Newsletter of the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science—May 2023

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 2023.

The first months of the year have been a whirlwind with campuses opening up and a flurry of reviews and activity on the federal level. The National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science has been particularly heartened to see the reviews of the ARC and Australia’s Science and Research Priorities and National Science Statement from the Australian Government.

The Committee has been active in the submission and response process, pushing for explicit recognition and inclusion of HPS and STS approaches in research funding and policy. In particular, we have been emphasising the importance of a deep understanding of the mechanisms by which science permeates social, political and economic spaces for the effectiveness of the National Science and Research Priorities in addressing Australia’s challenges. As we hope you agree, excellence in scientific research and translation into public policy and societal impacts requires engagement between HPSSS and STEM scholars.

As well as work on the policy front, the Committee has been undertaking a period of renewal, with a call for expressions of interest for new members and reflection on our key aims and goals for the coming year. We hope to welcome some new faces to meetings later in the year.


Big questions: Where does HPS fit into Australia’s National Science and Research Priorities?

The effectiveness of the National Science and Research Priorities in addressing Australia’s challenges will require deep understanding of the mechanisms by which science permeates social, political and economic spaces. HPS and STS cut across all science disciplines and should be cultivated through explicit incorporation into Australia’s national research priorities. Their role in the priorities is wide-reaching.

Cultivating a workforce with skills in HPS and STS will drive Australia's research and professional capabilities into the future. Some of the most significant barriers to successful innovation and application of scientific research are not technological, but are associated with the human, social and cultural aspects of science.

Communicating science to the public, consideration of the implications of science beyond the academic environment and alignment of science with societal benefits and expectations are all areas that demand HPS analysis. Research along these interfaces is valuable to diverse professionals across the nation and informs scientific practices to improve their efficiency and their translation.

Disciplines such as HPS, STS and science communication enable researchers, policymakers and the public to better understand the nature and limits of scientific inquiry, evaluate the reliability and validity of scientific findings, shape ethical and policy debates and enhance interdisciplinary collaboration. These types of insights make significant contributions to the development of more effective and innovative research, particularly in collaboration with those in STEM fields. 

The above passage is appropriated from the NCHPS’s submission to the first stage of the National Science and Research Priorities review. Read the Academy’s full submission.

Join the conversation



Government renews funding for Trove

After a period of uncertainty and a heartening level of engagement from the community and researchers across all disciplines, the Australian Government committed $33 million over the next four years to maintain Trove, the National Library of Australia’s online database. The Committee welcomes this support for what is a national treasure and a key resource for HPS scholars.

New episodes of Philosopher’s Zone (ABC Radio National) on de-extinction, co-produced by HPS scholar

University of Melbourne HPS-er, Dr Kate Lynch, co-produced two recent episodes of the Philosopher’s Zone on ‘de-extinction’, in which she interviewed Dr Christopher Lean, a University of Sydney philosopher of biology. The episodes form part of a joint initiative by the Philosopher’s Zone and Australasian Association of Philosophy. The episodes are available to stream.

New book on women in Australian science

Jane Carey’s Taking to the Field: A History of Australian Women in Science has recently been published by Monash University Publishing. It claims to be the “first comprehensive history” of this subject, and traces Australian women’s participation in science from the first years of colonisation to the 1950s. Carey states, “If asked to name an early Australian woman scientist, few could. Let’s change that.”

Redressing the gender imbalance in the collections of the State Library of Victoria

In 2022, the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust committed $1 million to the State Library of Victoria to support the Women Writers Fund. The fund aims to grow the representation of women’s writing in the library collection by acquiring works by under-represented 19th and 20th century women writers. Among the books recently purchased is a first edition of Emilie du Chatelet’s (1740) Institutions de Physique, Antonio Frisi’s (1799) Elogio storico di Dottoressa Maria Gaetana Agnesi, a third edition of Mary Shelley’s (1832) Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and Djuna Barnes’ (1928) Ladies Almanack: showing their Signs and their Tides.

DHST Dissertation Prize laureates announced

The International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology’s Division of History of Science and Technology has announced the laureates of its annual dissertation prize. Six entries were successful with two honorable mentions. Find out more about the winners.

International Science Council deplores the exclusion of women from university education in Afghanistan

The International Science Council has released a statement on the decision of authorities in Afghanistan to ban women from participating in university-level education. Equality of access to education is imperative to cultural, social, economic and scientific progress of any country and vital to the wellbeing of its citizens. Read the full ISC statement.


Events and opportunities

Australia-New Zealand Mid-Year Philosophy of Biology Workshop

Date: 21–23 June 2023
Venue: The Australian National University

The Mid-Year Philosophy of Biology Workshop is this year hosted by the ANU’s Centre for Philosophy of the Sciences. The keynote speaker is Professor Maureen O’Malley of the University of Sydney.

Event website

Workshop—Evolvability: a bridge between the proximate and ultimate

Date: 26–28 June 2023
Venue: The Australian National University

This workshop will be held at the ANU’s Centre for Philosophy of the Sciences. Contact for more information.

AusSTS 2023

Date: 17–18 July 2023
Venue: UNSW, Sydney

The AusSTS 2023 meeting will be held at UNSW under the theme ‘Contributing to and with STS’. The meeting will convene keynote and panel discussions to answer the question, ‘What is an Australasian STS contribution?’

Event website

27th International Congress of History of Science and Technology

Date: 29 June – 5 July 2023
Venue: University of Otago, Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand

Event website


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


News from the Academy

How did science feature in the Federal Budget?

Australian Academy of Science President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said despite continuing to invest in Australian universities, science agencies and other areas, Australia’s overall investment in science remains lamentable.

Australia’s science and research priorities

On 6 April 2023, the Academy made a submission to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources’ consultation on developing Australia’s science and research priorities and national science statement.

The Academy’s submission focuses on the strategic context and requirements of the National Science and Research Priorities.

It draws on discipline-specific sector analysis carried out by the Academy’s National Committees for Science, including the National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science.

The Ukraine-Australia Research Fund

Applications for The Ukraine-Australia Research Fund are now open. Ukrainian scientists who have fled the war with Russia or who have been unable to work due to the destruction of their workplace can apply for funding to enable the continuation of research and technology activities.

This is made possible by funding support of $800,000 from the non-profit Breakthrough Prize Foundation to the Australian Academy of Science.


Community showcase: The Philosopher’s Zone with David Rutledge

This ABC podcast explores the complex answers to some of the simple questions of life. David Rutledge is your guide to the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics. We recommend the recent episodes on de-extinction as a fantastic starting point!

Listen to the podcast​​​​​​​, or tune in to the program every Sunday at 5.30pm on Radio National.

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