Newsletter of the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science—March 2024

Newsletter of the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science

The Newsletter of the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science (NCHPS) highlights news, opportunities and events relevant to the diverse fields of interest that occupy the discipline of history and philosophy of science.

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In this newsletter:

From the Chair

Rachael Brown
Chair, National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2024.

In the latter half of 2023, the NCHPS provided the Academy with advice on several policy initiatives, including the Academy’s submission to the Australian Government regarding Australia’s Science and Research Priorities, the Academy’s input to Australia’s engagement in the S20 Meeting on Connecting Science to Society and Culture (the S20 being the science arm of the G20), and the revision of the Academy’s statement on academic freedom and scientific responsibility. I also attended the National Committee Chairs Meeting at the Shine Dome in November.

In October 2023, we welcomed Dr Martin Bush as a new member of the committee. Martin is Research Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne and the current secretary for the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS). We look forward to working with Martin on the committee!

Big questions: The future of HPS and STS in Australia

Timothy Neale and Rachael Brown

The future of the history, philosophy, and social studies of science in Australasia was a focal point of discussion at the most recent meetings of AusSTS and the Australasian Association for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS) in July and December 2023, respectively. At AusSTS, held at UNSW Sydney, two events stood out in this regard. First, at a keynote conversation between Thao Phan (Monash) and Celia Roberts (ANU) and, second, a subsequent panel discussion between Courtney Addison (Te Herenga Waka-VUW), Ash Watson (UNSW), Thom van Dooren (Sydney), and Michaela Spencer (CDU), chaired by Sonja Van Wichelen (Sydney), both of which looked forward through discussions of science and technology studies’ (STS) local future. At the AAHPSSS, held at the University of Sydney, the future of history and philosophy of science (HPS) and STS was also under discussion. A panel discussion on HPS in Australia was a highlight of the second day, featuring Rachael Brown (ANU), Emma Kowal (Deakin), Fiona Fidler (Melbourne) and Dominic Murphy (Sydney).

Collecting our impressions across the two events, we can say that there are several key challenges shared across these fields, including the lack of institutional homes for either HPS or STS in the region. While the core of HPS and STS study in Australasia historically has been in programs established in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly at the University of Melbourne and UNSW, much (if not most) work is now being done in history, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology programs. Many scholars commented on the sense of isolation that this decentralisation of scholarship and the limited availability of specialist training generates. Scholars also discussed how this reifies language and theoretical differences between different arms of HPS and STS, making it harder for researchers to find common ground, language, and methodologies. Decentralisation was also cited as exacerbating broader issues endemic across the tertiary sector, such as casualisation and lack of ongoing employment and support, particularly for those subject to discrimination on the basis of gender, race, class and/or disability. 

Speakers at both the AusSTS and AAHPSSS events spoke enthusiastically about the growing success and popularity of these fields in research, supported by the wider interest in interdisciplinary research that brings the humanities and sciences into close conversation. With Australian scholars receiving international recognition (e.g. Warwick Anderson’s 2023 Bernal Prize) and major funding successes (e.g. ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making), does it matter that we have few designated HPS or STS departments? Can the next generation of scholars continue to emerge without this kind of institutional support? It remains to be seen, as these recent conferences reminded us, as these fields are flourishing through the leadership of graduates and early career researchers across institutional lines. As Addison stated at AusSTS, there is strength in continuing to be “in cahoots” together.

Join the conversation


2024 February edition of the Encyclopedia of Australian Science and Innovation released

The 2024 February edition of the Encyclopedia of Australian Science and Innovation is now available. This update includes 306 new bibliographic entries, 40 new entity entries, and amendments to 1043 bibliographic entries, along with other changes. Thanks to resources from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, historical insights from the 19th century onwards have been added. The publisher aims for comprehensive coverage and invites contributions to enhance the encyclopedia’s content.

Spectacles of waste by Warwick Anderson

New book: Spectacles of Waste

In Spectacles of Waste, published by Polity, leading historian of medicine Warwick Anderson reveals how human excrement has always complicated humanity’s attempts to become modern. From wastewater epidemiology and sewage snooping to faecal transplants and excremental art, he argues that our insistence on separating ourselves from our bodily waste has fundamentally shaped our philosophies, social theories, literature and art – even the emergence of high-tech science as we understand it today.

2023–24 Mike Smith Student Prize

The 2023–24 application round of the Mike Smith Student Prize for History of Australian Science or Australian Environmental History received 11 entries on the closure of submissions in early 2024, marking a significant rise in participation compared to previous years. Organisers note the diverse range and high quality of submissions as indicative of increasing community engagement. The review process is currently underway.


Events and opportunities


The journey of Australian science

Registrations open for 2024 national symposium

In 2024, the Academy’s National Symposium will, for the first time, be held in Brisbane on Friday 22 March.

As part of the World Science Festival, attracting a wide and diverse audience, the National Symposium ‘Food futures: Nourishing a nation’ will explore the very substance of life: food! We will explore how the food on our plates – whether it’s taco Tuesday or Sunday roast – is changing.

The symposium will engage and relate to everyday Australians’ experiences while illustrating Australia’s scientific capabilities and how they will shape and meet the future needs of the nation.

Whether you are a student, scientist, policy maker, or simply interested in food, join the Academy at the symposium. Registrations for in-person attendance are open until 9.00am AEST Monday 18 March and for online attendance until 9.30am Friday 22 March.

Find out more and register

HPS Annual Conference, University of Notre Dame

The 2024 Annual Conference of the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) Program at the University of Notre Dame will be held on 4–6 April. This year’s conference is ‘Unity & Disunity in Science: Philosophical, Historical, and Theological Perspectives’. Registrations are now open.

Event website


The journey of Australian science

The journey of Australian science: Prescott and soil science

Join the Australian Academy of Science in its 70th anniversary year for a look at our history and into our future, at its 2024 public speaker series.

Date: Tuesday 9 April 2024
Venue: The Shine Dome Canberra, and online livestream

Event website

2025 Fellowships at the National Library of Australia now open

Applications for the 2025 National Library of Australia Fellowships and Creative Arts Fellowships are now open. 

Researchers and creators are encouraged to apply for 10 philanthropically funded fellowships offered by the National Library of Australia.

Successful applicants will have special access to the Library’s collection material, supported by expert staff, full office facilities including a designated workstation, and an honorarium to contribute towards travel and accommodation expenses.

Learn more about the National Library of Australia Fellowships and Creative Arts Fellowships. More information on eligibility, information on previous projects and online application forms are available on the National Library’s website

Applications for NLA Fellowships and Creative Arts Fellowships close on 6 May 2024.

2025 Academy of Science awards and funding opportunities now open

Nominations and applications are now open for the Academy’s highly regarded 2025 honorific awards and funding opportunities. The Academy offers two types of opportunities for scientists: its honorific awards recognise outstanding contributions to the advancement of science at the early, mid and career levels, and its funding opportunities support scientists to undertake research projects as well as travel and lectures at a national and international level.

See the 2025 awards and funding webpage for more information, including closing dates.

Find out about opportunities for scientists in the latest Academy newsletter.

News from the Academy

Academy celebrates its 70th anniversary

The Academy of Science is celebrating its 70th anniversary across 2024, with a full calendar of events to mark seven decades of scientific excellence.

Across the year, a six-part public speaker series, The journey of Australian science: Tracing our history, discovering future paths, will delve into the fascinating history and future of Australian science. Each instalment will tell the story of one scientific discipline, from the landmark discoveries of the Academy’s earliest Fellows – such as founding President, distinguished physicist Sir Mark Oliphant – to today’s cutting-edge frontiers.

This year also sees the iconic symbol of Australian science and home of the Academy, the Shine Dome, celebrate its 65th birthday. It will be open to the public for tours on 27 April – details on its website soon.

Science at the Shine Dome, the Academy’s flagship annual event, will run from 9 to 12 September. The event will feature the admission of distinguished Fellows elected to the Academy in 2023 and 2024 and offer an occasion to reflect on the Academy’s rich history and bright future.

“Our country has a deep reservoir of talent within the sciences, including some of the world’s most eminent researchers and professionals,” said Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish.

“In our 70th year, the Academy will deliver a rich program of events, profiling our most distinguished and emerging scientists, champions, and organisations who contribute to science every day.”

Academy welcomes diversity in STEM review

The Academy has welcomed the release of the final report of the Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review.

“It is pleasing to see that the review has highlighted leadership, governance, cultural transformation and inclusive workplace environments as important priorities for improving diversity in the STEM sector,” Academy President Professor Jagadish said.

Read the Academy’s response.

2024–25 Pre-Budget Submission

On 25 January 2024, the Academy made a submission to the 2024–25 Federal Budget.

The submission recommends that the Australian government commissions a review of the Australian research and development (R&D) system in order to create a roadmap to secure Australia’s economic future through strategic development of scientific capacity and capability.

Read the submission.


Community showcase: 2023 HPS meetings

Fiona Fidler and Thao Phan

The second half of 2023 was a busy time for the HPS community, with major events taking place from July to November. See below for updates on the meetings of the Australasian Science and Technology Studies Network (AusSTS), the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), the Association for Interdisciplinary Metaresearch and Open Science (AIMOS), and the Australasian Association for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS).

AusSTS 2023 Sydney

The Australasian Science and Technology Studies Network (AusSTS) hosted its inaugural conference at UNSW in Sydney in July 2023. The program unfolded over two days, with keynote and plenary discussions featuring Professor Celia Roberts (ANU), Dr Thao Phan (Monash University), Dr Courtney Addison (Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington), Dr Ash Watson (UNSW), Professor Thom van Dooren (University of Sydney), and Dr Michaela Spencer (Charles Darwin University).

Since 2019, AusSTS has held annual workshops for PhD students and early career researchers to present their work at forums split into geographical ‘nodes’, meeting synchronously in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Wellington, with shared keynotes and plenaries broadcast virtually across these nodes. The 2023 inaugural conference developed a new format for these meetings; for the first time, everyone was brought together in one place, and participation was opened to scholars at any career stage. The theme for the conference, ‘What is an Australasian STS contribution?’, invited reflection on what this gathering meant as a regional conversation and intervention. Read reflections on the conference from participants on the 4S Backchannels blog.

The 2024 AusSTS conference will be held in November at the ANU in Canberra.

4S 2023 Honolulu

The Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) convened its annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawai’i from 8 to 11 November. Attended by sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and scholars from various Australian universities, the event celebrated Australian STS scholars including Professors Emma Kowal (Deakin University) and Warwick Anderson (University of Sydney). Professor Kowal concluded her term as 4S President, while Professor Anderson received the prestigious Bernal Prize for his groundbreaking research and contributions to postcolonial STS. Congratulations, Warwick!

AIMOS2023 Brisbane

AIMOS 2023: The fifth annual conference of the Association for Interdisciplinary Metaresearch & Open Science (AIMOS) was hosted by QUT in Brisbane in November. The conference featured a public lecture from Professor Carl Bergstrom (University of Washington), renowned for his undergraduate course ‘Calling Bullshit’ and the book of the same title. Another highlight was Eugenie Reich’s workshop on scientific whistleblowing. The program was highly interdisciplinary, and many of the talks are now available on the AIMOS YouTube channel.

Additionally, AIMOS awarded four international top-up scholarships to PhD students working on metascience projects. These top-up scholarships will now be awarded annually to promote work in metascience. More information can be found on the AIMOS website.

The 2024 AIMOS conference will be held in Canberra. Find out more about upcoming AIMOS events and opportunities by following AIMOS on Bluesky

AAHPSSS 2023 Sydney

The 2023 conference of the Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS) was held at the University of Sydney and ran as part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences from 29 November to 1 December. The keynote Dyson Lecture was delivered by Associate Professor Rachael Brown (ANU) and covered the history of the philosophy of biology. The Langham Award is presented by AAHPSSS to the best talk by a postgraduate student. In 2023, there were joint winners: Wendy Higgins (Macquarie University) for her talk ‘Metascience, philosophy, and psychological measurements’ and Rebecca Mann (University of Sydney) for ‘Splitting the problem of biological individuality: a spatial and temporal problem’.

The next AAHPSSS Conference will take place in 2025, once again as part of the HASS Congress. Season 2, Episode 12 of the HPS podcast was dedicated to covering AAHPSSS conference highlights and includes interviews with speakers, students, and other delegates. For more conference highlights and other relevant updates, follow AAHPSSS on Bluesky

The AAHPSSS AGM saw the election of a new executive committee:

  • President: Martin Bush
  • Vice-President: Gemma Lucy Smart
  • Secretary: Jacinthe Flore
  • Treasurer: Carmelina Contarino
  • Postgraduate Representatives (jointly): Rebecca Mann and Samara Greenwood
  • Communications Officer: Chris Orrell
  • General Members: Ian Hesketh, Lucia Carvalho Neco, Ian Tasker

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science