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Context and Variation


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This is not a post about discovering science

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


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This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science. This is not a post about discovering science.

If that is how Scientific American Blogs runs, of course, none of this random assortment of my recent posts should have been allowed either:

I almost never write about discovering science, and in fact write frequently about oppression and privilege. But when a black woman writes about an oppressive experience, it is grounds for removal. Folks, this is Ally Work 101: it doesn’t matter your intent, what matters is the impact. Silencing a black woman who just got called an “urban whore” is sexist, racist, silencing behavior. It is wrong, and it is shameful.

(See Dr. Isis for the back story on this.)

Kate Clancy About the Author: Dr. Kate Clancy is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. She studies the evolutionary medicine of women’s reproductive physiology, and blogs about her field, the evolution of human behavior and issues for women in science. Find her comment policy here. Follow on Twitter @KateClancy.

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





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  1. 1. David Whitlock 2:07 pm 10/12/2013

    This is unacceptable for any organization associated with Scientific American to treat anyone that way.

    If Scientific American can’t enforce respectable behavior on the part of editors representing affiliated organizations, then Scientific American needs to cut ties with those organizations.

    This is not a close call.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Stephanie Z 3:19 pm 10/12/2013

    Yes, ma’am. And these posts and others like them on other blogs are a big part of the reason I read SciAm’s blogs.

    Link to this
  3. 3. David Marjanović 4:55 pm 10/12/2013

    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.

    Link to this
  4. 4. MissionHelper 12:31 pm 10/13/2013

    While I sympathize with DNLee, and agree that she was wronged and that biology-online should correct the situation, I think the Scientific American editors are well within their rights to not want their site used for her grievances about another site.

    There are many other sites on the web she can use to call out someone abusive, but I think that SA should not be used as one of them.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 12:51 pm 10/13/2013

    MissionHelper, thanks for your comment. What is upsetting to us SciAm bloggers is that we were told we had FULL editorial control. Not sure what to write about? Put up a cat video, fine with us! Want to write personally? Sure! Many of us came to this network BECAUSE we were assured of this full editorial control.

    What troubles me is that I actually wrote a post AGAINST Nature Publishing Group a while back, and write about plenty of other grievances here. Why was my tone (at least, if not more, snarky than the post in question) acceptable to corporate but Danielle’s was not? What was it about her use of language, her performance, her race and gender and class that made her clever post unacceptable?

    So while I certainly understand your point — that it would seem to some that a science blog network is not a space for personal grievances — this blog network has always stood by the original definition of blogging, which is that writing is personal and that blogging in particular should be controlled by the blogger. Other networks may limit what you can talk about, may edit your work, but that hasn’t been the case here.

    Link to this
  6. 6. David Marjanović 1:18 pm 10/13/2013

    I think the Scientific American editors are well within their rights to not want their site used for her grievances about another site.

    Where do you draw the line? Surely writing about pseudoscience sites is acceptable? It is

    Link to this
  7. 7. MissionHelper 1:37 pm 10/13/2013

    Dr. Clancy,

    Thank you for your reasonable response. I shall not belabor the point, but full editorial control is not the same as absolute editorial control. We are both aware there is a range of material Scientific American cannot, and will not permit be posted on this site. The issue here is if DNLee’s material passed from one side of that conceptual line to the other, and if so, in what way.

    Without, I hope, being antagonistic, if you would provide me with the two texts in question (yours and hers), I’m willing to review them and also forward both to my brother who is recently retired from practicing civil law, with an eye as to why the one might be considered acceptable and the other unacceptable. Please, not urls, for it is the essential difference in the texts, or more to the point your suggestion of the absence of essential difference between yours and DNLee’s texts, that forms, as I read your posts, the basis of your complaint against the editors of Scientific American.

    Should you elect to send them to me, I’m confident you can secure the email address on file for my account.

    MissionHelper

    Link to this
  8. 8. curiouswavefunction 2:13 pm 10/13/2013

    “I always never write about discovering science”

    Oh, but you do. That was my main problem with that tweet. “Discovering science” is not limited to simply exploring the facts and mysteries of science. It includes navigating the very human world of scientists who do science. Exploring the dynamics of social interaction between different players in the online and academic world is as much a part of discovering science as probing the nature of quarks and neurons.

    Link to this
  9. 9. abolitionist 2:53 pm 10/13/2013

    Dr. Clancy

    I have been following this interesting story as it has developed overnight, and while I understand from your post #5 that you were told you had full editorial control, Ms. DiChristina has recently posted that SA bloggers are informed that SA may remove their blog posts at any time when they agree to blog for SA.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that Ms. DiChristina’s claim is true, doesn’t that qualify, at lest somewhat, the sense of outrage I get by reading your and other SA bloggers?

    Link to this
  10. 10. Chryses 4:00 pm 10/13/2013

    curiouswavefunction (9),

    “Exploring the dynamics of social interaction between different players in the online and academic world is as much a part of discovering science as probing the nature of quarks and neurons.”

    It is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a different part of science.

    Link to this
  11. 11. MissionHelper 5:24 pm 10/13/2013

    Mr. Marjanović,

    “Where do you draw the line? Surely writing about pseudoscience sites is acceptable? It is…”

    While your observation and exmple are true, biology-online ( http://www.biology-online.org/ ) is not a pseudoscience site, so your example is inappropriate.

    Link to this
  12. 12. SoftLanding 6:25 pm 10/13/2013

    @4. MissionHelper

    “There are many other sites on the web she can use to call out someone abusive, but I think that SA should not be used as one of them.”

    I agree. Had not Dr. Lee inappropriately used SA as her sounding board for her grievance about someone on some other site, this entire disturbance would not have happened. There’s no science involved here – and at Scientific American there should be!

    Link to this
  13. 13. lddubeau 6:31 pm 10/13/2013

    MissionHelper said:

    “I think the Scientific American editors are well within their rights to not want their site used for her grievances about another site.”

    and

    “I’m willing to review them and also forward both to my brother who is recently retired from practicing civil law [...]”

    The issue is not whether or not what Scientific American is doing is *legal* but whether it is *ethical*. It is quite possible to perform an unethical act without by the same stroke performing an illegal act. Even if what SciAm has done is legal, it is unethical, and crassly so.

    Link to this
  14. 14. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 8:53 pm 10/13/2013

    SoftLanding — I use my blog for these sorts of things All. The. Time. I have called out Scientific American’s own publisher, I have called out North Carolina’s Nature Research Center, I have called out specific publications, specific scientists and/or manuscripts, even once another blogger on my own network. Never, ever have I been censored. Why have I never been censored but Dr. Lee was. That is the question.

    Link to this
  15. 15. MissionHelper 9:18 pm 10/13/2013

    lddubeau,

    “Even if what SciAm has done is legal, it is unethical, and crassly so.”

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but it is traditional to warrant one’s opinions if one wants one’s opinions to be taken seriously.

    Link to this
  16. 16. SoftLanding 9:38 pm 10/13/2013

    Dr. Clancy

    “Why have I never been censored but Dr. Lee was. That is the question.”

    And it’s a good question too. That’s why I like Mission Helper’s proposal of a textual analysis. You’ve listed by my count at least five areas where you equate your posts to Dr. Lee’s. Fair enough. Identify the ones you feel are most like Dr. Lee’s, and once the details of Dr. Lee’s post are agreed upon (some of the posters may be aware of more of those details than others), the similarities and dissimilarities can be identified and discussed.

    Such an approach would produce a less emotion-laden and more objective response to your question.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 9:59 pm 10/13/2013

    I’ve got my own analysis forthcoming. If you want to do a textual analysis, the raw material is in our blogs. I don’t need to find the blog posts for you.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Calton 12:03 pm 10/14/2013

    #16: Somewhere, “SoftLanding”, there is a vacant underside of a bridge that needs your services. Perhaps you should go apply.

    Link to this
  19. 19. MissionHelper 4:34 pm 10/14/2013

    What purpose is served by attacking and belittling SoftLanding? Comparing the texts was my idea. I though it made sense. If you think it was a bad idea, would you please explain why?

    Link to this
  20. 20. FloridaFarmer 5:39 pm 10/14/2013

    MissionHelper? SoftLanding? Perhaps the from-on-high comments by these two rather interesting choices of names would be worthy of textual analysis, because quite frankly, it smells like a sock puppet and a troll.

    Link to this

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