The idea for this collection grew out of a conference panel in Graz, Austria in May 2018. At a street café next to the Kunsthaus, we decided that it was time to edit a volume of ethnographic encounters with microbes. In October, we sent out a first call for abstracts to twenty colleagues. We met again in March 2019 in Berlin, Germany to write a proposal for Mattering Press. We felt this would be the right publisher for our project and we were delighted when we learned of the positive feedback from two external reviewers in August. In the meantime, Salla had secured funding for a workshop with the contributors, and she kept telling stories about the research station that the University of Helsinki maintained at a place called Kilpisjärvi, in the north of Finland beyond the Arctic Circle. Why not go there in the dead of the winter, we thought. So, in January 2020, 18 people made their way through the polar night. Of course, we were hoping for northern lights, but the moon was strong and the clouds heavy, so instead we got a metre of snow and had to cancel our plan to climb Saana, the fell that dominates the landscape. But we had an open fireplace and a sauna by the frozen lake. Here, we decided to write the introduction for this book together.
As editors, we are persuaded by the open access model that Mattering Press is based on, which enables open access without compromising peer review and quality. We want With Microbes to be available and accessible to colleagues in the global South in institutions without institutional funds to buy books or subscribe to journals. The field of the social study of microbes is new, characterised by STS scholars, anthropologists, geographers, historians, philosophers and sociologists working in and on interdisciplinary projects in collaboration with life scientists, biomedical researchers, microbiologists, etc., often in dispersed siloes. We hope that publishing open access will serve the function of reaching out to these scholars, forge new collaborative relations and help them to think their own work on microbes through ours. We want to promote open access also as a value in and of itself, working against the corporatisation of academic publishing and instead contributing to the strengthening and advancement of the various open science movements.
Publishing an edited volume open access is a question of funding. Therefore, we would like to acknowledge the support of the Finnish Academy (316941), the Finnish Cultural Foundation (0116947-3), the French National Research Agency (ANR-18-CE36-0001), the Kone Foundation (201906614 & 201802186), the Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine (2018-1R40218) and the Werner Siemens-Stiftung.
The work of editing this book was split equally between the three editors, and the order of our names on the cover follows the conventions of the alphabet. None of us could have done this work alone and we deeply believe that the sum of this book is more than its parts. So, finally, we three want to thank each other for staying together in this process throughout the year 2020.