH meeting in 2017, as well as for the membership diversity committee to formulate new strategies. These comments will also be submitted to the Council, who may look them over and decide how they wish to proceed.

Comments and suggestions fell roughly in to the following categories, and are summarized below each heading.



• One member began by urging everyone to resist blaming philosophers for this situation; the challenge applies to everyone, in his view. The imbalance is skewed heavily toward philosophy. But if there is a unique characteristic of ISH meetings, it is conversations across disciplines. Could organizers consider the following possibilities:
o A stronger rule about combination of disciplines in sessions?
o Requiring organized sessions to have some kind of multidisciplinary specialties? One gets the impression at some sessions that people are just talking to people in their discipline and have not thought about possibility that others outside their discipline are even there.

More than one attendee suggested the possibility of introducing formal quotas of some kind. For instance, sociologists have almost entirely disappeared from the program. One attendee added that ISH has tried to encourage multidisciplinary sessions, but it doesn’t work; maybe we need some kind of authoritarian percentage or proportion.

• Concern was expressed that STS people seem excluded by the heavy emphasis at ISH of hard analytical philosophy. This leads to a related concern that if things continue as they are, only philosophy of biology will remain—and maybe we can’t have both.

It was asked if the two plenary lectures had been intended to be by scholars who are not stereotypical analytical philosophers of science. The response was that this decision had indeed been intentional on the part of the program committee.

• Acceptance of papers. Council is aware of—and concerned about—the issues surrounding acceptance of papers. This is a difficult issue because an open acceptance policy has characterized ISH for a long time, and modifications to that policy might be challenging.

The attempt to bring many disciplines together seems resolvable by accepting pretty much any paper.

The issues of how open the meetings are, how much of each discipline is here, are tied together. The open program idea was “if it is about biology, that is enough.” The idea was that neither closure nor exclusion should become a policy. This openness has been what has made ISH the place it is. Maybe nobody would understand what you had to say, but at least you had a chance to talk.

• Organized sessions. One member observed that typically you organize your session with people you already know. Unless you are part of a group, you get left out. Could the program committee add an unknown individual submission from a different discipline to an organized session, to encourage additional participation and additional audiences?

A counterexample was offered by a philosopher who organized a session via e-mail, inviting two other individuals he did not know beforehand. They met for the first time at ISH, and each presented completely different perspectives on the topic: A Chinese perspective, an American perspective, and a French perspective.

In the past we have had active listservs, but they seem to have slowed down. Maybe we need to revitalize them, on the new website for instance. This could facilitate contact and session organizing across disciplines.

• Dividing up meeting days by discipline. For instance, perhaps there could be a 6-day meeting, with 2 days devoted just to philosophy and biology—i.e., a mini-PSA for philosophy of biology tacked onto the front or back of something more explicitly interdisciplinary. Another suggestion was a 2-day meeting on history separated from the rest of the meeting.

One attendee stated that historians of histology feel alienated. They need a critical mass of historians really doing their work. The worry is that if this task is left to the program committee, it won’t succeed.

One attendee was largely against hiving off a piece for historians or others, stating that nine-tenths of what is attractive about ISH is the crosstalk. Another attendee agreed that if the goal of the conference is to promote open discussion, to allow ideas to flourish, it would be counterproductive to have a segregated conference or quotas. If there are more philosophers, that is because they are the ones who are coming into the society.

• Might there be a preconference workshop on methodologies that might draw on historians or philosophers or STS people—and there would be an opportunity to profit from one another’s methodologies?

It was suggested that some of the philosophy sessions don’t really belong at ISH because they are very specialized, and that this kind of interest might be better served at an off-year workshop.

One member argued that the challenge is to allow a focus on disciplinarity—e.g., the history of the life sciences—as well as on the interdisciplinarity. We need both. This person liked the idea of separate days for different disciplines, or the idea of disciplinary workshops.

• Could there be a unified session at the beginning of the meeting—or a plenary with multiple participants—concerned with different disciplinary perspectives on the same problem? If this were to happen, the interaction might be stronger. A member who agreed that we might think we are using the same terms in the same way seconded this suggestion, but we are not. Might we focus on key terms and structure some discussions around these differences?

• Another suggestion was to say more about the mission statement of the society: if you are not interested in philosophy, not willing to have a conversation, maybe this isn’t the right conference to come to.

• One historian observed that all history sessions were scheduled at the same time, which was frustrating.


• It was suggested that submissions of nominations for the prizes was a very biased procedure. It was asked if we could partition the prize so it isn’t just between philosophy and history.

It was pointed out that the new Callebaut Prize is interdisciplinary.


• The problem should not be stated as there being “too many philosophers.”

• A historian who came in 2005 participated in an organized session for which David Hull was the commentator, and he said it was wonderful. He was a recent Ph.D. and always wanted to come back, impressed by the friendliness and interdisciplinarity. He always walked away having learned something. He doesn’t want quotas, but he was recruited.

• Could we reach out to the STS community, asking them to come, maybe doing a plenary? We could reach out to STS departments, history and philosophy of science departments. Perhaps we could exchange free registrations with STS programs for sponsorship. If we really want an interdisciplinary focus, we need to put our dollars there.

• What could the guest status do for diversity, or as means for recruitment?

• If we recruit people as graduate students, they will want to come back. Many who first came as graduate students feel they got their start here. This generates bonds that are hard to reproduce otherwise. Maybe that is why philosophy has done well here.

A concern was raised about finding other venues for philosophers of biology. The PSA is more hospitable to non-analytic philosophers. Is there something structural about ISH?

• One person who presented his first paper at ISH observed that the people who commented on that paper are not present at this year’s meeting, which raises the question: how do we retain the people we have? This view was seconded by another member who said that recruitment was not enough. People who used to be regulars have stopped coming after 10 years.

• Funding may be an issue. Often it is not possible to go both to ISH and another conference, such as the HSS.

• Selectivity may also be an issue. It was pointed out that the PSA is every two years. Now there is philosophy of biology at Madison, but it is a very selective conference, hard to get into. HSS meets every year, and requires only an abstract, but the HSS turndown rates are high.

• What is happening may also reflects structural differences that have been pulling historians and philosophers apart. The member who pointed this out is now going more to small colloquia with historians who are discussing specialized topics.

• The issue of diversity is related to more than disciplinary diversity. Africa and Latin America are very underrepresented in ISH. Regional ethnic, racial, other kinds of diversity are also important for this reflection. This attendee said he would endorse priority issues for a postcolonial reading of history of biology, and to introduce this theme in the call for papers. This concern is also connected to the rationale about choosing meeting sites.