ISHPSSB Biennial Meeting 2021 (Virtual)
July 13 - 20, 2021 (July 13,14,15,19, & 20)
Abstract Deadline: April 9
Decisions: May 1
Full Program available: June 1
Practice Day: July 12

“A lot of what makes an ISH conference so successful lies, it seems to me, in the Society’s endearingly awkward name. By being explicitly international, and also by embracing historians and philosophers and social scientists and all the scholars whose work lies across and between those categories, the Society thumbs its nose at borders, geographic and disciplinary. The spirit is one of welcome, wherever you come from. Yet within all the diversity there remains the unifying interest in biology. The result is a meeting which, at its best, offers unrivalled scope for sharing work-in-progress with fellow specialists while also maximizing chances for encountering new ideas and perspectives which are just the right distance from where you’re at now to be surprising but stimulating. You leave the conference energized — and looking forward to the next one.” — ISHPSSB President Greg Radick

Program Committee Co-Chairs:
Luis Campos, University of New Mexico
Roberta Millstein,
University of California Davis

Virtual Local Organization Committee:
Matt Haber, University of Utah (Chair)

The International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) welcomes submission of presentation proposals for the biennial meeting to be held in July 2021. ISHPSSB brings together scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to discuss historical, conceptual, philosophical, political, social, cultural, institutional, and ethical issues of the life sciences in an open and informal setting.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s conference will be held virtually “at” - with technical conference support graciously offered by - Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), on July 13, 14, 15, 19, and 20, 2021. The main platforms will be Zoom and Slack, with each Zoom session provided with its own Slack channel so that participants can share thoughts in real time. (For those unfamiliar with Slack, it’s like a private version of Twitter or a chat room. Slack access will be free with registration and provided by CSHL.) The day before the conference (July 12), there will be a practice day for presenters, so that everyone can get used to the technology and session protocol.

As ISHPSSB President Greg Radick noted in his fall column: “we aim, in the great ISH tradition, to give you a mind-bendingly, life-affirmingly awesome conference! Of course, virtual conferences raise distinctive challenges, but they also present distinctive opportunities. We intend to make the most of those, as creatively and inclusively as we can.” Working with CSHL, with the potential for incorporating their scholars into the meeting, is one such opportunity. We beg your understanding and forbearance as we explore what it means to go virtual! But we are confident that this will be an experience that will be of value and interest to many ISHPSSB members. And we are taking this opportunity as a learning experience as we plan for what will likely be a ‘new normal’ of holding hybrid meetings. 

The conference will consist of familiar ISHPSSB events described further below: organized sessions, individual papers, plenaries, and panels, and of course the General Meeting where we will award prizes and conduct Society business. In response to our present pandemical predicament, the conference will also include a variety of “community-building” sessions, e.g., icebreakers and happy office hours, professional development skill building sessions, and opportunities for network building. Calls for proposals and participation in these community-building sessions will be sent separately. In light of “Zoom fatigue” and to provide an easy way to present new ideas, we have also added lightning talks as a presentation option.

Time Zones. Because we are meeting internationally with participants attending from all over the world, but with conference infrastructure supported by CSHL (located in New York, which at the time of the conference will be on Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)), the conference will offer three major blocks of time during which individual sessions will be scheduled. On New York time, these will be morning and afternoon on five days of the conference, and evening blocks on two designated days of the conference:

9:30-12:30 EDT: Block A Sessions  
Group 1, 9:30-10:55
Group 2, 11:05-12:30

13:00-14:00 EDT: Community/Skill Building Sessions

14:30-17:30 EDT: Block B Sessions
Group 3, 14:30-15:55
Group 4, 16:05-17:30

17:30-19:00 EDT (on July 14 and 19 only): Social Hours 

19:00-22:00 EDT (on July 14 and 19 only): Block C Sessions
Group 5, 19:00-20:25
Group 6, 20:35-22:00

All registrants should be prepared to identify their preferred time-blocks on the abstract submission forms. Your flexibility is requested: please specify all time-blocks that are reasonable for the time-zone you will be presenting from. The program co-chairs will do their best to honor these requests, but given the unpredictability of submissions and the worldwide attendance expected at this meeting, it may not be possible to honor all requests, and we beg your understanding. Organized sessions will be given priority in scheduling over individual paper submissions. Please note a substantial change from previous ISHPSSB meetings: individual paper submissions may be accepted as lightning talks rather than traditional talks, as we work to fit the program into the constraints of the virtual environment.

Fees. As with all conferences, there will be costs to cover but the Society will also be extending subsidies to active members who present at the conference and who have financial need, especially seeking to make the conference more affordable for our student members and our early career members. (Please make sure your membership is up to date by April 1!). The default conference registration rates will be $200 USD standard rate or $150 USD reduced rate. The reduced rate applies to current PhD students, recent PhD graduates (graduated after July 1 2018), independent scholars, and emeritus/a scholars. Registration rates are ‘at cost’, i.e., they reflect the cost to CSHL for providing the infrastructure necessary to host this virtual conference.  This generous rate is what is allowing us to host this year’s meeting. ISHPSSB is grateful to CSHL for making this year’s event possible.

Subsidies. In lieu of travel support, ISHPSSB will award registration subsidies for participants presenting their work at this year’s conference, funded either by the National Science Foundation (grant #1656206), or ISHPSSB, depending on applicant eligibility.  To apply for a subsidy, register for the conference and then use the supplementary application link included in the CSHL Virtual Meeting email confirming your registration.  ISH will offer subsidies of $100 for up to 200 participants qualifying for the reduced rate, and up to 120 participants paying the standard rate. (Thus, those who qualify for both the reduced rate and a subsidy will pay only $50 whereas those who qualify for both the standard rate and a subsidy will pay only $100). In an effort to ensure that the Society’s resources can be used to help as many members as possible, we request that members only apply for subsidies if they have financial need.

Rate Types Registration Cost After ISH subsidy for active members who qualify
Standard Rate $200 $100 (up to 120 participants)
Reduced Rate $150 $50 (up to 200 participants)

To facilitate collaboration in putting together sessions, a forum is available on the ISHPSSB website to post ideas and solicit participants for sessions:  Posting ideas in the forum provides a good way to find others who are interested in presenting on similar topics and organize meaningful and interdisciplinary sessions together.

ISHPSSB prides itself on an inclusive academic culture, and in keeping with that culture, the Society typically accepts the majority of submitted abstracts. But anyone whose abstract is rejected and decides not to attend the meeting will be able (like all registrants) to cancel their registration and receive a full refund before the deadline of 1 June 2021. Thereafter, standard CSHL virtual conference cancellation rates will apply.

Deadline for abstract submissions is April 9, 2021. Acceptances will go out by May 1; the preliminary program will be published on June 1. Registration is required in order to be able to submit an abstract. You do not have to submit an abstract to be able to register and attend the meeting.

There are five abstract submission types: 1. Traditional Session; 2. Diverse Format Session; 3. Individual Paper; 4. Lightning talk; 5. Poster. 

ISHPSSB encourages sessions that:

·   combine more than one disciplinary perspective;

·   include participants from more than one institution and/or nation; and

·   promote the interaction of junior and senior scholars (including students) of different genders, identities, and backgrounds.

Please keep in mind the ISHPSSB policy on multiple participation. In accordance with longstanding ISHPSSB practice, participants are limited to no more than one research presentation. “Research presentations” include presentation of individual papers, presentations as part of a traditional or diverse format session (including commentaries), and lightning talks, but do not include community-building session participation. Individuals may serve more than one function in a given session, e.g., chair and presenter. Participants may be expected to chair each other's papers within a session. 

We will cap abstract submissions at 600, though there will be no cap on attendees.

We also encourage proposals to identify ways in which participants’ work may be of broader interest outside their discipline. ISHPSSB is capacious, and welcomes many modes of disciplinary inquiry, approaches, and perspectives, but abstracts that do not address biology or do not meet ordinary academic standards of review will be rejected.

Participants must first REGISTER before submitting abstracts.

1. Traditional Session (90 minutes): Each Traditional Session proposal should include three talks and a chair, who can be one of the speakers but need not be. Each talk will be 25 minutes total (15 minutes presentation and 10 minutes discussion). This submission format requires abstracts (up to 2500 characters) for each talk. Please confer among the participants, select the same topic and time block preferences. The submitted abstracts should all reference the identical proposed Session Title and first and last name of the chairperson (eg. Model Organisms in the 19th Century / Jane Doe). This will allow the ISH Program co-chairs to easily identify abstracts for each traditional session. The Session Chair should provide the session title and preferred order of the three talks via email to Mary Smith(, the abstracts manager at CSHL.

2. Diverse Format Session (90 minutes): Each Diverse Format Session should have at least two participants, including a chair who may be one of the participants. These sessions allow a variety of formats and may be organized as roundtables; panels; dialogues; author-meets-critics panels; theater games; performance lectures; art, artifact, or collection installations; commentaries; films; etc. This submission format requires a session title and abstract (up to 2500 characters). Include the names, affiliations, and email addresses of all participants on the abstract submission from. Only the organizer of the session should submit this abstract (selecting themselves as Presenter), but all participants need to be registered for the conference. Additional information relevant to the particular format (for example, short bios in the case of panels) can also be included in the information submitted by the session organizer. 

3. Individual Paper (individual oral presentations): ISHPSSB strongly recommends that you work with others to organize a session in order to foster greater community building and intellectual exchange, as well as to maximize scheduling alongside papers on a similar topic or theme. However, individuals may also submit a paper proposal, which requires a paper title and abstract (up to 2500 characters). The submission should be made by the person who will present the paper at the meeting. The paper presentation must be no more than 15 minutes in length, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion. Individual Papers may be grouped with other thematically related individual papers into a session composed by program co-chairs, or may be placed in “open sessions” that are not thematically unified.  Please note a substantial change from previous ISHPSSB meetings: individual paper submissions may be accepted as lightning talks rather than traditional talks, as we work to fit the program into the constraints of the virtual environment. Before submitting your Individual Paper, please check the ISHPSSB website ( to see if there might be a proposal for a session that your contribution fits with.

4. Lightning Talk: To fit the format of a Zoom meeting and short attention spans, instead of delivering a full paper, you can propose a lightning talk (5 minutes or less). These can be a good opportunity to float new ideas, harkening back to the original format of ISHPSSB! This submission format requires a title and an abstract of up to 2500 characters. Some individual papers proposers may be asked to present a lightning talk instead.

5. Poster: Poster presentations include the option to deliver a brief spoken poster introduction with one slide, in addition to the poster itself. CSHL has set a limit of 50 posters being accepted; once that limit has been met, poster proposals may be accepted as lightning talks instead. This submission format requires a title and an abstract of up to 2500 characters.

In order to encourage interdisciplinary exchange, the ISHPSSB Council has created an Interdisciplinary Organized Session Prize. Candidate sessions are expected to stand out as a fruitful combination of approaches or methodologies from several of the ISHPSSB disciplines, and will be expected to include history or social studies of biology. The prize will be awarded to the organizer and all participants of an organized session.

ISHPSSB also has two prizes that are aimed at graduate students, to recognize outstanding papers presented at a previous ISHPSSB meeting: the Marjorie Grene Prize (“awarded every two years for the best manuscript based on a presentation at one of the two previous ISHPSSB meetings by someone who was, at the time of presentation, a graduate student”) and the Werner Callebaut Prize (“awarded to the best manuscript utilizing an interdisciplinary approach based on a presentation at one of the two previous ISHPSSB meetings by someone who was, at the time of presentation, a graduate student”).

If you have questions about your session or paper idea, or about procedures, please contact the Program Co-Chairs, Luis Campos or Roberta Millstein, or the chair of the Virtual Local Organization Committee, Matt Haber.

For questions about registration, payments, etc., please contact Shannon Silva( who will be the conference coordinator at CSHL.

We welcome your contributions!

Social Media: The designated hashtag for this meeting is #ISH21. Note that you must obtain permission from an individual presenter before live-tweeting or discussing his/her talk, poster, or research results on social media. Click the Policies tab above to see our full Confidentiality & Reporting Policy.