Paper Short Abstract:
Using chemistry as a case study I consider the conference as social technology that attempts to produce order and thus standardize the chemistry world. I look at how professional meetings shape global governance of publishing infrastructures and show how disciplinary practices are consubstantial with market-based considerations.
Paper long abstract:
In history of science and STS, conferences have often been utilized as mirrors of scientific development. This paper considers conferences as manifestations of community and sociability and uses a mature discipline (chemistry) as a case study. Chemistry is a good example of how modern research is organized in an impressive array of sub-disciplines. It is a space where research follows a logic of cohabitation. I argue large chemistry conferences act as process of assembling (sub-)disciplines but also as social technology that attempts to create order, compare and thus standardizes the chemistry world. I focus on a series of annual meetings organized by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for over 120 years. These massive events, which are held twice a year in major American cities, attract thousands of chemists from around the world. They are described as “an excellent opportunity for professionals and students to showcase work and connect with colleagues in all areas of chemistry”. As media events, they also provide resources for reflecting upon identity of chemistry.
This communication draws on a participant observation at the 250th ACS National Meeting (2015). Because of their size, massive meetings are hard to study for individual researchers. I explore how scholarly interactions can be studied, including through Twitter channels. Going beyond the description of a set of rituals, I look at how such meetings shape global governance of publishing infrastructures and show how disciplinary practices (the claim of chemistry to be central) are consubstantial with market-based considerations (what is worth of value).
A panel on panels: studying academic conference practice