[act-ma] 04/11-13/2014 Science for the People: The 1970s and Today (Conference)

Charlie Welch cwelch at tecschange.org
Thu Oct 24 06:57:31 PDT 2013

We are a group of 50+ people who are coming together to plan a 
conference on the *history *of the organization Science for the People 
and the *future *of science activism, to be held *11-13 April 2014 at 
UMass Amherst*. Some of us are former members of the original 
1970s-1980s organization; some are currently active participants in the 
current Science for the People list-serv; some are historians or 
sociologists of science interested in the legacy of Science for the People.

See the future post-conference website here 

        *Science for the People: The 1970s and Today*

          A 3-Day Conference (11-13 April 2014) at UMass Amherst

          Hosted by the Social Thought & Political Economy Program


UMass Units: History Department; College of Humanities and Fine Arts; 
Afro-American Studies Department; Economics Department; School of 
Education; Political Science Department; Science, Technology, and 
Society Initiative; Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Program

Other Five-College Units: Hampshire College Dean of Faculty; Hampshire 
College School of Critical Social Inquiry; Hampshire College School of 
Natural Science; Smith College History of Science


This conference on the history of the 1970s-1980s organization Science 
for the People (SftP) and its implications for science activism today 
will bring together veteran members of the organization along with other 
scientists, Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars, science 
activists, graduate students, and undergraduates. The conference will 
include keynote speakers representing SftP and STS perspectives, panels 
on the historical and sociological significance of SftP, and panels on 
approaches to issues (e.g., energy policy, agricultural science and food 
justice, and the scientific construction of race and gender) that SftP 
addressed and that our society continues to face now.

Science for the People arose out of the anti-war movement during the 
Vietnam War era. With a Marxist analysis and non-hierarchical governing 
structure, SftP tackled the militarization of scientific research, the 
corporate control of research agendas, the political implications of 
sociobiology theories, environmental consequences of energy policy, 
inequalities in health care, and many other issues. Its members opposed 
racism, sexism, and classism in science and above all sought to mobilize 
people working in scientific fields to become active in agitating for 
science, technology, and medicine that would serve social needs rather 
than military and corporate interests. They organized in universities 
and communities, published a magazine offering sharp political analysis, 
and sought meaningful scientific exchange internationally in Vietnam, 
China, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other countries.

Some of the issues we face today have changed in important ways, but 
fundamental questions of power, ideology, and democracy in science 
remain. The time is ripe to gather SftP veterans with other scientists, 
activists, students, and STS scholars in an exploration of what the 
history of SftP can teach us. Scientists need to develop more effective 
analyses of the social and political causes of the problems they seek to 
address. Activists need to obtain a better grasp of the scientific 
dimensions of their causes and a clearer sense of who their allies are 
in the scientific world. Students need to learn strategies for putting 
their science education to work in ways consistent with their social and 
political goals. And STS scholars need to deepen our understanding of an 
organization that had an important, though under-acknowledged, early 
influence on our field and to explore how re-establishing engagement 
with activist scientists might enrich our own research and writing.


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