What we can remember (so it must have been good) …a BSHS 2014 retrospective

Well it’s over a month now since BSHS 2014 in St Andrews and the CHSTM PhD office has pretty much returned to what counts for normal in the summer. In the post-conference season lull (August) the office is pretty much empty;  it’s not that everyone is on holiday (though we’d all like to be), we’re all just suffering looming deadlines of varying degrees of gravity in seclusion. My own personal response to the self-enforced solitude and increasing deadline anxiety is to keep reminding myself exactly what I’ve done with my summer. Listing the year’s events doesn’t work all that well at allaying ‘the fear’ but now I’ll bolster the ameliorative effects of my personal tick-list by writing a conference review unasked (this isn’t elaborate procrastination how dare you, I’m an academic good Samaritan!) I’ll remind the other CHSTM PhD attendees (and delegates at large) of what we did at BSHS, why it was good, and why yes we do deserve a holiday even if we can’t have one till October?!10516620_10100197565211755_5522679324595113420_n

So which CHSTM PhDs went? Myself, Stuart, Cameron, Sam, Andrew, Camilla and Alice White – yes I know she’s at Kent but she was assumed to be ONE OF US several times at BSHS by other delegates, so I’m including her here. All of us, except Camilla, stayed in a self-catered flat in St Andrews, foregoing the student accommodation in favour of the ability to make decent coffee, play Quidditch on the Playstation (well except me), and go running each morning (well that was just me). Our little flat thus formed an impromptu reunion of some of the core volunteers of last year’s ICHSTM all glorying in our positions of zero responsibility (except Sam who gloried in making all the audio and visual happen).

So what was good about BSHS 2014? Well quite a lot really. St Andrews is a lovely place for a conference, and whilst the weather didn’t entirely play ball, any rain could be made up for with the distracting sea views. The opportunity for a whiskey tasting and a Ceilidh must also certainly be listed amongst this year’s high points.

The conference featured several concurrent sessions on varying themes which demonstrated the breadth of the history of science field fairly accurately. The inclusion of a wider variety of papers covering science communication and museology was refreshing, with the special sessions on Horizon @ 50 creating a valuable space for the discussion of science communication with cultural history and media history. It was certainly a shame that CHSTM’s Jia-O was unable to attend (though as the new Web Master she made it possible for us all to attend by sorting out that online form).

Pleasingly, gender quietly emerged as a theme, discussed with more or less rigorousness. Though the tendency to read the inclusion of gender as a call to ‘add women and stir’ seems to still be prevalent in some quarters, others, such as CHSTM’s Camilla used it analytically to great effect.

Twitter was a key element of this year’s BSHS, with a steady stream of tweets providing commentary, questions, photos and discussions during and after the papers. Twitter proved valuable particularly because so many interesting sessions occurred simultaneously and physics has failed to provide a solution to the common conference conundrum of ‘which session do I attend, oh god, there are three good ones on now!?’. At times we even managed to ask questions in other sessions with other Twitter devotees kindly giving voice to queries from a different building, and then attempting to supply the answer in fewer than 140 characters. Luckily there was plenty of time in the programme for socialising, and meeting all the people whose sessions you wished you could have been in. I lost count of the number of conversations started with “I wasn’t at your paper but it looked very interesting from the abstract/on Twitter…”

So what can I say to finish this rambling review? Well a massive thank you (on behalf of all the CHSTM PhDs) to Arik who committed blood-sacrifice – busted his arm – for the sake of the conference. And also a thank you to the other volunteers and organisers. We’re all looking forward to Swansea 2015.

Post by Hannah Elizabeth

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