The International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) brings together scholars from diverse disciplines, including the life sciences as well as history, philosophy, and social studies of science. The biennial ISHPSSB summer meetings are known for innovative, transdisciplinary sessions, and for fostering informal, co-operative exchanges and on-going collaborations.

Read here about the elections of the Society.

The ISHPSSB awards three prizes at its biennial meetings to recognize excellent achievements in the fields covered by the society. Each prize is named after a pivotal and dearly missed member of the Society and the broader academic community.

Two prizes are aimed at graduate students, to recognize outstanding papers presented at a previous ISHPSSB meeting:

To recognize extraordinary contribution to scholarship, and service that promotes interdisciplinary connections between history, philosophy, social studies, and biology, the society awards the

(visit the membership section for information concerning reduced subscription rates to six journals)

ISHPSSB and History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences (HPLS)

Although it is unfortunate that ISHPSSB and HPLS were not able to agree to a formal association (see Fall 2006 newsletter), there are two positive outcomes to the attempt to forge a relationship. First, HPLS will offer ISHPSSB members an extremely attractive offer to subscribe to the journal for $40/year. As other “special offer” journals, these subscriptions will be made through the Society’s web page and the orders will be sent in through the Treasurer’s office.

Second, HPLS would like to encourage ISHPSSB members to consider publishing recent scholarship in the journal. As members will note from reading the journal’s editorial policy, it is keen to publish work in the history, philosophy, and cultural studies of biology, especially emphasizing the life sciences in the twentieth century. Although scholarship from any historical period will be considered, the journal seeks articles that are relevant to contemporary workers in the life sciences. For queries, please contact the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Keith R. Benson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or the journal’s Managing Editor, Christiane Groeben (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


A Message from the editors of HPLS
March 22, 2013

Dear colleagues,

we are writing to you as editors of the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, to which you have subscribed as members of the International Society for the History of the Life Sciences. We learned recently, that you had not received your 2012 issues yet, and would like to expain this.

When we contacted the publisher Giannini in Naples, it turned out that they had been withholding the issues to send all four issues together because sending each issue apart would cost more postage than the rate you pay. We apologize sincerely for this unfortunate decision which was made without consulting us. We therefore could not inform you in time. By now you should have received all four 2012 issues.

For 2013 we agreed with the publisher that you will receive pdf files of the single issues right after publication and the hard copies all together at the end of the year. Another option would be to raise the subscription rate. We would be grateful for a feedback about which solution you prefer.

- a pdf of each issue as it appears and all four hardcopies at the end of the year at the current rate.

- a hard copy of each separate issue as it appears at an annual rate of $70.

HPLS is in a very dire situation as far as its publication is concerned, and we are working hard at the moment to solve this problem. We hope that you will continue to support the journal in its transition to the 21st century world of academic publishing.

Best regards,

Staffan Mueller-Wille, Editor-in-Chief
Christiane Groeben, Managing Editor



October 7, 2005

Gar Allen, President

I'd like to provide ISHPSSB members with an update on the results of the membership poll and subsequent discussions within the Council regarding the take over of the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences (HPLS) by ISHPSSB. First, I want to thank Phil Sloan and the Ad Hoc Committee on Publications that managed to get together a great poll which was sent out to all members, asking a number of questions about the idea of ISH taking on a journal, and whether that journal should be HPLS. Second, I want to thank all ISH members who sent in their questionnaires and gave their feedback on many of the issues that were laid out. We have tried to take all these into account as we move along.

The results of the membership poll were overwhelmingly in favor of pursuing the prospects of ISH taking on a journal, and that HPLS was the most likely prospect. Of the total questionnaires returned (138), 116 were for taking over the journal and 22 against. However, even those in favor of the general proposal had a variety of concerns and caveats about everything from language of publication to editorial responsibility and costs. These responses suggested that while we should explore the possibilities of taking on HPLS seriously and enthusiastically, we need to keep in mind the potential problems many of you identified and brought forward.

I am pleased that a majority of members think we should move ahead with exploring the prospect of editing HPLS. I think ISHPSSB can benefit in a number of ways from sponsoring an official journal, and by taking over HPLS can also help restore the journal to its former stature. Especially as an organ of the Society, with the prospect of containing Society news (and the Newsletter), and papers from our meetings, it would serve the field and our organization well. After receiving the questionnaires I summarized the major concerns that people had raised, circulated these concerns to the Council and asked for responses. The major areas of concern were addressed in points l-10 below:

(1) There were numerous comments to the effect that there was still some information necessary before it would be possible to make an informed decision : most notably financial arrangements with publishers and long-term cost to the Society.

(2) Most responses, even from the more enthusiastic members, thought the two-year trial period was a good idea. It is also clear that it will take a while to turn the journal around, and that at the end of two years it still might not be clear whether the experiment was successful or not.

(3) There was some concern that the field might not even need a revived HPLS. But the majority of the membership seemed to feel that HPLS has always filled an important niche, and that with ISHPSSB editorship it can serve a truly international community, and provide an especially appropriate outlet for papers from our biennial meetings.

(4) One clear issue was the policy of publishing articles in HPLS in English only, as opposed to the long-standing HPLS policy of publishing in French, Germany, Italian and English. While almost all members agreed that in principle, the policy of multi-language publication was a good one, it was clear that it would be impractical to use other languages than English. Furthermore, all reports from publishers indicated that they would not consider takeing on a multi-language journal. What did come out of discussing this issue were a number of alternatives, including a compromise policy that would strongly encourage authors to submit papers in English, while reserving the right to publish ones every once in a while in another language, with a significant English abstract (prepared at the author's expense). Other suggestions included on-line only publication of papers in languages other than English, if the publishers would allow, or publishing on-line in the original language papers published in the journal in their English version.

(5) Most all members thought that the name of the journal should be changed to reflect ISHPSSB's concern with the sociology of science. Clearly, this will be necessary, though the representative from Elsevier suggested waiting at least until the end of the two-year trial period in order to insure continuity with subscribers.

(6) One of the crucial issues of concern to members was the managerial control of the journal, especially in the cooperative role with the Stazione Zoologica, who own HPLS. The question of the composition of the the Editorial Board (equal numbers of members appointed by the Stazione and by ISHPSSB, or all by ISHPSSB, and the relationship between the Editorial Board and the Editor (for example, in questions of who should have final say in disputed issues?). It is clear that the Editor will be appointed by ISHPSSB, but that some members of the Editorial Board (or Advisory Board if there is one) will be appointed by the Stazione. I think we all recognize that this will have to be worked out very carefully and clearly with the Stazione. At the same time, the Stazione very much wants to keep the journal alive, is planning to put 20,000 euros/year into it, and has shown no tendency in the past to micromanage or exert influence on the Editor, who was free to make all final editorial decisions. Working out the details of this joint-management will clearly be one of the most important items during our negotiations. I am firmly of the opinion that if we undertake this operation, we have to establish clear lines of authority and management for editorial and management decisions between the Editor/Editorial Board and the Stazione.

(7) In terms of selecting an Editor (we would refer to this position as "Interim Editor" for the 2-year trial period), the Ad Hoc Committee on Publications is putting out a call for volunteers who might want to consider assuming the post. Any potential candidate for the post would need to have a guarantee of financial support from their home institution of somewhere around $ 4,000 - 5,000 per year to operate the editorial office. You should be receiving that notification within the next two weeks. At least at the moment, we have Keith Benson as a back-up, as he has agreed to do it if no one else steps forward.

(8) A number of comments pertained to the financial aspects of the Society taking over editing and management of HPLS, especially the possibility of "hidden costs" of operating an editorial office. The basics we have in hand at the moment are that the Stazione will continue to put in 20,000 Euros/year for at least the next two years, and provide some administrative support through Christiane Groeben; the Society is in the fortunate financial position (thanks to Keith Benson's careful management) to pledge $12,500 for each of the next two years to help support the journal without compromising any of our other activities, such as funding graduate student travel to meetings. On the positive side, with HPLS becoming the official organ of ISHPSSB, all members would automatically receive a subscription to the journal.

(9) There was much concern expressed by members over the potential increase in dues (by $ 40.00 per two-year membership) after the trial period, to pay for the journal. It was pointed out, however, that this is much less than many other societies have seen in dues increases in recent years, especially when we consider that our membership cycle runs for two years. Some members feared it might result in a drop in membership, and would be especially hard on graduate students. (The possibility of providing a reduced membership rate increase for graduate students was suggested by a number of members).

(10) The issue of selecting a publisher was also of some concern, especially given the prices of journals today. We currently have three publishers who have expressed interest and are submitting proposals: Elsevier, Springer and Taylor and Francis (the current publishers of HPLS). The Council will have to evaluate those proposals carefully as we move ahead. We all recognize that the whole idea of taking over the journal might come to nothing if the expenses seem to great or the joint-management issues with the Stazione cannot be resolved satisfactorily.

After several weeks of e-mail discussion by the Council, I asked for a ballot vote on whether to proceed or not with setting up a meeting with Giorgio Bernardi, Director of the Stazione, and representatives of ISHPSSB, and on specific questions arising out of the concerns listed above. The Council voted unanimously to pursue negotiations. To that end, Keith Benson and I will meet with the Stazione representatives in London in mid-October. No Society funds are being used to pay for this meeting. There is some urgency in making this decision, since if we do not reach an agreement, it will still give the Stazione time to seek other alternatives. And if we do agree to take over the journal, it will provide our Editor and staff the lead time necessary to put together their first issue (there are still several issues of the journal in production under the present editor, Bernardino Fantini). We had hoped to include one or two other Council members in the negotiations, but no one, even our UK representatives were free when the Stazione representatives were also free. I have full confidence, however, that, having met with Giorgio Bernardi in Naples in July, and discussed these issues fully, that negotiations will go smoothly and quickly.

On subsidiary issues, the Council voted (in most cases unanimously, in a few with one or several dissenting votes) to support equal joint-management of the journal with the Stazione (half the editorial board appointed by ISHPSSB and half by the Stazione); for appointing an "Interim Editor"; for a two-year trial period after which either party could back out; that theNewsletter, if feasible, be included in the journal; that ISHPSSB would contribute $15,000/year for the next two years; that dues would be increased after the two-year trial period by approximately $40; that graduate students should get a reduced rate on dues increase; that if it is feasible from the publishers' perspective, members could opt out of the subscription to the journal, and thus avoid the larger dues increase; and that the journal should be published in English only. If we reach an agreement with the Stazione, final arrangements will be examined and voted on by the Council, as will the candidate for Interim Editor selected by the Ad Hoc Committee on Publications.

As soon as results of the negotiations in London are complete, I will let all ISHPSSB members know the outcome and we can proceed ahead.

Again, I want to thank all the members who returned their questionnaires to the Ad Hoc Committee, and for your many thoughtful and very important questions and suggestions. Without this input, it would have been much more difficult to cover all the dimensions involved in this decision-making process. As matters proceed we (the Council and I) encourage members to send us any ideas or suggestions about the Society's sponsorship of the journal, its editorial policy and its management. Most important, if ISHPSSB does in fact take over editorship of HPLS, we would hope that Society members would think about contributing papers to forthcoming issues.

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