22 September 2016
Dear PSA Members,
I am writing to update everyone on recent changes in PSA’s operations. I am delighted to announce that PSA has set up its own central office, which is being run by our first Executive Director, Jessica Pfeifer. Jessica directs the office out of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which is providing generous financial and logistical support. This is a significant change. For the past two decades, many administrative operations of PSA were contracted out to the central office of the History of Science Society (HSS), services ranging from conducting elections to many tasks involved with running our conference including on-site registration, advertising, room allocations, and conference site selection. This arrangement worked extremely well for PSA, and we are indebted to HSS and especially to its Executive Director, Jay Malone.
As you may have noticed, PSA has recently become more ambitious. We have a new website that is making our association more accessible to our members and increasing our institutional memory. Our conference is becoming more inclusive and welcoming to underrepresented groups. For example, we now invite cognate societies to organize special sessions, we facilitate special interest lunches, and we host events directed at early career scholars, such as events providing guidance about publishing and applying for grants, as well as a welcoming reception for graduate students, early career scholars, and first-time attendees to our conference. The number of symposia and contributed paper sessions has increased significantly, and so has the number of people attending our conference (from 419 in 2012 to 521 in 2014, and we expect over 600 in 2016). These initiatives placed significant additional burdens on our Executive Secretary, and HSS expressed concern about the strain that our numbers were placing on their registration system.
The PSA Governing Board decided it was time for PSA to set up its own office with a staff directed by its own executive director. To do so, we had to change our financial arrangement with HSS. Instead of devoting a large portion of our budget to contract out administrative work, we decided to reallocate these funds and do this work ourselves. I contacted the President of HSS to ensure our sister organization knows that PSA greatly values our relationship to HSS and that our board is strongly committed to continuing, even enhancing, our intellectual connections. I learned that the change in the administrative relationship comes at an opportune time for HSS, which is interested in having its staff take on new responsibilities for HSS. We will be having joint conferences with HSS in 2016 and 2018 and plan to work together to increase intellectual exchange between members of our associations at those conferences.
I am particularly happy that our first Executive Director is Jessica Pfeifer and our central office is located at UMBC. The combination of Jessica’s scholarly and administrative talents makes her an extremely effective leader. Her successes include facilitating the programs for our conference mentioned above as well as other new initiatives that will make our upcoming conference even more inclusive and welcoming, such as dependent care subsidies, onsite child care, and increased travel support for graduate students and recent PhDs from outside North America ineligible for our NSF Travel Grants, and especially those from countries where economic conditions make travelling to our conferences prohibitive. The PSA is also hosting a public forum open to the general public at PSA2016 about how race should be used in medicine, in an attempt to be more outward looking and also to highlight how the expertise of philosophers and historians of science can be brought to bear on problems of general concern. A sign of Jessica’s impact is that participation in PSA elections has doubled since she became Executive Director, and current registration numbers for our upcoming conference have increased by 50%.
Jessica’s home institution, UMBC, is well known for its strong commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and mentoring. Jeffrey Mervis has written that UMBC’s “Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), has become the gold standard for providing a path into academic research for groups—African-Americans, Hispanics, and disadvantaged white students—now underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.” (Science, May 20, 2014) This makes UMBC an ideal home for our central office as we strive to make our association more inclusive to those from underrepresented groups, more welcoming to a greater diversity of new members, and more supportive of early career scholars. PSA could not have established a central office without the generous support of UMBC and its commitment to our mission of advancing the interdisciplinary field of philosophy of science.
President, Philosophy of Science Association
Canada Research Chair in Logic and Philosophy of Science
University of Calgary