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The Scientific American Blog Network is not Scientific American

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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If you spend time reading Scientific American, you’ll know the magazine does not tiptoe around controversial topics. The same is true for the 50-ish people who are part of the online blog network. I happen to regard this focus as a strength of both organizations, though not all do.

To that end I would like to clarify one point about our relationship to the mothership, as the more combative commenters on our blogs aren’t shy to opine “I can’t believe this cr*p appears in Scientific American,” or variants thereof.

We on the Scientific American Blog Network are not edited, censored, approved, or otherwise filtered by Scientific American.

We network bloggers are independents who are granted the freedom to blog about what we want, when we want, with no agenda, no editorial oversight, and no set of directions about what to say. We write, we click “publish”, and at no point does the magazine interfere. You may have noticed this lack of adult supervision from our… um… occasional spelling troubles.

Thus, if you encounter the inevitable point on which we bloggers err, your beef is with us. Scientific American merely provides the forum.


Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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  1. 1. Coffey3c 5:08 pm 03/3/2013

    I find this blog to be… striking. If Scientific American allows you to publish under its name, and under its aegis, then it is completely responsible for the content and behavior of the bloggers. You may make the case that they do not care to supervise your efforts, which I have not doubt is an eminently factual claim, but that lack of oversight in no way abrogates responsibility. You are certainly responsible, but then so is Scientific American, in equal measure.

    Fortunately, not only am I quite a fan of open discourse and free speech, I’m likewise convinced that there is usually more than enough blame to spread around.


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  2. 2. Hydronium Hydroxide 7:00 pm 03/4/2013

    “no editorial oversight,”
    Easy to believe that. I guess the point here is for Scientific American to profit on traffic without claiming any responsibility for the articles that it allows to be published under its name. Nice.

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  3. 3. sunspot 8:27 pm 03/4/2013

    These claims of independence are idealistic, but I’d be more convinced if the publishers legal department weighed in on the issue of responsibility. Some legal cases of slander or other internet crimes might clarify the issue of SciAm responsibility.

    For example, SciAm editors certainly decide if a blog is allowed to join the SciAm site. Therefore they confer some status above other blogs. This entails a share in the responsibility for including these opinions. To claim otherwise is legally naive.

    Perhaps SciAm editors might be less culpable if they admitted bloggers who present all sides of issues, or even a random selection of opinions. But if SciAm editors only allow bloggers who express opinions of a specific nature or political persuasion, then the network of bloggers is legally biased, and therefore responsible for each bloggers post.

    Again, if SciAm required bloggers to post all comments and responses, only removing comments that violate a common “code of abuse” (See, then perhaps SciAm could avoid responsibility for blogger opinions. But if SciAm allows bloggers to remove comments at will, or in any biased manner, then this is a bias that SciAm editors must share.

    In summary, you can’t have freedom of speech without legal responsibility. (See for example, cases of “inciting to riot”, or threats against others.) Those who incite by publishing must share the legal responsibility. I’ll leave the rest to the lawyers.

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  4. 4. sunspot 8:32 pm 03/13/2013

    Alex Wild,
    Can I assume that the lack of response to these comments indicates some agreement that SciAm editors do bear some responsibility for blogger posts? If so, how much?

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  5. 5. Alex Wild in reply to Alex Wild 1:37 pm 03/15/2013

    Like you mention earlier, SunSpot, it’s hard to know just how much legal responsibility Scientific American would have over posts hosted on their network without a court case to serve as a test. I suspect not very much, considering our contracts, and considering that we’re not contracted to write about any particular topic, or hold any particular viewpoint.

    Since Scientific American is a private entity, not a government entity, first amendment concerns do not apply here anyway.

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