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Oct 12 2013

Uh-oh, SciAm

A few new twists on that story about DNLee and the sexist snub from biology online.

I was wondering why it wasn’t posted on DNLee’s own blog, The Urban Scientist, but that I was seeing it echoed all over the place. Turns out it was; but Scientific American removed it.

Mariette DiChristina ‏@mdichristina
Re blog inquiry: @sciam is a publication for discovering science. The post was not appropriate for this area & was therefore removed.

First uh-oh. So SciAm is in the business of policing blog writers now?

Second uh-oh. Scientific American and biology online have partnered on subscriptions.

So not only are they restricting what their bloggers can write, they are censoring them when they criticize organizations they partner with?

Where’s Bora? This is a scandal brewing. Bora knows how blogs work, he’d better fix it fast.

33 comments

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  1. 1
    Pteryxx

    First uh-oh. So SciAm is in the business of policing blog writers now?

    It’s not the first time in recent memory.

  2. 2
    Inaji

    sciam is a publication for discovering science.

    That’s a very convenient excuse. However, I’m pretty sure the problems of bigotry and sexism are covered in a couple of science fields, so…

  3. 3
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Fighting racism & sexism is unscientific.

  4. 4
    Stephanie Zvan

    Bora just got back from traveling last night. This, sadly, was the first thing he faced after his vacation.

  5. 5
    Pteryxx

    via #standwithDNLee ; many links within.

    http://itsnotalecture.blogspot.com/2013/10/free-crisis-pr-advice-for-biology.html

    SITUATION ANALYSIS

    Your reputation has been badly damaged by the publishing of recent correspondence with biologist Dr. Lee, in which your blog editor suggests her reluctance to provide content to your site without financial compensation makes her an “Urban Whore.”

    Her response (along with a copy of the correspondence) was initially posted at her Scientific American blog, but now resides on other sites. The correspondence generated significant conversation on twitter among highly influential figures in the science and sci-comm communities, including some who have contributed to biology-online in the past and now wish to have their content removed. It has also led to critical posts on your own site’s forum. As of Friday evening the conversation continues in earnest.

    As you may know, Dr. Lee is a very popular and influential member of her community. Her writing and outreach skills are well-established and celebrated. She is a leading advocate for diversity in STEM and a role model to many. She also has exceptional communication skills beyond writing, as evidenced by this video of her, speaking extemporaneously, when asked to finish the sentence “Science is…”

  6. 6
    barbyau

    What is hardest to stomach is that pigs like him don’t usually learn anything from a situation like this. He got to say whatever he wanted in the way he wanted and now people are reacting. And I’m certain he will feel the victim, feel everyone is being mean and unfair, and decide women are real bitches because they “can’t take a joke” or some such nonsense.

    Loathsome.

  7. 7
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Uh oh, a response from a blogger on sciam
    This is not a post about discovering science by Kate Clancy

  8. 8
    magicthighs

    I don’t have very high hopes of Bora fixing it, PZ. He’s retweeted both @mdichristina’s tweets on the matter.

  9. 9
    Inaji

    magicthighs:

    He’s retweeted both @mdichristina’s tweets on the matter.

    That’s extremely disappointing.

  10. 10
    Stephanie Zvan

    Bora would have retweeted those because they weren’t words he’d ever type out on his own keyboard and because the thousands of people who follow him should know what SciAm said. He probably also won’t say anything else about it publicly until he gives up on influencing SciAm behind the scenes. But I’ve talked to him enough about enough subjects that I know he’s not just accepting this passively.

  11. 11
    magicthighs

    I really hope you’re right, Stephanie.

  12. 12
    magistramarla

    How about asking her to join FTB?

  13. 13
    Stephanie Zvan

    She’s high on my list of religious people I admire, and she’s pretty open about it. While I’d love to see her stuff closer to “home”, I think there are commenters who would go out of their way to make her feel unwelcome.

  14. 14
    Inaji

    Stephanie:

    I think there are commenters who would go out of their way to make her feel unwelcome.

    With out a doubt, which is a shame.

  15. 15
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    @sciam is a publication for discovering science. The post was not appropriate for this area & was therefore removed.

    Riht. Anything regarding those who publish scientific articles would be right out then. Eyeroll, please.

  16. 16
    David Marjanović

    Crossposted from Kate Clancy’s post (thanks, Beatrice):

    What the vertical gene transfer.

    Posts that aren’t “about discovering science” aren’t allowed on SciAm Blogs? Then why do all the birthday posts on Tetrapod Zoology exist, not to mention the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Temnospondyls (which was great fun)?

    What a cowardly excuse for sexism.

  17. 17
    AMM

    What exactly does:

    @sciam is a publication for discovering science.

    mean? “Discovering” suggests original research, but I doubt that SciAm actually prints any of that, either.

    It’s been years since I read Scientific American, but as I recall, it printed semi-popularized accounts of more or less established science.

    BTW, I gave up reading it because I could never make sense of the articles, even articles in my field. I switched to reading journals like Science because I could actually understand the articles there, even stuff in fields I hadn’t studied since high school.

    Of course, it may have changed in the years since I stopped reading it.

  18. 18
    ildi

    I think there are commenters who would go out of their way to make her feel unwelcome.

    I’d be one of them. Once I found out that she is a practicing Catholic, her posts about misogyny and sexual harassment and discrimination with nary a peep about HMC came across as rank hypocrisy.

  19. 19
    LykeX

    More support, with money quote:

    “Discovering science” means discovering all sorts of complexities — including unpleasant ones — about the social contexts in which science is done, in which scientists are trained, in which real live human beings labor to explain bits of what we know about the world and how we came to know those bits and why they matter.

    If Scientific American doesn’t want its bloggers delving into those complexities, then they don’t want me.

    There’s also a link roundup at the end of that post.

  20. 20
    LykeX

    According to Mariette DiChristina, the partnership with biology online was “not a factor”.

    So I wonder, is she that stupid or does she just think we are?

  21. 21
    sempercogitans

    More support on Superbug, as well.

  22. 22
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    So I wonder, is she that stupid or does she just think we are?

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the couple years-ish I’ve been hanging out here, it’s that yes, leaders of organizations really DO think we’re that stupid. See: Grothe, Lindsay, Silverman, etc.

  23. 23
    A Surprise to Many

    So let me get this straight. Someone with a for-profit business asks me to do something in my field of expertise for free. I say no. They call me a whore (which is at least a straight-out insult and not racist code language) and toss in some racist or classist coded insults. Even though this happened in a professional interaction, according to Scientific American, I may not talk about the insults or the interaction in a blog about my professional activities because it’s not actually related to my profession.

    Good to know.

  24. 24
    Ingdigo Jump

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the couple years-ish I’ve been hanging out here, it’s that yes, leaders of organizations really DO think we’re that stupid. See: Grothe, Lindsay, Silverman, etc.

    What’s worse: They are often right

  25. 25
    mirror

    Well worth not only reading DNLee’s post, but watching the video in it. There just isn’t anything even mildly outrageous or offensive. I just can’t see the editor unilaterally deleting that blog post. It had to have been at the specific direction or request of someone.

  26. 26
    nich

    A lot of people around the tubes seem to be calling for an apology. I can’t say how DNLee feels, but at this point, I say fuck an apology. It’s just going to be some sniveling not-apology about how he “didn’t intend to hurt anybody’s feelings” and how he “didn’t mean whore in the bad sense” even though about fifty other completely innocuous words or phrases could have conveyed his meaning better. He’ll put more magic in his intent than fucking Gandalf used in Moria. And SciAm will just double down too. IANDNLee, but I’d rather they just repost her entry without comment and spare the world another corporate, straight-from-the-fucking-teleprompter, phoney-baloney fucking not-apology in which the only way you can even guess it is an attempt at an apology is the fact there is a sorry in there somewhere.

  27. 27
    LykeX

    Agreed. Actions, words and relative volume, you know. They can apologize after Ofek has been fired and SciAm has restored the post. Until that’s done, I don’t really care what they say.

  28. 28
    David Marjanović

    BTW, I gave up reading it because I could never make sense of the articles, even articles in my field. I switched to reading journals like Science because I could actually understand the articles there, even stuff in fields I hadn’t studied since high school.

    …Does not make sense.

    I think there are commenters who would go out of their way to make her feel unwelcome.

    I’d be one of them. Once I found out that she is a practicing Catholic, her posts about misogyny and sexual harassment and discrimination with nary a peep about HMC came across as rank hypocrisy.

    …I have a culture shock for you.

    People don’t generally leave the Catholic church just because they think the organization is a mafia. As long as they still believe, they usually stay in. And by “believe” I just mean they’re very vaguely Christian, not that they’ve even ever heard of the uncounted finer points of doctrine.

  29. 29
    Pteryxx

    via the twitter crowd on #standwithDNLee, more excellent blog posts on academia’s ‘you’re a whore’ problem:

    http://tressiemc.com/2013/10/13/academic-whores/

    When we consider the demographic projections in this country in relation to our clamor to lead the world in scientific discovery, scholars like Danielle are providing a national service. We can’t win the future of STEM without winning it through black and brown girls and boys. Travel, research, speaking, planning, and writing are resource intensive actions. Scholars like Danielle are usually doing this with fewer resources, institutional authority and support than white male scholars often enjoy. They do it in public spaces where there are few sanctions for stalking women who dare say things someone thinks are better left unsaid. Most take this work on without the economic security of being on the white side of generational wealth inequality. Many are taking on debt and delaying income hoping the investment pays off with a job, of which there are fewer every year.

    http://sharkalleysouthafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-challenges-of-being-female.html (warning for gender binariness)

    Is this debate warranted? Yes. Whether or not you have a dick is the best predictor of how well cited your publication will be (this is exacerbated by the fact that women authors are much less likely to self-cite than men). Women are still more likely to leave their scientific field than pursue higher level academics – because men are paid more, get more funding, and are appointed to higher positions faster than their equally qualified vagina counterparts.

    Unfortunately, ladies, shark science may be one of the worst fields to have a vagina in. Take the white shark circus for example – you’re either a butch Shark Man, an Ultimate Shark Guru, a White Shark living legend … or a gentile mermaid that swims with sharks to protect them. If you refuse to be type-cast to the above extremes, your life will be difficult. You will either have to grow an extra layer of fat around your tongue, or you may be silly enough to speak out.

    I started off as a tongue biter since all young women have to in the beginning. One day, women scientists will be selected for their ability to confidently debate scientific topics – even to men! – but we are a long way off. In my experience, the young women scientists who are selected ‘make it’ are the ones who are seen but not heard… at least in the beginning.

    TressieMC links to an earlier post about the overlap of academia with contempt for blogging and marginalized voices:

    http://tressiemc.com/2012/09/09/reckless-theorizing-without-a-net-women-blogging-and-power/

    The conversation with the women academics was not too uncommon for me at this point. Whenever a group of academics are gathered and the idea of social media comes up, I have found extreme resistance to the very idea of online engagement. I don’t mean just dismissive attitudes about that new fangled technology but virulent, vocal attacks on social media that usually include things like it’s a waste of time, it distracts from “real” life, and that it is some kind of elaborate fad for “other” people.

    [...]

    Therefore, there is little risk for me in engaging in an illegitimate, low status online medium (as constructed by a specific type of academic hierarchy). No, my online work will likely never count towards tenure and promotion, as one tweep rightfully pointed out. But, the vehemence of the disregard for social media I most often encounter from women in academe suggests there is something more fundamentally threatening about writing a blog post than just a simple time cost-benefit analysis. If it was that they’d just say, “I’m too busy to blog!” And that would be perfectly OK.

    Instead what I sense is a rejection of the form of social media as a means of procuring bonafides in a white patriarchal power structure. I suggest that even considering such a structure as an acceptable avenue for one’s legitimacy speaks to a person’s understanding of her social proximity, no matter how tenuous, to that structure.

    That’s why I and the other black woman in the space both looked befuddled by the reactions to social media engagement as somehow dangerous. Dangerous is relative, after all. And maybe our kind of dangerous — being black in academe — had recalibrated our tolerance levels. It is why Meredith’s post on the risks of honest engagement was so striking to her readers. It’s why, I think, we see the cultural bifurcation of online spaces: white men who feel entitled to be heard and minority out-groups who seize upon such spaces as opportunities to be heard, seen, and connected.

    and finally, the SciAm debacle has been picked up by Retraction Watch:

    http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/scientific-american-faces-firestorm-after-removing-blog-post-about-scientist-being-called-a-whore/

  30. 30
    nathanaelnerode

    What the hell is going on in the minds of the SciAm editors?

    This is a Web 101 fail. You do NOT try to erase history in the days of the web — it’s a guaranteed backfire. Even if you’re evil jackasses and the history makes you look bad, trying to erase history just makes you look worse.

  31. 31
    ildi

    …I have a culture shock for you.

    People don’t generally leave the Catholic church just because they think the organization is a mafia. As long as they still believe, they usually stay in.

    No shock here, dude, I was raised Catholic and know a lot of cafeteria Catholics. They also criticize their own church on social justice and women’s rights issues if they’re activists. Beam in your own eye and all that.

  32. 32
    dani

    Praise be to science that there is no such censorship here.

  33. 33
    throwaway

    Praise be to science that there is no such censorship here.

    Not allowing someone to participate in a blog network because that someone is being a belligerent ass not addressing substance of arguments, strawmanning and espousing views seen as incongruous or damaging to the desired promotion of ideological views, coupled with a vocal hostility to individuals rather than the arguments, isn’t cherry-picked censorship. It’s called keeping a clean house by ridding it of assholes.

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