Call for papers: Spontaneous Generations

Spontaneous Generations is an open, online, peer-reviewed academic journal published by graduate students at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Spontaneous Generations publishes high quality, peer-reviewed articles on any topic in the history and philosophy of science. For our general peer-reviewed section, we welcome submissions of full-length research papers on all HPS-related subjects. Scholars in all disciplines, including but not limited to HPS, STS, History, Philosophy, Women’s Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, and Religious Studies are welcome to submit to our fifth (2011) issue. Papers from all historical periods are welcome.

In addition to full-length peer-reviewed research papers, Spontaneous Generations publishes opinion essays, book reviews, and a focused discussion section consisting of short peer-reviewed and invited articles devoted to a particular theme. This year’s focus is “Science and Public Controversy.”

Submission Guidelines

The journal consists of four sections:

  1. The focused discussion section, this year devoted to “Science and Public Controversy” (see below). (1000-3000 words recommended.)
  2. A peer-reviewed section of research papers on any topics in the fields of HPS and STS. (5000-8000 words recommended.)
  3. A book review section for books published in the last 5 years. (Up to 1000 words.)
  4. An opinions section that may include a commentary on or a response to current concerns, trends, and issues in HPS. (Up to 500 words.)

Submissions should be sent no later than 25 February 2011 in order to be considered for the 2011 issue. For more details, please visit the journal homepage at

Focused Discussion Topic: Science and Public Controversy

The relationship between science and the public is often framed in terms of controversy. From early modern arguments over the age of the Earth and its place in the cosmos, through twentieth century discussions of the biological credibility of racial categories, to contemporary debates over the production of genetically modified foods and the anthropogenic nature of global climate change, science has served to both create and resolve controversy. Science, in turn, has been shaped by political and social controversies.

The variegated interactions throughout history between science and the public raise a host of questions, particularly concerning the appropriate and inappropriate roles of science in public life. Historical episodes of scientists engaging in public controversies offer historians and philosophers of science an ideal starting point for investigating the complicated inter-relations between scientific research and public life.

In this issue of Spontaneous Generations, we invite papers for a focused discussion that will explore and give new perspectives on the relationship between science and public controversy from antiquity to the present.

Some questions that may be addressed by papers submitted for the focused discussion section include:

  • What roles has science played in political and social controversies throughout history?
  • Is there a principled distinction between scientific and non-scientific controversies?
  • How has scientific change led to new discussions about and new perspectives on recurring social issues?
  • What does it mean to practice socially responsible science on controversial issues?
  • What roles have historians and philosophers of science played in public controversies involving science? What roles should we take on?
  • How has the development of science been shaped by public controversy over science and scientific engagement with public controversy?
  • How have different societies, at different times and in different places, related their social and political discourses to scientific discourses?
  • What role have scientific ideals such as objectivity and value-neutrality played in scientific controversies and controversies about science?