’Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences’: A publication story

by Andrea Schikowitz & Sarah R Davies

One thing that students (and our non-academic friends and family members) are often curious about is the process of publication. How do researchers create texts, and what are the stages through which these texts pass before they become public? Having recently had chapters published as part of the anthology “Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences”, we thought our experiences might be illustrative – as well as relating to the themes of the book itself.

The book came out of a workshop that took place in February 2017 here in Vienna (which was in turn based on two conference panels in 2014 and 2016). Drawing scholars together from across the world, the discussions went so well that the organisers suggested that participants put together an edited volume based on the papers presented. They already had a connection to a book series – the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook – so proposed working towards publishing as a part of this.

Many of the next stages were ‘behind the scenes’ to us as authors, as the editors – two of the scholars who had organised the workshop, including colleague and friend of the department Karen Kastenhofer – managed the reviewing process and negotiated with the editors of the book series. We submitted our chapter manuscripts in 2017 and received comments from an internal review by the editors. In 2018 we received comments from external reviewers and revised our manuscripts in response to these, until the reviewers were satisfied. Once all the chapters had been through this process and been accepted, the whole manuscript could be handed in to the series editors (in 2019). At this point we received a few more comments (including from a language editor), and made further small revisions. The book was formally accepted by the series editors in August 2019, and handed over to the publisher.

The publisher also sent the volume out for review, however, and requested some further changes. This process meant that we received proofs of our chapters – for double checking the final text – in November 2020. The editors received the final proofs of the whole manuscript in February 2021, and the book has now been published (and is available for free online!).

So: publishing can be drawn out across years, and involves many different actors. While this is not always the case (publishing a single paper in a journal can be a more streamlined process, for instance), we do think it’s interesting in the context of the themes of the book.

Image by Georg Schroll

Both our contributions to the yearbook focus on the enactment of researchers’ identities as a malleable and precarious process rather than as a stable condition. We both argue that identity work is about bringing together individuality and collectivity in specific ways, which is ongoing and might differ across settings and situations. Being a ‘good researcher’ is performed through specific practices – and publishing is certainly a crucial practice through which contemporary researcher identities are performed.

We see many of the developments that the yearbook analyses – from acceleration of research to increased international mobility – reflected in the changing constellations and belongings of the authors during the publication process. The work on this publication took place in, was supported by, and contributed to different and changing institutional, disciplinary, and national communities over more than five years. The editors and authors who contributed to the Yearbook formed different communities and shared different belongings during the publication process.

Image by the authors

For example, Andrea’s contribution “Being a ‘Good Researcher’ in Transdisciplinary Research: Choreographies of Identity Work Beyond Community” builds on research conducted for her doctoral project (in the frame of a larger research project) at the STS department of the University of Vienna, but when the workshop took place she was a guest researcher at the Institute for Organization Studies at the WU Vienna, financed by a scholarship. When doing the revisions of the chapter she was holding a postdoc position at the TU in Munich. She was still there when the final author description and corresponding address had to be provided. When the Yearbook was finally published, she had just started her current postdoc position, again at the STS department in Vienna, as part of Sarah’s group, who had become a full professor there in the meanwhile.

So, Andrea conducted different amounts and kinds of work for this chapter at different institutions, partly funded by third party funding, and colleagues from all these institutions provided feedback on different versions of the chapter (all of this finds expression in footnotes and acknowledgements). Further, this publication in its various stages (‘under review’, ‘accepted for publication’ or ‘forthcoming’) also to some degree contributed to Andrea’s becoming part of these different communities, as she put it on her publication list when applying for new jobs.

Yet, the final publication, dated 2021, is what will finally ‘count’, when academic productivity is more formally evaluated on the basis of publications (e.g. for cumulative dissertations, etc.).

The story behind this one publication interestingly mirrors Andrea’s analysis, in her chapter, of the spatiotemporal choreographies which enact academic identities, which go back and forth between different belongings and communities. We can also see that such unlikely things as a single publication (which appears as one discrete event on our publication lists and CVs) can contribute to continuity across these different belongings and to our identity work. For being a ‘good researcher’ we need to perform both at the same time: the (sometimes lengthy and cumbersome) process of publication which however allows us to form a researcher identity and togetherness with the other authors and editors, and with those who provide feedback, beyond institutional belongings; and publication as a discrete event and transferable commodity that gets affiliated with individual and institutional performance and on which we rely for mobilizing institutions to get jobs and grants.

But the story does not end here – this is where science communication sets in. After the official publication has been launched (which is of course also an instance of science communication), various authors announced the publication in Tweets (and re-tweeted them mutually), or over other individual or institutional social media platforms. We also wrote this blogpost about it, and some of us have and will use chapters for teaching. This relates to Sarah’s argument, in her chapter “Performing Science in Public: Science Communication and Scientific Identity”, that scientific identity work is also done through public communication. Such practices (in her study, participation in a science festival) are important not just for representing research and researchers in public, but for a sense of shared community within scientific collectives. Tweets about this book, for instance, may well be read by lay audiences, but also our fellow department members and other colleagues, helping to reinforce a particular imagination of who we – the authors – are and what we do.

So, a single publication experience can open up many dimensions of the practices involved in being a researcher in contemporary technoscience. While of course contributing to some of the more worrying developments in research, such as changing rapidly between short-term engagements or quantified evaluation, these experiences also provide mundane and often unacknowledged possibilities for togetherness and communication beyond a single community.


References:

Kastenhofer K., & Molyneux-Hodgson S. (Eds.), Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, vol 31. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61728-8_11

Davies S. R. (2021) Performing Science in Public: Science Communication and Scientific Identity. In: Kastenhofer K., & Molyneux-Hodgson S. (Eds.), Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, vol 31. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61728-8_10

Schikowitz A. (2021) Being a ‘Good Researcher’ in Transdisciplinary Research: Choreographies of Identity Work Beyond Community. In: Kastenhofer K., & Molyneux-Hodgson S. (Eds.), Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, vol 31. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61728-8_11


Andrea Schikowitz is a university assistant (post-doc) at the STS department, University of Vienna. Her research deals with the encounter of heterogeneous ways of knowing and possibilities for change. She has investigated this question by analysing various settings – such as transdisciplinary sustainability research, public governance, urban living labs and collaborative housing. Her current focus is on knowledge practices in urban planning and controversies, and on the intersection of digital and material practices therein.

Sarah Davies is Professor of Technosciences, Materiality, and Digital Cultures at the STS Department, University of Vienna. Her research explores the relations between science and society, particularly as these are done in digital spaces.