Dear colleagues!

We invite you to take part in
The XV International scientific and practical conference
History of Science and Technology. Museum Studies.
Moscow, December 8−9th, 2021.

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  • The Polytechnic Museum, Moscow
  • National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE)
  • Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov (MSU), Faculty of History
  • Institute for the History of Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Scientific and Technological Museum Promotion Association (AMNIT)
  • National University of Science and Technology (MISIS)

We welcome historians, sociologists, philosophers, culturologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and museum specialists whose interests include the history of science, methodology, and technology in Russia from the second half of the 19th century to the present. This year we invite you to discuss why and how laws of nature “turn” into norms, regulations and rules of society. Who is the facilitator between the rules of society and the laws of nature? How do society’s laws / norms influence nature? What aspects of social life affect the observation and study of natural laws as well as their conversion to fundamental discoveries, technology, and engineering inventions? In which cases do laws of nature / social norms stimulate a constructive, creative human activity and in which do they hinder it? How do we describe the role of creativity in engineering, academic, and entrepreneurial activity in different historical periods and in the present? What role do museums play in the comprehension and “conversion” of the laws of nature? The representation of the rules of society and laws of nature in projects and exhibitions in museums of natural science and technology museums: concrete examples and general patterns.

We offer to discuss these and other topics that will be presented as part of the conference’s sections that were suggested by our long-term and new partners: research groups and centres from leading research institutes and universities.


PART 1. Laws of Nature and Society

SECTION 1. Regional Differentiation of the Quality of Life in Russia in the 20th Century: Natural Factors
Coordinated by MSU, The Center for Economic History (L.I. Borodkin)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

The section focuses on the discussion of factors that influenced the differences in the quality of life in various Russian regions in the 20th century. Natural factors played (and still play) an important role in these differences: climate conditions, the availability of fossil fuels, fertile grounds, water sources, the availability of transport etc. Regional disparities in average income (or salary) changed during different periods of the 20th century, increasing or decreasing by two or three times. Comparing average incomes for the country’s regions to natural factors will allow us to figure out their role in the evolution of the socio-economic process in late Imperial Russia, the USSR, and post-Soviet Russia. Of interest are statistics of the regional level as well as local data (presented as case studies).

SECTION 2. Socialist Energy and Other Socio-Technological Ideas of the Soviet Era
Coordinated by HSE, Moscow and Saint Petersburg campuses (G.A. Orlova, I.A. Kalinin, N.A. Nikiforova)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

As part of this section, we problematize the relationships between communism, Soviet authority, and the “electrification of the whole country” that existed in the early stages of the short Soviet period. Our main point of interest is the role that technology which provided access to (new) sources of energy played in the building of socialism.
We will focus our attention on three energy formations (electricity, the atom, crude oil). We propose to discuss: key strategies for constructing energy, its sources and resources in different aspects of discourse (techno-social, political-economic, poetic); the forms and formulas for Sovietization of energy, its rhetorical mastering and symbolic appropriation; procedures for translating energy into political power, the mechanism of planned economy, the model of historical movement, the technology of producing the Soviet subject and society; the investment of materials and infrastructure materializations into substantiating the political economy connections between energy type and the specifics of the social system; doctrines, infrastructures, and energy safety at different levels of their use, from the Socialist Bloc to factory floors or laboratories; environmental aspects and the legal framework of manufacturing during the socialist era.

SECTION 3. Technologies for transforming nature into environment: the history of environing processes and their representation in culture
Coordinated by HSE, Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History, Saint Petersburg campus (J.A. Lajus)
Working languages of the Section – English and Russian

The session aims to clarify and illustrate by the historical examples a key theoretical concept in the field of environmental and technological history — - the processes of environing, a rapid transformation, of nature into the environment in the current conditions of the Anthropocene (Sörlin and Wormbs 2018). Following leading environmental historians (Cronon, 1995; Sorlin and Warde, 2008), we consider ’wilderness’ as a social construct, since even in remote areas natural landscapes have experienced long-term impacts from human economic activities and have largely been transformed into cultural landscapes. The rapid pace of these processes requires a critical conceptual reconsideration of the basis of the human-nature relationship. Emphasizing a process-driven dynamic approach to the relationships between humans and the environment, we seek to shed light on phenomena related to environmental boundaries by exploring interrelated but often conflicting socio-economic and cultural practices, such as nature tourism, various conservation practices, and their representations in culture, including museums.

SECTION 4. Climate change: from earth’s natural laws to climate-positive social norms
Coordinated by Science Museum, London (J. Knights)
Section will take place online, working language – English

The current climate crisis is the most urgent threat to humanity of our time. It is also arguably the most critical domain in which we must use our scientific knowledge of natural laws — of earth’s climate system — to catalyse rapid far reaching changes on a global scale across society, industry, business, agriculture and waste in order to avoid the disruptive effects of global climate change. This session invites contributors to reflect on our respective roles as historians, scholars and cultural practitioners, and the knowledge and skills we bring to bear on this topic. How do we best engage the public around the natural laws of climate change? How do we best promote behavioral change and social norms on a global scale to mitigate the impacts of climate change and drastically reduce the burning of fossil fuels? How can we champion innovative responses to this urgent challenge facing our world?

PART 2. Models and Patterns in the Development of the Big History of Science

SECTION 1. The Turbulent History of Science and Technology: A Combination of Natural and Social Patterns
Coordinated by Institute for the History of Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov, Russian Academy of Sciences (Yu. M. Baturin, E.V. Minina)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

The concepts of vortex dynamics, vortex-motion, and turbulence are frequently used in hydro — and aerodynamics and when describing the movement of liquids and gases. Is it possible to apply these concepts to the study of socio-cultural processes?
Various events, favourable and tragic, create obstacles due to which historical whirlpools, vortices that change the course of history, appear. Turbulence energy naturally generated by subjects (actors) of scientific and technological activity (scientists, engineers) constantly feeds the process of the development of science and technology.
As part of the section, we plan to discuss a new approach to the familiar item of research – the history of science and technology. Having rejected linear cause-effect relationships that connect the following events back to the preceding ones, we propose to view the process of scientific and technological development through the lens of a different, vortex-related logic.

SECTION 2. Laws of Nature and the Will of Fate: Determinism and Freedom in Human Sciences
Coordinated by Institute for the History of Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov, Russian Academy of Sciences (I.E. Sirotkina, K.O. Rossiyanov)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

This section focuses predominantly on the historical diversity of the forms of juxtaposing determinism and randomness in the history of human sciences. We propose to analyze the role of this juxtaposition as an important cultural resource in discussions on human behaviour in the 18th-20th centuries. In particular, we want to discuss the question of the freedom of will and its influence on the emergence of human sciences; the concept of randomness and the creation of statistics as a scientific discipline; the uncertainty principle in human sciences; genetic determinism and discussion relating to it in science of the last century; the probabilistic concept of human nature.

SECTION 3. Laws of Nature and Social Norms. Forgotten Origins of Russian Scientific Conceptions and their International Effects
Coordinated by A. Nordmann and N.A. Nikiforova
Section will take place online, working language – English

The idea of this section would be to take scientific concepts that were articulated in Russia with considerable international effects not just on scientific thinking but also on conceptions of social organization and behavior.
Examples of this might be Pavlov and behaviorism, Stalin’s rendition of the "The Dialectics of Nature" and their influence in China, from the Noosphere to the Anthropocene, Biomechanics and Russian Taylorism.

This historical approach allows to bring together Western and Easter perspectives and to reflect on political and cultural context of scientific concepts.
topics for discussion:
 — How do social or ideological conceptions become „neutralized“ or re-framed in international discussions?
 — Why should we remember and acknowledge the forgotten legacy of scientific ideas which are rooted in a special historical situation like that of early Soviet and Russian science?
 — Does the scientific usefulness of a concept diminish its meaning as a social norm?
 — Cultural and national context of reception of scientific theories
 — Mobility of knowledge between countries, disciplines, fields of human activity

SECTION 4. Megaprojects in Humanities and Social Sciences
Coordinated by Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences and the Polytechnic Museum (M.D. Bukharin, K.S. Fursov, A.A. Kotomina, B.A. Dolgin)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

The history of science and technology is in many ways connected to the transition from little science to big science, which implies not only its special institutional organization but also the creation of big projects and objects of research infrastructure, known as projects of the Megascience class. Such initiatives, which imply joining together significant technological possibilities as well as human resources, formed, first and foremost, from natural and technical sciences (the Manhattan Project, the Large Hadron Collider, Tokamak devices, the Baikal Neutrino Telescope etc.). In a sense, they became the face of big science, solidifying the status of different disciplines.

Social sciences and humanities did not stay behind – they formed a number of major initiatives as well. On the one hand, we have major encyclopaedia projects (Encyclopædia Britannica, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, the Soviet Historical Encyclopedia, the Commission’s series of books on the history of knowledge, etc.) which played an important role in the formation and legitimization of the image and structure of science and, in a certain sense, the history of ideas. On the other hand, we can find many examples of the realization of major longitudinal research projects and the creation of databases, including those that utilize the data from these projects, for social sciences (eg. World Values Survey, Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS HSE), ROPER Center, UK Data Service, etc.).

Research projects and projects “for publication” as well as their institutionalization are of critical importance for the analysis of significant humanitarian initiatives. An academic publisher could take up the role of an organizational centre for the realization of megaprojects: for example, the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union publishing house (later “Nauka”), along with the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, released the famous “Literary Monuments” book series. The development of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union’s institutes’ humanitarian faculties in the 1930’s – 1950’s is an example of a megaproject which influenced the formation of the institutional image of humanities in our country.

As part of this section we propose to concentrate our attention on the past and present megaprojects and major initiatives in the field of humanities which allow us to capture the ephemeral and malleable image of science as a whole. The research on megaprojects is important for understanding the development processes of separate scientific areas, their disciplinary division, the formation of hierarchies in the academic field and the collective consciousness. Work on such projects always led and continues to lead to many arguments among both their creators and the general public. We offer the participants to present and discuss research projects that reconstruct the development of such projects in the past and present, analyze the experience and approaches to their realization including critical comprehension of their appropriateness, social effects, and possible contribution to the formation of the image of science for future generations.

PART 3. The Production of Knowledge in Russia: Influencing Factors

SECTION 1. Statistics of Science in Russia at the Dawn of a New Century: The History of Influencing the Production of Knowledge and Decision-Making
Coordinated by HSE, the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, and the Polytechnic Museum (K.S. Fursov).
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

The late 1980’s – early 2000’s period is characterized by a high dynamism and major economic, political, and social changes in favour of liberalization and internationality. These institutional transformations, which affected the sector of knowledge production as well, led to the formation of a new regulatory system based on functional rather than bureaucratic principles that were prevalent during the Soviet period. A number of new entities of the Russian scientific ecosystem were created, among them being state funds, independent research institutes, analytical centres etc. This, in turn, required a revision of the categorical system of statistics which provided decision-makers with information on the condition and dynamics of the country’s scientific research complex. At the same time, the introduction of new statistical categories and figures made it possible to objectify the still-forming institutionalized organization of the research and development field by changing its pre-existing regulation principles. This is why analyzing the process of the transformation of the state statistical system and its classifications and figures allows us to see how a new view on the organization of science developed and became institutionalized during a transitional period in Russian history.

We offer the participants to present and discuss results and research projects concerning the following questions. How did methods and statistical instruments of science and technology change during the new and contemporary Russian history periods? How did the process of the revision of standards and methods of statistical data collection on science developed in late 20th – early 21st centuries and which actors played a key role in this development? How did the perception of the organization of scientific activity change as a result of the introduction of new statistical standards? How did the approach to the representation of science and the collection of statistical data on its condition and dynamics change with the internationalization of knowledge production processes and the emergence of new technological possibilities for handling data? Which role did science statistics play in the formation of the outline of contemporary scientific and scientific-technical politics?

SECTION 2. Research grants in Russia: evolution and influence on science
Coordinated by HSE, the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (E. Streltsova)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

For most researchers, grants are inevitable elements of academic life, like publications or scientific conferences. True, they are the sources of additional income, but they also represent an important measure of professional recognition, demonstrating a high level of competences of the grantee and the relevance of his or her research results and ambitions. As an S&T policy tool, the grant system in Russia is a relatively recent innovation: the first research foundations were established in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, even there, researchers were forced to yield before the ’grant of perish’ rule, which is now just as demanding as the long familiar ’publish or perish’.
How the grant system has been evolving in Russia, and how it changed the science and academia? What is the contribution of grants to the public support of science, and why they may hinder its development? The papers addressing these and other grant-related questions are welcome to be presented during this session, as well as any other participants who are eager to know how the science works in Russia.

SECTION 3. Between Relationship and Profession: The Family in the History of Russian Science
Coordinated by Institute for the History of Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov, Russian Academy of Sciences; Polytechnic Museum, and The International Centre for the Restoration of Family History and Genealogy Search (A.A. Kotomina, O.A. Valkova)

Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation
We plan to discuss the place of family in the structure of Russian scientific community and to estimate its input in the knowledge production.
How the family relationships influence the research groups when the family members are involved in collaboration? How do wives and husbands, parents, children, and siblings share the responsibilities, duties and fame when collaborating in scientific projects? How do the traditions and reputations transmit with the family generations in science? Is it possible to detect the patterns for the positions and the functions distribution in scientific families and communities? Does national cultural traditions and historical circumstances influence these patterns? Do the marriages of the members of the scientific groups make the groups more productive?
We invite the participants of the section to pay attention to interests of the surviving of the scientific families in the “longue durée” history under the state pressure. All these questions allow us to approach more nuanced and complicated vision of history of the structures and connections constructing the base of the scientific community in Russia.

SECTION 4. Community Structures and Scientific Life: Forms of Living of Soviet Scientists Outside of Official Institutions
Coordinated by CHORUS: Colloquium for the History of Russian Science (V. Gerovitch, MIT and A. Kozhevnikov, UBC Vancouver).
Section will take place online, working languages – English and Russian.

Traditional approaches to the anthropology of science are based on detailed research of “laboratory life” (Latour and Woolgar, 1979, Kohler, 1994, Todes, 2002). The inclusion of broader forms of living of scientists, including “scientific life” (Александров, 1994), parallel social infrastructure (Gerovitch, 2013), and private life (Rogacheva, 2017), allows us to cross the boundaries of official institutions and turn to types of scientific activity such as informal conferences, sections, underground and home-based seminars, contests, and outdoor gatherings where scientific connections were closely linked to friendly and familial relationships, the education and socialization of students. As a result, specialists from various disciplines discussed a wide variety of not only scientific but also political, social, and cultural topics.
In certain circumstances such parallel forms of “scientific life” can develop to the point where they will be able to compete with official institutions of the scientific community in its influence. Such a development can be observed in Soviet mathematics in particular, where new informal communities, structures and methods of education, ways of interacting and communicating, research programs and seminars (that in many ways determined the specific nature of late Soviet science of not only mathematics but also other research fields related to it) began to emerge starting from the 1950’s.


SECTION 1. Principles of Science and Technology Development and How They Are Reflected in Scientific-Technological Museums
Coordinated by the Polytechnic Museum and AMNIT (S.G. Morozova, Yu. V. Kuzmin)
Section will take place online. Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

Principles of science and technology development are not legal acts but objective patterns. They may become evident through research of the history of science and technology, whose traces of development are preserved mostly thanks to the existence of science-technology museums. Such museums do not simply keep the sources for researching development patterns of science and technology. They contribute to the comprehension of ways and principles of the history of fundamental discoveries, technology, and engineering inventions. Museum publications play an important role in the formation of science and technology sciences. Scientists and museum staff took and still take part in planning and developing scientific exhibitions. We plan to organize the discussion of the following questions: the role of the museum in the system of comprehending ways and principles of the development of science and technology; the history of fundamental discoveries, technology, and engineering inventions; the history of creating and introducing new technology and devices to museum publications (books, exhibitions, educational programmes); the role of scientists and museum staff in the creation and comprehension of scientific exhibitions.

SECTION 2. History of Drug Provision and Pharmacy Museums
Coordinated by HSE, Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, Centre for the History of Medicine and National Research Institute of Public Health named after N.A. Semashko (E.A. Vishlenkova, S.N. Zavtrakin)
Working language of the Section – Russian, the Section could be provided with the simultaneous Russian-English translation

At present pharmacy museums are being eagerly visited by tourists in many European countries. They surprise their visitors with exotic utensils, herbs, stones, unusual glassware and furniture. Exhibitions and guides relate how patients were treated in different centuries and how evidence-based medicine and chemical drugs came to be. These stories are filled with universal information which is tightly intertwined with local knowledge. Verbal and visual narratives of the past tell stories of drug production and administration to local citizens. Judging by the number of visitors in such museums, there is an interest in this subject. However, according to responses from the museum staff, researchers are unable to satisfy the growing intellectual requests of contemporary people.

This section invites researchers of pharmacopoeias, pharmacies, pharmacology, and the economic history of pharmacy business, researchers of pharmacy museums. We offer to discuss the current status of the history of drugs and pharmacies. What stories are being developed by medical and social historians? How is the history of drug provision related to the demographic, political, and economic history of Russia? What stories can pharmacy museums tell?


Applications are accepted until 25.09.2021.
Authors will be informed on the committee’s decision to accept or decline their thesis not latter then 15.10.2021.
We accept one application from one author. The application must include the thesis (2000 — 4000 characters). The organizing committee has the right to refuse applications that do not fit the requirements.

Apply here

The registration is free of charge. In case of a favourable epidemiological situation we plan to make some section of the conference offline in Moscow. Some sections of the Conference noted in the letter will be held online.
We plane to provide some of the sections with the simultaneous Russian-English translation.

Thesis of the speakers included in the Conference Program will be available on the Polytechnic Museum’s website during the conference. We plan to publish the issue of the Conference materials during 2022.

Contact numbers:

  • Organization questions
    Tatiana Aleksandrovna Glushkova
    (916) 008−12−05; (495) 730−54−38, ext. 11−86.
  • Conference Program director:
    Anna Anatolyevna Kotomina
    (916) 008−12−41; (495) 730−54−38, ext. 12−36.

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