Larry Busch, Professor of Standards and Society in the Department of Sociology and a member of the ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen) and the Centre for Science Studies (CSS), announced his retirement due to ill-health at the end of January. Larry had been at Lancaster since Autumn 2008. In this short time, he had made a valued and significant contribution to our academic community.
We would not of course allow Larry to leave without a proper Lancaster send-off. This began with afternoon-long seminar on ‘Standards: Recipes for Reality’ which provided an opportunity to hear all about Larry’s work on the pervasive role of standards in society. This brightened up an otherwise dreary Monday afternoon, and was followed by dinner in the convivial atmosphere of The Sun café in Lancaster.
The wide appeal of Larry’s work was evident during the seminar as he gave us what amounted to a tour de force of the social and technical dimensions of standards, standardization, certification and accreditation. Larry highlighted the invisible yet socially enabling role of standards that governs everything from the chairs and tables at which we were sat to the design and manufacture of shipping containers on which global trade depends.
Larry also addressed a shift from the use of standards to produce standardization, to the way that standards are increasingly linked to product differentiation as part of competition strategies in industries to segment markets. This leads not to a standard consumer but a number of differentiated consumers.
Respondents to his presentation included Professor Ruth Chadwick, Director of Cesagen; Professor Lucy Suchman, Co-Director of the Centre for Science Studies; and Professor Bill Davies, the former Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre, all of whom highlighted the ways in which standards connected with their own diverse range of research interests.
The significant contribution that Larry has made to cross-disciplinary collaboration on campus and beyond was acknowledged and praised by Bill Davies. Lancaster has always prided itself on providing opportunities for such cross-disciplinary exchanges and Larry’s energy and enthusiasm ensured that this was achieved in practice.
On leaving Lancaster, Professor Busch remarked: “I spent much of the last two years as a faculty member in Sociology at Lancaster as part of the Cesagen project. This was an extraordinary experience for me, both personally and professionally.”
“In particular, what impressed me was the innovative character of the department, the interest and ability to explore areas far removed from conventional sociological subjects. I learned a great deal about topics and issues that I might have otherwise hardly noticed. In addition, I am pleased to say that I made quite a few new friends. My only regret is that I had to cut my time in Lancaster short for reasons of ill health.”
Although Larry is leaving us, he remains actively involved in a number of ongoing shared projects and will continue to collaborate with Lancaster colleagues. We wish him well for the future.