Scientific American responds

Mariette DiChristina offers a fuller explanation in a blog post.

Scientific American bloggers lie at the heart of the SA website, pumping vitality, experience and broad insight around the community. Unfortunately our poor communication with this valuable part of the SA network over the recent days has led to concerns, misunderstandings and ill feelings, and we are committed to working to try to put this right as best we can.

We know that there are real and important issues regarding the treatment of women in science and women of color in science, both historically and currently, and are dismayed at the far too frequent cases in which women face prejudice and suffer inappropriate treatment as they strive for equality and respect. We recently removed a blog post by Dr. Danielle Lee that alleged a personal experience of this nature. Dr. Lee’s post pertained to personal correspondence between her and an editor at Biology-Online about a possible assignment for that network. Unfortunately, we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove the post. Although we regret that this was necessary, a publisher must be able to protect its interests and Scientific American bloggers are informed that we may remove their blog posts at any time when they agree to blog for us. In removing the post, we were in no way commenting upon the substance of the post, but reflecting that the underlying facts were not confirmed.

Some people commenting on the article – with Chris Clarke being the first – are unconvinced by that. But the end seems like a good outcome.

We take very seriously the issues that are faced by women in science and women of color in science. As a woman who has worked in science publishing for more than 20 years, I can add that we intend to discuss how we can better investigate and publicize such problems in general and search for solutions with Dr. Lee and with the wider scientific community. With the help of Dr. Lee as an author, Scientific American plans to provide a thoroughly reported feature article about the current issues facing women in science and the related research in the coming weeks. I am personally grateful to Dr. Lee for her support in these endeavors and am looking forward to working with her on these issues.

Looking forward to that article.


  1. Parse says

    So, does this mean that they’re working on confirming the facts, so the post can be put back up again?

    Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

  2. chrisho-stuart says

    Biggest positive thing in this whole story is Dr Lee herself. I’ve been reading more of her blog and it is consistently well worth reading.

    Her video response on Ofek’s insults was really classy. She didn’t address it to Ofek — but to other young scientists. She made it about encouraging them to value their own work and time. She constructed a great teaching moment and I’d love to see more celebration of that happening amidst the criticisms of sciam.

    I won’t be boycotting sciam; after all — Dr Lee is a sciam blogger! Scientific American has good public visibility and penetration and that is where I am happy to see a good communicator like Dr Lee at work. Pulling the blog article was IMO a mistake; but the other side to that is that they are supporting her and if they can work with Dr Lee and others to have a feature article on the topic, then that that stands out as another positive.

    Dr Lee’s twitter comment wrt to @sciam was very classy as well.

    I’m not ready to go there. What this guy said was crappy. But I am not a victim. I spoke my peace, message was heard @dwheelerau @sciam

  3. Jeff Chamberlain says

    So, “Re blog inquiry: @sciam is a publication for discovering science. The post was not appropriate for this area & was therefore removed” really means “we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove the post?”

  4. rnilsson says

    That was in fact an admission to very sloppy professional procedures. The editor-in-chief has no way at all to contact one of her sub-editors over two days, and instead of properly responding to it simply axes a complaint from an accepted contributor?

    No, this sudden change of tune looks more like a conversion under gallows. It seems several other high-profile contributors have shown their frown, and that might threaten the bottom line. Well, let it sink then! And let the Captain be the last to jump ship. Yarr.

    Dr Lee has every right to do what she wants and thinks is best for her and has earned our respect.

    I have a right to avoid SciAm more strenuously in the future, unless a rapid resolution is reached.

  5. says

    My guess was that sciam received a legal threat from this Ofek dude and pulled the post because of that. This response only makes my suspicion stronger.

  6. says

    Although, if that were true, they could’ve prevented a whole lot of pain for themselves if they had just said so.

  7. rnilsson says

    Legal, shmegal. Scared of being sued for defamation by someone calling another “whore”, just for letting that person voice a well-formulated complaint on her own forum? Check reality.

    Maybe the Editors have “discovered” a bad kind of “Science” in their “lab”? How can we ever know?

    What kind of name is Ofek anyway? Is it slang or what? Seems a vague kind of figure, out-of-touch, like.

  8. Claire Ramsey says

    Ofek may have made legal noises to Scientific American but I do not see that he had any kind of case. The first year that I had internet access a colleague advised me to “never write anything in an email that you don’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.” I see no evidence that Ofek wished the communication to be private.

    It’s hard to see DiChristina’s actions as anything but poor management and knee jerk reactions.

  9. says

    Lemon-aid from Lemons!

    Dr. Lee gets attention and an article! Now to be mature and stop wishing that I knew what Ofek thought of that.

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

    @Jeff Chamberlain, #3:

    So, “Re blog inquiry: @sciam is a publication for discovering science. The post was not appropriate for this area & was therefore removed” really means “we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post, which was odd, as we did not even attempt to call DNLee, which should have saved us time and been much more efficient and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove the post?”


  11. anat says

    To rnilsson: Ofek is Hebrew for horizon. I’m guessing he’s Israeli. Looks like many of the editors of that blog do not speak English as their first language and do not come from places that are particularly egalitarian wrt gender. Maybe someone should have thought about that and given their editors some kind of orientation before letting them interact with others in the name of the blog.

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