The Network of European Centres in Science and Technology Studies (NECSTS) began several years ago, initially as a group of universities interested in student exchanges under the ERASMUS student mobility scheme of the European Community, and keen to develop a stronger sense of European identity at the Master's and Doctoral level in this field. In the NECSTS-context the term Science and Technology Studies is used as a generic title for a range of activities that covers such fields as social studies of science, science and technology policy analysis, science dynamics, socio-economic studies of innovation, and sociology of technology; or in terms of the acronyms currently used: STS (science, technology, society), STP (science and technology policy) and STI (science and technology innovation). The student mobility programme will be continued under the EU's new SOCRATES programme. NECSTS-members have expressed their interest in continuing this activity under this new SOCRATES regime. NECSTS shares an interest with EASST and with other institutions and networks in the field, in establishing science and technology studies as a recognizable and recognized field of academic and policy relevant teaching and research in Europe.
The NECSTS-network now comprises 16 centres in 10 countries: Edinburgh and Manchester in the UK, Bielefeld and München in Germany, Goeteborg in Sweden, Trondheim in Norway, Roskilde in Denmark, Wien in Austria, CNAM and Paris VII in Paris, France, La Sapienza in Rome, Italy, Universidad del Pais Vasco in San Sebastian, Spain, and Amsterdam (UvA) and Maastricht in the Netherlands. Membership of NECSTS has been rather stable over the last couple of years, but in anticipation of the EU's new SOCRATES programme NECSTS is interested in expanding the size of the network by recruiting new members. Due to the restrictions some British universities place on incoming students, NECSTS experiences a specific need for new members in Great Britain. We are therefore happy that the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex joined the network in 1997. In Sweden the Department of Technology and Social Change (Tema-T) at the University of Linkoping also joined NECSTS in 1997.
NECSTS is a rather loose network of autonomous research and teaching centres in science and technology studies. Each centre appoints a local coordinator responsible for informing students about the opportunities the network offers and for taking care of the administrative work required for annual applications under the ERASMUS/SOCRATES student mobility programme. The local ERASMUS coordinators meet annually on a business meeting. Among its members the networks selects the network or programme coordinator. Until the academic year 1996/1997 the programme coordinator's home institution is the representing and responsible contract party for the EU. After that student mobility will be based on bilateral agreements under institutional contracts. Funds for the student mobility programme are distributed through national institutions and the universities, whereas the coordinating institution (until 1996/1997) receives a budget to cover expenses for the coordinators' annual business meetings. Up til the academic year 1994-1995 the University of Amsterdam was NECSTS's coordinating institution, with Loet Leydesdorff as the programme coordinator. At the 1995 Bielefeld meeting it was decided that, starting with the academic year 1995-1996, Maastricht University would act as coordinating institution with Ger Wackers as programme coordinator.
1) One of the most important acitivities of the network is exchanging students, most of them being at a masters level, but also PhD-students are travelling within the network. Although different in emphasis and profile, all members of the network provide a regular curriculum in science and technology studies, or are in the process of developing such a curriculum. Network members exchange general information about STS-courses by updating the NECSTS-dossier annually, and more detailed information bilaterally on request.
2) NECSTS has a good record of organizing annual workshops, in conjunction with the annual coordinators' meetings. The 1993 workshop, for example, was held in Vienna on the topic of Science Meets the Public. The 1994 workshop was in Manchester on the History and Sociology of Biomedical Sciences. The 1995 workshop was in Bielefeld on Social Theory and Social Studies of Science. The 1996 workshop was organized in and by Amsterdam on Quantitative Approaches to Science and Technology Studies. In 1997, from May 27 to June 1, Trondheim will host the workshop on Gender and Technology, whereas the University of Limburg proposed the Politics of Technology as the topic for the 1998 workshop to be held in Maastricht. Both staff and students of network members are stimulated to participate in the workshops. EASST, as the professional organization in the field, has been supporting these workshops with financial means and by giving travelling grants to students who would like to particpate.
3) Finally, the network provides channels for dissimination of information about ongoing research. The network facilitates collaboration and the search for partners for joint research proposal aiming at EU or other supranational funds.
Waiver of tuition fee, transfer of credits and accomodation support
Membership in the NECSTS-network implies that eacch centre, or university, waives the tuition fee for incoming, visiting students, traveling within the network. This also means that ones own students who want to study abroad are not required to pay tuition fees for courses they attend at one of NECSTS member institutions. Waiving tuition fees removes an important financial barrier for studying in an international context in another European country. Membership in the NECSTS-network implies that a centre recognizes courses attended by a students at another NECSTS-centre as (optional) parts of the centre's STS-programme. In other words, credits earned by students at a NECSTS-member institution will be transferred to the student's home university. NECSTS-members support visiting students in finding accomodation for the duration of their visit (from three months up to one year). If a centre or university cannot provide these services, students can be referred to proper local accomodation bureau.
For further information on NECSTS contact dr Georg Kruecken (Bielefeld)