PSA Newsletter: Vol. 6 No. 4: December 2000

*************************************************************** PSA NEWSLETTER: Volume 6 : Number 4 : DECEMBER 2000 ***************************************************************

Edited for the Philosophy of Science Association by Malcolm Forster,


  5. JOB ADVERTISEMENT: Alabama at Birmingham (Deadline: Dec. 15)


  1. The purpose of this letter


Letter from Bruce E. Seely, Program Director for Science and Technology Studies:

The National Science Foundation's program in Science and Technology Studies is the primary supporter of research in the field of philsophy and related areas of STS. The STS Program's annual budget for 1999-2000 was $3.5 million and will increase this year, for the NSF is slated to received the largest annual budget increase in its history. A variety of mechanisms buttress the varied educational and scholarly efforts of the members of PSA. I write to draw the attention of PSA members to the various opportunities at the program, which include both traditional modes of support that many know about, and new and emerging possibilities. I also want to address basic procedural changes taking place at NSF that effect the entire STS community.

For several decades, the National Science Foundation has supported the scholarly efforts of philosophers of science and related fields of STS. The most common award from the Science and Technology Studies Program is the STS Scholars Awards, which supports research by an individual scholar for an academic year, summer(s), or for longer periods of time. Support can include salary, travel and research expenses, assistance for graduate and undergraduates, and other costs. Grants for Collaborative Research support projects involving several investigators. Two different types of STS Fellowships are available. Postdoctoral Fellowships are for scholars within five years of the award date of their doctoral degrees. Professional Development Fellowships offer opportunities for more senior scholars who seek to gain formal knowledge of science and technology specialties (for philosophers and social scientists) or in the humanities and social sciences (for scientists and engineers) in order to improve their STS activities. Doctoral Dissertation Research Grants support research expenses not normally available through the student's university. Small Grants for Training and Research provide sustained research opportunities for a group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows on important issues or topics in STS. These opportunities usually extend for three years. The program also accepts proposals for Conferences and Workshops, with support normally limited to $10,000. Small Grants for Exploratory Research also are available; please contact the program to discuss the guidelines governing such proposals. The program also supports efforts designed to expand the research experiences of undergraduates (REU). Detailed information on all of these activities, program guidelines, and application materials can be found at the Program's website ( The next target date for the submission of proposals is 1 February 2001. The Program is eager to see more proposals from philosophers working on topics within the STS umbrella. Please contact the Program with questions about eligibility or the application process. (Contact information below.)

The NSF also has a range of additional opportunities for STS scholars in other Foundation programs. Many of these may involve topics and questions far from the interests of most philosophers, but the Program would be interested in connecting philosophers of science to opportunities when appopriate. Perhaps the most important linkage to other programs is the Societal Dimensions of Engineering, Science, and Technology Program (SDEST). It supports studies considering the ethical and values elements in science and technology, as well as research related to "improving approaches and information for decision making concerning management and direction of research, science, and technology." SDEST Program Director Rachelle D. Hollander often collaborates with the STS Program in co-funding projects related to ethics. For more information, see the SDEST webpage:

Other opportunities that many STS scholars do not often know about are found in the NSF's International Program Offices (INT). The International Program encourages collaboration between American scholars and in the rest of the world in all fields of science. Funding is often available for travel aimed at developing such connections at all levels, from graduate students to senior scholars. INT is especially interested in supporting postdoctoral exchanges, and support exists for organizing conferences to open exchange. Research collaborations also are supported. INT is especially eager to expand connections to the lesser developed nations, particularly in Africa. STS scholars can obtain INT funding to supplement a regular award, or can apply directly to INT. For more information, see the INT web page, especially the anouncement International Opportunities for Scientists and Engineers, NSF 00-138:

In recent years,the NSF has focused funds on special research initiatives of timely importance. These reach across the entire Foundation. Several have been targeted at encouraging broader participation in science by under-represented groups. These include Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education (POWRE); Faculty Early Career Development Awards (CAREER); Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowships; and Career Advancement Awards for Minority Scientists and Engineers. Other initiatives are focused on specific research topics of potentially great importance. These tend to have a three-year life, and provide special resources. STS scholars are encouraged to propsoe projects for funding. Information about all cross-cutting programs of NSF can be accessed at:

The most current research initiatives are Nanoscale Science and Engineering and Information Technology Research (ITR). The target date has just passed for Nanotechnology area, but scholars interested in the social, political, historical, and societal impacts aspects of nanotechnology should watch for the next announcement. The initiative specifically seeks to fund work in these areas. See the website at

It is not too late, however, to seek funding from the largest current initiative, ITR. Indeed, this initiative is perfectly suited for many STS scholars, as the program announcement for 2000-2001 includes special attention to People and Social Groups Interacting with Computers and Infrastructure. Designated topics include:

  • Social, Economic, Ethical and Legal Implications of Information Technology
  • Information Technology and Social Transformations
  • Information Technology for Distributed and Collective Action
  • Information Technology in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Information Technology in Education
  • IT Workforce

The deadline for receipt of proposals seeking less than $500,000 from ITR is January 22-24, 2001. With a total initiative budget of $215 million for 2000-2001, I'd like to see a strong group of STS proposals in the competition. The details can be found at Moreover, individuals willing to serve on panels evaluate the proposals should consult the web page and complete an application (see the top of that page).


Let me conclude with comments about basic process changes at NSF that affect PSA members. The Foundation has been developing a paperless submission and review process for several years. The key feature is a web-based interface called FASTLANE. Eventually, this mechanism will allow all steps in the submission and management of grants to be handled electronically.

Many PSA members will encounter the changes most directly when submitting a proposal. The days of mailing 19 copies of a proposal to Washington are over. As of 1 October 2000, the Foundation requires that ALL proposals, reviews, and reports be submitted digitally through FASTLANE. Independent scholars may apply for a waiver, but everyone else must use the new system. This requires, however, that proposals be translated into PDF files in order to maintain formatting. Fortunately, NSF soon will translate Word, WordPerfect, or other formats into PDF. All these steps are spelled out on the FASTLANE web site: Usually the process works smoothly. And FASTLANE does allow much more rapid transmission of copies at much lower cost and with substantial savings in paper. Moreover, once you have received an award, it will be a little easier to handle administrative details, such as requesting extensions and submitting annual reports. But please be aware that it may take a little more time at first. You should draw upon the expertise of your sponsored research offices.

The FASTLANE process also is changing all the time. For example, many individuals whose proposals were not chosen for funding this fall will be notified of the decision by email, not by mail. Eventually all communications will come by email. At the moment, I am most concerned about FASTLANE review of proposals. Many of you know that the STS program requests 4-6 scholars to evaluate every proposal. In the past, the proposal was mailed to reviewers, with instructions and criteria for conducting the review. Reviews were then mailed or emailed back to the NSF. From now on, however, reviewers will receive a request to review via email. The message contains instructions for accessing the proposals on the web, for printing a copy, and for submitting the review through FASTLANE. The Program and the review panel benefit enormously from this approach, for individual reviews can be seen much more quickly. But a number of reviewers this fall found that FASTLANE still has unfortunate teething problems. One person labeled it SLOWLANE, after encountering problems getting into FASTLANE. Often problems were caused by the arrivalof a large number of proposals to NSF. In early August, for example, 5000 CAREER proposals arriving the same day crashed the entire system.

I've gone into detail here to ask for your continued cooperation and patience as this change of process continues. While it is interesting (as a historian of technology) to watch this large organization cope with change in its large technical systems, reviewers encountering problems are more likely to be frustrated and angry than professionally interested. Those of you asked to review proposals (more than 300 people this fall alone) need to know the following:

  1. If you experienced difficulties in reviewing proposals, I extend sincere apologies. The process is supposed to be easier, but sometimes it failed. I'm very grateful for the extended efforts of some of you to transmit your reviews.
  2. Please realize that NSF and the STS Program depend heavily upon the efforts of its volunteer reviewers. The importance of the reviews has not been diminished by the shift in communication media. The program cannot make good choices without the guidance of experts in the various fields of research. So please try and help if you are asked to provide an evaluation. About half the scholars who are asked do so, but the committee of visitors that reviewed the STS program last May expressed concern about this rate of return. The process may seem a little impersonal, but please realize that your efforts are truly appreciated.
  3. Let me ask for your patience as the change-over to a "paperless" electronic world continues. The STS Program has no latitude here; these processes are mandated for the entire Foundation.
  4. If you encounter any difficulties with submitting reviews, please contact me at the addresses below.

Let me close with a word of thanks to all reviewers. And let me also encourage anyone who has a question about the Program's scope, its activities, or its processes, to contact me or John Perhonins, the Associate Program Director who handles the dissertation program. We are always eager to talk to you about your ideas, your proposals, your plans. We welcome queries by telephone or email. And remember the next target date for proposals is 1 February 2001.

Bruce E. Seely
Program Director for Science and Technology Studies
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 995
Arlington, VA  22230
phone: 703/292-8763
FAX: 703/292-9068
email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. OR This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Pentecoste Lectures 2001 at the Department of Philosophy, Bielefeld University, Germany will be given by


(1) Science, Truth, and Democracy
(2) Mendel's Mirror: Biological Reflections of Humanity

The first topic deals with problems from general philosophy of science; the second addresses the impact of biology on social issues.

Time: Wednesday, May 30 through Friday, June 1, 2001
Place: Bielefeld University.

Lectures and discussion will be in English.

Further information: Martin Carrier (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.eld) Registration: Liisa Kurz (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


The NSF Societal Dimensions of Engineering, Science, and Technology (SDEST) program is encouraging proposals for the upcoming February 1, 2001 target date . The Societal Dimensions program includes Ethics and Values Studies (EVS) and Research on Science and Technology (RST). EVS focuses on improving knowledge of ethical and value dimensions in science, engineering, and technology. RST focuses on improving approaches and information for decision making about investment in science, engineering, and technology.

SDEST considers proposals that examine the full range of questions that arise in the interactions of science, technology, and society. It provides a home at NSF for research on the ethical, legal, economic, and political contexts for knowledge production and innovation. EVS is particularly interested in analysis of ethical questions surrounding new developments in biotechnology and information technology and of the value issues associated with social and individual choices concerning them. RST is particularly interested in projects that examine the implications of strategies for research support, and the outcomes of those strategies. Both program components are interested in the area of research ethics. For EVS, this is a core concern. For RST, issues of research ethics that have implications for research productivity and outcomes are important.

The SDEST announcement (NSF99-82) can be accessed at; suggestions for applicants and information about prior awards are available at


Arizona State University
Main Campus

The Department of Biology invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant Professor level. The successful candidate will be an active contributor to our Biology and Society program. Required are (1) a Ph.D in an appropriate discipline at the time of appointment, (2) a strong record of professional accomplishments, interests, and abilities that are based in the biological sciences, are broadly interdisciplinary and integrate perspectives from both life sciences and history/philosophy/social sciences, and (3) teaching and research experience or potential. We particularly encourage candidates with professional interests and experience in ethical issues in biology and who will complement our existing programs (

Please submit: a curriculum vitae that includes details of past teaching experiences and other interactions with undergraduates; selected reprints; a statement of teaching accomplishments, interests, and philosophy as they relate to the goals of our Biology and Society Program; a statement of research accomplishments and future plans; and three letters of recommendation to: Chair, Biology and Society Search Committee, Department of Biology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1501; fax (480-965-2519)). Applications from two individuals wishing to share this appointment will be considered. Application deadline is 8 January 2001, with applications reviewed weekly thereafter until the position is filled. Arizona State University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

5. JOB ADVERTISEMENT: University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL., Department of Philosophy invites applications for the position of Research Assistant Professor. One year, nontenure track renewable for two additional years. AOS: philosophy of science. Course load: 2 courses per year. Salary $38,000 plus $3000 professional budget. Individual will assist the UAB Center for Ethics and Values in teaching graduate research ethics class, in developing research ethics material for the web, and other projects of the center. Ph.D preferred. Submit a letter of application, vita, letters of reference, and writing sample or samples to Harold Kincaid, Search Chair, Department of Philosophy, 900 13th St. So., Birmingham, AL, 35294-1260 Application deadline: December 15 or until position is filled. We especially encourage applications from women and members of minority groups. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer. Employment eligibility verification required upon hire. Further information about the Center for Ethics and Values in the Sciences is available at

*************************************************************** END OF PSA NEWSLETTER ***************************************************************


A. The purpose of this newsletter

The PSA Newsletter is published electronically on an "as needed" basis by the Philosophy of Science Association to disseminate information. The newsletter is moderated and is restricted to information pertinent to members of the Association (e.g., official business of the Association, information about upcoming meetings or other information likely to be of interest to a broad range of membership). It is NOT intended for ongoing discussions of intellectual topics within philosophy of science.


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