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"Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?"
October 12, 2013 12:37 PM   Subscribe

When DNLee was approached to write blog posts for Biology Online, she quite reasonably asked about the terms of the agreement. When she turned them down, their response was...somewhat less than reasonable. And when DNLee posted to her blog about it, Scientific American – who hosts her blog as part of their science blog network – responded in perhaps the most tone-deaf manner possible.

More here and here.

Twitter's scientists and science bloggers are, by and large, #standingwithdnlee. SciAm's editor-in-chief, Mariette DiChristina, also took to Twitter to respond to criticism of the move, and to accusations that it was prompted by Biology Online's status as part of the Scientific American Partners network. But many posts that are not about discovering science remain on SciAm Blogs.
posted by freelanceastro (195 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does anyone get paid to write anymore? What an upside down world.
posted by learnsome at 12:47 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well that is disgusting.
posted by cashman at 12:47 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


What step are we on?
posted by notme at 12:49 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Absolutely out of line for Bio Online's editor.

And SciAm absolutely did the right thing by simply removing any reference to the entire situation.

SciAm doesn't exist as a place for the internet to hash out our social ills, it functions as a primarily-print publication dedicated to the popular advancement of science. Getting into a blogger pissing contest, no matter the outcome, could not possibly have advanced that purpose.
posted by pla at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm not tracking this very well... but folks are pissed at SciAm cause they pulled DNLee's post about Biology-Online's really shitty response to her inquiry?

Is SciAm the right place to have that discussion? I don't think so, and the editors were right to pull it.
posted by notyou at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


What step are we on?

probably only 5 or 6.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2013


I appreciate that DNLee is taking the high road and her official response is classy. Not like she has to, but its a decent model to keep these things from becoming out of control internet ragers while still getting things fixed. Said her peace. Was heard.
posted by jessamyn at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


SciAm doesn't exist as a place for the internet to hash out our social ills, it functions as a primarily-print publication dedicated to the popular advancement of science. Getting into a blogger pissing contest, no matter the outcome, could not possibly have advanced that purpose.

It's pretty clear from cursory reading of, say, the links in the original post, that on many occasions, SciAm has existed as a place for scientists to talk about what life is like as a working scientist. And this, apparently, is part of what life is like as a working minority female scientist.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:57 PM on October 12, 2013 [125 favorites]


What step are we on?

The step where a woman is called a whore in a professional environment and then denied a voice in this environment to discuss her treatment.
posted by bibliowench at 12:59 PM on October 12, 2013 [123 favorites]


SciAm Blogs has not in the past removed posts that aren't "sciency" or "professional" enough. I've read posts on it about sexism in academia, sexism in general, about copyright theft (one of their bloggers is a spectacularly good photographer & entomologist) and more. Women in science (and women of color in science) being mistreated for their sex or race is a reality and a regular subject of science blogs on SciAm and elsewhere. DNLee calling out such an egregious and pointed example is a perfectly normal subject. Worse, the person who called her a whore is the editor for a site that SciAm has an affiliate relationship with! It's not some random guy and some random internet snit. She didn't write about how some guy with 40 followers on twitter called her a whore. She wrote about how the editor of an affiliated science blog site called her a whore. For refusing to work (professionally!) for free.
posted by R343L at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [71 favorites]


I'm not tracking this very well... but folks are pissed at SciAm cause they pulled DNLee's post about Biology-Online's really shitty response to her inquiry?

She didn't inquire nothin - they wanted her to work for free and she declined. How that makes anyone a whore, I don't know, because whores get paid.

Anyway, here is what a site_admin at the B-O forums has to say.
Hi Nickwan! Thank you for bringing this up to our attention. Derogatory and discriminatory remarks are not encouraged in Biology-Online.org. I will probe into this matter and hear the side of the other admins of the site. I'll contact you once I get definite answers to clear out this issue immediately. Thank you.

Vicki
Which was slightly less emphatic than I had hoped for.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Putting "women of color in science" in parenthesis in that was probably a mistake and reads like I'm discounting that aspect. Sigh. Sorry. :(
posted by R343L at 1:06 PM on October 12, 2013


Well, what your partners do reflects on you. And, when your partners are calling people "whores," (especially on the grounds that they were asking if they would be paid for content or not, but also in general, because were you raised in a barn?), maybe Scientific American's first action should have been to ask their partner a) what the hell were they thinking and b) to apologize (and rethink that partnership). Since they didn't, it's not unreasonable to think that Scientific American is standing with their partner. Considering the problems women have in STEM disciplines, that is a significant science story.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:06 PM on October 12, 2013 [27 favorites]


What in the ever-living fuck is wrong with people? In what context do you ever call someone who has declined a professional offer a name?
posted by rtha at 1:16 PM on October 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


I was like, "this is horrifying, calling a woman a whore in a professional context? What the hell?" That was horrifying enough for the misogyny. And then I kept reading and in the post by Kate Clancy I found out that they called a black woman an "urban whore."

HOLY FUCKING SHIT.
posted by edheil at 1:17 PM on October 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


1) I took my earrings off

Damn. Don't fuck with urban scientists. Stick with trying to exploit suburban scientists.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:19 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Stick with trying to exploit suburban scientists

"I put my soccer cleats on..."
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:23 PM on October 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


"I gunned the engine on the minivan..."
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why has this Ofek person not been outed and fired yet?

Seems pretty simple: call a woman a whore on the job, lose your job.

How difficult is this?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 1:27 PM on October 12, 2013 [97 favorites]


I think it matters at least a little bit that the EIC for SciAm is a woman as well, and probably not insensitive to all of this. Between that and DNLee's high-roading I have to assume that there's a lot going on behind the scenes that we don't know about.

But if I were involved my position would be to out Ofek and fire him as publicly as possible.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:32 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it matters at least a little bit that the EIC for SciAm is a woman as well, and probably not insensitive to all of this. Between that and DNLee's high-roading I have to assume that there's a lot going on behind the scenes that we don't know about.

1) Women can be misogynistic and insensitive

and

2) I literally can't think of a single thing that would ever make it okay to call anyone an "urban whore," regardless of the setting
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:43 PM on October 12, 2013 [28 favorites]


I think it's also really important to recognize that for most (many? lots of?) scientists, there is little dividing line between personal and professional. There is no point in your day at which you are not a scientist. Generally, we get that blogging about what we made for breakfast is not really "professional" (even if it involved some wicked molecular gastronomy). But it's more than a little insane to think that an interaction specifically related to writing scientific content is too much of a personal issue to include in a BLOG THAT DISCUSSES SCIENTIFIC CONTENT.

Also, anyone who thinks that colorful or colloquial language is not part of scientific discovery has never stepped foot in a lab.
posted by synapse at 1:44 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god, jetlagaddict, I'm not saying that there's any context that makes the "urban whore" comment okay, just that it looks to me like something they've agreed to handle internally and don't want to make more of a public thing about. (Purely my speculation, of course.)
posted by Navelgazer at 1:44 PM on October 12, 2013


just that it looks to me like something they've agreed to handle internally and don't want to make more of a public thing about.

maybe they're conducting an experiment on the striesand effect
posted by pyramid termite at 1:46 PM on October 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


DNLee's urban scientist blog mission statement:

A hip hop maven blogs on urban ecology, evolutionary biology & diversity in the sciences

Seems like DNLee's blog is the perfect place for issues surrounding diversity in the sciences.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:46 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow. Count me as an NSF-funded regular reader of SA who expects Ofek to be fired and SA/NPG and BO to apologize profusely and without qualification and institute policy changes so this never happens again. How mortifying for the community of science.

There's a biology-online forum thread.
posted by spitbull at 1:50 PM on October 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


it looks to me like something they've agreed to handle internally and don't want to make more of a public thing about.

If I may put this in precise, um, scientific terms: That boat done sailed.
posted by localroger at 1:51 PM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I left a brief comment on that forum thread.
posted by jessamyn at 1:58 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Having some experience in the land of Big Science* I understand management gets evil people, and how sales gets evil people, and how legal gets evil people. How the hell is it that editorial and publication so often manages to trump them all?

*Hallelujah! Big science! Yodellayheehoo!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:00 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


A commenter on DNLee's blog is either a good detective or the harbinger of Step 9.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:00 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The "whore" thing was clearly unacceptable, that should go without saying.

If I understand this right, DNLee's main blog (which she is presumably paid for) is hosted at Scientific American. In the offer from Biology Online, they mention that they'd like a monthly article for free, and "a delay of two weeks before you repost on your own blog, though you can post a link immediately"

That sounds a bit iffy to me, and I can't fathom why BO would think that Scientific American would allow their blogger to give away their content that they've paid for, to another site even if it is a partner, two weeks before SciAm can publish it.
posted by peppermind at 2:01 PM on October 12, 2013


Guest blogging doesn't necessarily mean repurposing things you've written for your main blog, and SciAm presumably doesn't have a lock on all of her written output. It's a shitty offer, but it isn't SciAm that was getting screwed by it.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:03 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, if you ask for money in return for work, you are a whore. I'm assuming that the editor who said this does her job out love and won't think of asking for money...
posted by 445supermag at 2:07 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


SciAm Blogs also took down Karen Stollznow's blog post describing being sexually harassed at Skeptic conventions.

They need to pull it together and put themselves firmly on the side of the good guys, or their track record is going to doom them quickly. At least, I hope so.
posted by jaguar at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is the perfect rebuttal to the idea that, if women would just be polite, they'd be treated better. DNLee's response was perfectly, professionally vague. It is the exact sort of response that Ms. Manner's suggests: "That will not be possible." It could not have been a more passive refusal.
posted by muddgirl at 2:13 PM on October 12, 2013 [68 favorites]


GAAAAAAH. SciAm needs to think about what having hosted bloggers actually entails. You can't just use these independent scientists blogging under their own names to bring pageviews or street cred to the SciAm brand and then casually toss them aside when their opinions make things inconvenient for you.

Also I notice that a lot of scientific bloggers who happen to be women also happen to use their initials in lieu of first names that may be obviously feminine. A strategic move to sidestep some sexism I assume.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:20 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


also happen to use their initials in lieu of first names

Once upon a time Ursula Le Guin sold a story to Playboy, where they insisted on crediting her as U. Le Guin. She wrote an entire very moving essay about how that U stuck in her throat.
posted by localroger at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it matters at least a little bit that the EIC for SciAm is a woman as well, and probably not insensitive to all of this. Between that and DNLee's high-roading I have to assume that there's a lot going on behind the scenes that we don't know about.

Neither of these statements have ever been true in situations like this. Turns out too often that being a woman doesn't mean having to be aware of the sort of mysogenistic shit other women (especially women of colour) have to put up with, especially if your job depends on not being aware, nor, you know, do you need to know what's going on behind the scenes to know this is an objectively shitty situation. All that does is save face for SCIAM and bio-online to pretend that they are not wearing clown shoes.

Because as we know what happened:

Bio-online approached DNLee to write for them, she asked what their rates were (first thing to do if you are a professional writer), they said, what are you, a whore, she blogged about it on her blog hosted at SCIAM, they freaked out and removed it, then it turns out bio and SCIAM are best buds?

Yeah, that screams corporate overreaction and coverup. They should be taken to task for it and not being believed when they such obviously lying things like, dude we're all about the science and this has nothing to do with it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:42 PM on October 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


I would cancel my subscription to Scientific American in solidarity, but I dropped it years ago because it had become such a piece of crap it depressed me to read it.
posted by mr vino at 2:43 PM on October 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Huh, I just learned that "urban" in American is apparently the new version of "inner-city" and apparently both have less to do with location than skin colour. Hard to keep up. As for "whore" that is obviously completely unacceptable unless the person you are talking to is a close friend.
posted by binturong at 2:56 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Once again, there's a call on misogyny and racism, but Big Name Magazine gets the by.

Screw you, Scientific American.

Getting into a blogger pissing contest, no matter the outcome, could not possibly have advanced that purpose. [...popular advancement of science.]

Sorry pla, this is exactly the place for a blogger pissing contest when it involves discrimination of this type. I think the finger needs to be pointed at assholes. Real science is supposed to be above all this.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:58 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


What on earth is going through the head of the person who says "are you an urban scientist or an urban whore." At what point did that seem like a reasonable thing to say? Like, even if you were just truly, irrationally livid that this person had deigned to ask your rates, how would that insult make anything better?

It's as if somebody didn't like an answer they received at the bank, so then they decided to take a crap on the floor. Uh, great job, buddy. You win, I guess. The bank will clean it up and move on. You'll still be the person who craps on the floors of places. Have fun with that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


I can think of few things that would do more for the popular advancement of science than working against sexism and racism within science.
posted by ootandaboot at 3:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [22 favorites]


Huh, I just learned that "urban" in American is apparently the new version of "inner-city" and apparently both have less to do with location than skin colour.

That isn't new. 20+ years ago when I worked in a record store we sold (among other styles) "urban" music.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:10 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am breathless with admiration for DNLee's professional and classy response.
posted by Catch at 3:10 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


> What in the ever-living fuck is wrong with people? In what context do you ever call someone who has declined a professional offer a name?

This sort of smarmy "we're very important you know, it would look good on your resume" spiel followed by an intensely hostile response if turned down is definitely a Business Person! archetype in my mind. I'm not entirely sure why, as I've only ever vaguely encountered it myself, but it seems exactly the sort of arsehole personality that gets ahead because they only dump on people that don't matter. I admit to feeling a bit of glee when someone like that runs face first into the internet.
posted by lucidium at 3:19 PM on October 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


I appreciate that DNLee is taking the high road and her official response is classy. Not like she has to

Well she's black and a woman so she has to be absolutely unimpeachable or the whole thing will become her fault in one irrelevant way or another.
posted by Talez at 3:20 PM on October 12, 2013 [111 favorites]


I am breathless with admiration for DNLee's professional and classy response.

Me, as well. Very levelheaded on her part. In her shoes, I doubt I would have that sort of emotional maturity to keep cool.

Dear SciAM:

When you cover up and/or allow this kind of shit to happen under any part of your corporate umbrella, it tars you as well. This is Internet 101.
posted by pjern at 3:21 PM on October 12, 2013


Yeah, "urban" is on the euphemism treadmill. This Ofek who insulted her is going to be able to retreat into "what? I just said 'urban'" for now, but it won't be for much longer.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:23 PM on October 12, 2013


This sort of smarmy "we're very important you know, it would look good on your resume" spiel followed by an intensely hostile response if turned down is definitely a Business Person! archetype in my mind. I'm not entirely sure why, as I've only ever vaguely encountered it myself, but it seems exactly the sort of arsehole personality that gets ahead because they only dump on people that don't matter.

Photographers with a web presence see this all.the.time.
posted by pjern at 3:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was talking to my wife about this, and we're in agreement: in addition to being incredibly misogynist, the retort is just plain stupid, like fifth-grade recess insult stupid. They may as well have said "Your MOM didn't turn me down last night!"
posted by Mooski at 3:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, "urban" is on the euphemism treadmill.

Reminds me of this exchange in Boston Legal:

SHIRLEY SCHMIDT
Denny, there's no such thing as "sounding black".

DENNY CRANE
What do you mean?

SHIRLEY SCHMIDT
Certainly you don't think all black people sound alike.

DENNY CRANE
Well, of course not. Anchors on the news don't sound black at all, and the black weathermen sound whiter than me.

SHIRLEY SCHMIDT
It's politically incorrect to say somebody sounds black.

DENNY CRANE
All right, then "African-American".

SHIRLEY SCHMIDT
No.

DENNY CRANE
"Jesse Jackson-ish"?

SHIRLEY SCHMIDT
No!

DENNY CRANE
Well then, how? What do you say? If a person sounds black, what's the right way to say it?

SHIRLEY SCHMIDT
[uncomfortably] ... "Urban".

DENNY CRANE
White people don't live in cities?

posted by Talez at 3:26 PM on October 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


DirtyOldTown, I don't think there's a lot of reason to think that the Ofek in the paper citation is the one connected to BiologyOnline - it's just a from an article citation list for another article from Retrovirology. So yeah, looks more Step 9-ish than good detective work.
posted by tavella at 3:32 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I . . . wow. Not just a whore to expect to be paid, but an urban whore because she's black. I've looked up to Scientific American my whole life, but. . . wow.
posted by KathrynT at 3:42 PM on October 12, 2013


This Ofek who insulted her is going to be able to retreat into "what? I just said 'urban'" for now, but it won't be for much longer.

Given that DNLee writes as "The Urban Scientist", the use of urban is absolutely not the part that makes the conversion from ofek@biology-online.org to ofek@aol.com the appropriate response.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:54 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have read DNLee's blog for a long time. She uses the title "Urban Scientist" because she is an urban ecologist, meaning she studies ecosystems in places severely impacted by human activities. I am also an urban ecologist, but since I'm white, the "urban whore" phrase aimed at me would not have the racist implications that it does when it is aimed at her.

Incidently, "uppity" also has racist implications.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:56 PM on October 12, 2013 [42 favorites]


(And although I'm sure she recognizes the double-entendre and even used it intentionally, this is one of those situations where, to personalize things, I can call myself "MuddGirl" but that doesn't mean you can call me a "girl" as an insult to my professional experience.)
posted by muddgirl at 3:57 PM on October 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


What muddgirl said.
posted by bibliowench at 4:11 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Could you guys drop the "urban" derail? I think we've covered it pretty well already.]
posted by mathowie at 4:31 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is that making "clever" substitutions to someone's name or handle was old-hat when on-line conversations made the awesome advance to 1200 baud. It's what passed for wit among the 12-15 year old with delusions of adequacy set.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to bet you any money that this guy isn't as racist as all get out. But as he's already gone out of his way to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he's an uncouth misogynistic lout with a sense of entitlement so big he ought to be filing an environmental impact statement whenever he crosses state lines.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:32 PM on October 12, 2013


You're not going to get a signed affidavid from ofek that says, "I meant my witty word play to be racist," so I don't really see the point of arguing that it's not racist to call a black woman an urban whore. Ofek's intent is irrelevant. It's racist.
posted by muddgirl at 4:40 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I mean jesus, you call someone who politely declined your offer a degrading name? A degrading and sexual slur? A degrading, sexual slur that also comes off as racist? It's just an giant layer cake of wtfery.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:11 PM on October 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


I don't know how Ofek thought calling Lee an urban whore wasn't going to bite him in the ass.

This storm showed up in my twitter feed this afternoon. I have to admit I was thinking of that buzzfeed article when one of the folks I read said they were waiting to see what Scientific American did and that they were willing to give them the weekend. My thought was "Until what? Stage 10?"
posted by immlass at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2013


The poor forum moderator at the B-O forums is clearly in over her head.
I am a woman too and have never encountered disrespect here in Biology Online.org. And I still look forward for contributing more to this site. I've been here for seven years and I can attest that this is the first time I heard about a staff of Biology Online showing unethical/unprofessional behavior.

Biology Online is run by a few people.. some of us, including me, are working remotely and thus most of us are communicating solely and rely through email. Like I said, we do not encourage nor tolerate that behavior that is why I immediately reported this incident yesterday to the other site's admins upon seeing this thread.

I know you want a speedy action but it is also necessary to conduct a fair investigation. It was only yesterday that I was informed that Ofek is a new employee of the website as an Editor. I was promised that this will be dealt with as soon as possible. I hope this would be resolved by Monday.

If the complaint is proven true and Ofek failed to give an ethical reason for his behavior I too would ask that he sends his apologies and that fair action must be taken to prevent this incident from happening again.

Thank you.

I feel for her - but still. Ofek's head should have been on a pike hours ago.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:42 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it's unfortunate that everyone on "Internet time" expects people to be fired on Saturday nights. Regardless of how nasty the fool was, there's no one's life at stake, and no one is going to be worse off if they get their senior people together on Monday to talk to the HR people and do it right. If he's still around after that, then that'll be the time to get angry at the inaction.
posted by tyllwin at 6:17 PM on October 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think it's unfortunate that everyone on "Internet time" expects people to be fired on Saturday nights.

Why is unreasonable to expect a website to operate on Internet time? Furthermore, I think most people expected Ofek to be fired yesterday, or this morning at the latest.
posted by muddgirl at 6:21 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's unfortunate that everyone on "Internet time" expects people to be fired on Saturday nights. Regardless of how nasty the fool was, there's no one's life at stake, and no one is going to be worse off if they get their senior people together on Monday to talk to the HR people and do it right. If he's still around after that, then that'll be the time to get angry at the inaction.

That may be true, but they do themselves no favors with stuff like:
If the complaint is proven true and Ofek failed to give an ethical reason for his behavior

What possible "ethical reason" obligates a grown ass adult to call someone a whore? "Terrists held my family hostage and said they'd kill them unless I did it"?
posted by juv3nal at 6:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


If the complaint is proven true and Ofek failed to give an ethical reason for his behavior


I know that I shouldn't laugh - but I laughed, because it's the absurdity of "there's two sides to every story" laid bare. I'm imagining a bunch of uncomfortable, fidgeting bloggers trying to come up with some reason not to call Ofek a horrible person. Perhaps someone threatened to throw a puppy in front of a train if he didn't call this woman an urban whore?

That said, I think that the most depressing part of this story is how SciAm responded. The defense that it's not about science doesn't hold water, both because they don't consistently remove such posts, and because this is about science.

Someone decided that the experience of a black woman experiencing abuse while interacting with another scientist didn't belong - that it wasn't relevant. It's not about the field. It belongs somewhere else. Somewhere non-sciencey. I wouldn't be surprised if that's Ofek's opinion about the scientist herself.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:27 PM on October 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


The only ethical reason I can think of would be a very, very unfortunate autocorrect/speech to text transcription.

I'm however at a loss for what the original could have been in this scenario.
posted by zippy at 6:32 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only ethical reason I can think of would be a very, very unfortunate autocorrect/speech to text transcription.

"Are you an urban scientist? Then you should earn more!"
posted by jaguar at 6:33 PM on October 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


I actually do think it's a bit unreasonable to expect a relative back-water website to be prepped to execute this 365 days a year, yeah. Maybe they have to track down the person who can has the final say, who happens to be camping in the Adirondacks over the Columbus Day weekend. Maybe that person has already decided to fire "Ofek," but wants to make sure it's done in a way that doesn't end up costing them money in a lawsuit. I don't know.

I'm not condoning what this person did, just saying that no one is any the worse off for waiting until normal business hours to handle staff terminations in a business where I wouldn't expect senior staff to be on call 24x7
posted by tyllwin at 6:35 PM on October 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


just saying that no one is any the worse off

I am. This isn't something new. This is yet another in a long freaking string of similar occurrences directed at women, people of color, and specifically women of color. Whoever is in charge of Biology Online damn sure knows about this by now, and their first action should have been to post a public message saying "Best believe this is being taken care of." This "failed to give an ethical reason" mess is nonsense. Assure that this person wasn't being possessed by aliens or that someone hacked into his email. But let the site know, let everyone know, that this is being taken seriously. This is 2013.
posted by cashman at 6:41 PM on October 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


just saying that no one is any the worse off

I think we're all worse off when a vile sexist and racist toxic spew goes untended until normal business hours.
posted by dougmoon at 6:42 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The majority of my students are women of color. I just spent the day grading practical exams for my freshman biology classes, and I am excited to see them on Monday and tell them how well they did. I am excited to see the scientists they become.

So when things like this happen, it does hurt me because it hurts my students. I spend so much time building them up and helping them enter this world that still really does not want them there.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:50 PM on October 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty sure my boss would get HR out of bed to fire me if it was all over twitter I did something like this. That is if his VP didn't do it first.

I think most responsible companies would at least put out some kind of communication at the very least as opposed to letting a forum mod handle the public response.

Unfortunately I don't think this is a responsible company. At the very least they are not acting responsibly. At first glance they look like a spammy content farm outfit and the way they are handling this, by not handling it, does nothing to belie that first impression.

SciAm should sever any relationship with the site no matter what the outcome.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:53 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


an ethical reason for his behavior

Oh, I can't wait to see what THAT might entail.

That said, it's very interesting that Mariette DiChristina and Scientific American are taking a page from the NRA playbook. Something going on that makes everything you stand for look bad? Disappear from the Internet until the furor blows over, then slink back online as if nothing ever happened!
posted by sobell at 7:06 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to be clear that I didn't mean no one was the worse off for his using a racially-charged sexual slur to a prospective contributor. OMG no. I only meant that no one was the worse for it if he was fired on Monday vs Saturday.
posted by tyllwin at 7:22 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now Is the Time We Raise Our Voices: This is why these matters are very much about discovering science. How can science be discovered when you shut out well over half of the human race?
posted by jaguar at 7:25 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Standing with DNLee and “discovering science”:

Let the record reflect that this is the very first time I have heard about this editorial filter, or that any of my posts that do not fall in the category of “discovering science” could be pulled down by editors.

As well, it’s hard to see how what DNLee posted counts as NOT “discovering science” unless “discovering science” is given such a narrow interpretation that this entire blog runs afoul of the standard.

Of course, I’d argue that “discovering science” in any meaningful way requires discovering that scientific knowledge is the result of human labor.

Scientific knowledge doesn’t wash up on a beach, fully formed. Embodied, quirky human beings build it. The experiences of those human beings as they interact with the world and with each other are a tremendously important part of where scientific knowledge comes from. The experiences of human beings interacting with each other as they try to communicate scientific knowledge are a crucial part of where scientific understanding comes from — and of who feels like understanding science is important, who feels like it’s inviting and fun, who feels like it’s just not for them.

Women’s experiences around building scientific knowledge, communicating scientific knowledge, participating in communities and networks that can support scientific engagements, are not separable from “discovering science”. Neither are the experiences of people of color, nor of other people not yet well represented in the communities of scientists or scientific communicators.

Unless Scientific American is really just concerned with helping the people who already feel like science is for them to “discover science”. And if that’s the situation, they really should have told us bloggers that before they signed us up.

posted by jaguar at 7:30 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Jesus Herbert Walker Christ. I manage about 25 people. If something like this came across my desk, I would get up out of my chair, go back to receiving and get The Big Guy off the dock and we'd frog-march the sonofabitch right off of company property.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


For real. If I responded on a work email like this, they would check my email account and then fire me. As they should.
posted by rtha at 8:00 PM on October 12, 2013


This sort of smarmy "we're very important you know, it would look good on your resume" spiel followed by an intensely hostile response if turned down is definitely a Business Person! archetype in my mind.

You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of the numerous "shitty people on OKCupid" blogs where a guy sends a message to a woman talking about how nice he is and they should go out and then when she says "no", suddenly starts spewing abuse and profanity and misogyny.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 PM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


"right off of company property"

Biology Online looks to be more of a hobby website than any kind of business. Anyone know different?

http://www.biology-online.org/siteinfo/about.php
posted by Ardiril at 8:10 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it weird that everyone on the about page looks like a college freshman and nearly all joined in 2005? I'm kinda tempted to think they're stock photos...
posted by zippy at 8:23 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


muddgirl:
Why is unreasonable to expect a website to operate on Internet time? Furthermore, I think most people expected Ofek to be fired yesterday, or this morning at the latest.
Becaise a breathless, heedless rush to react without securing all the facts first is stupid, and often leads to stupid results?

Because even people who run websites have lives, and can't be expected to be a slave to their site 24/7?

Because the importance of an action is not at all equal to the speed with which it should be done, and important and life-altering decisions, like firing an employee, shouldn't be done based on your blood pressure?

Seriously, taking 48 hours to look into an accusation is hardly being villainous. If the facts all support the claims, this asshat can be fired Monday as easily as today, and this great and unforgivable crime of not immediately making irrevocable decisions will not matter by next Friday, when whats-his-fuck finally realizes that his career is permanently damaged.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:34 PM on October 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


What are they waiting on. The toxicology reports? The autopsy results? Doing a forensic reconstruction of the crime scene that will take days? Man please.
posted by cashman at 8:40 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously, taking 48 hours to look into an accusation is hardly being villainous.

No, but the way they have responded -- "well, it's probably nothing, but if it turns out to be something then we'll talk" -- is.
posted by jeather at 8:41 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


After reading that email from ofek, my thoughts: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK?!

After thinking about it more and reading more and thinking even more, my first thought, it echoes.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:43 PM on October 12, 2013



No, but the way they have responded -- "well, it's probably nothing, but if it turns out to be something then we'll talk" -- is.


To be fair, from reading that admin's other posts, I think English is not her first language. Also, she was a moderator of a quiet little forum on a quiet little corner of the internet and then one day shitstorm happens. Granted, there is much room for improvement on her handling of it, but.... if she were good at doing PR, she'd probably be doing PR as a job.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:44 PM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


The "failed to give an ethical reason for his behavior" site admin has replied again in that thread.
posted by cashman at 8:48 PM on October 12, 2013


"Whether his account was hacked"? Seriously?
posted by rtha at 8:50 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am zero for four in a google image search for four of those "about us" headshots, which both suggests "not stock photo" and also "people who don't post elsewhere online using the same headshot" which is a bit unusual too. Also, most of the team is pseudonymous.

There's just something odd about the about page.
posted by zippy at 8:52 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reading the admin's most recent post does make it sound like English is not her first language. Regardless, Ofek's behavior is totally beyond the pale and he should be unemployed as of Monday. Am disgusted by SciAm's response as well -ugly, ugly behavior and a shameful cop-out.
posted by leslies at 8:53 PM on October 12, 2013


That is why management should get on top of this. They can't have the moderator making statements like that. She is in full CYA mode because she doesn't know what management wants to say.

who are we kidding, they have no HR or compliance or even PR to handle this. The owners need to take control here and do the right thing.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:55 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem: I strongly suspect honee_v is the top dog.
posted by Ardiril at 8:57 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


That kinda makes sense. I imagined a couple employees managing 20 spammy content farms for some absentee owner.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:02 PM on October 12, 2013


So, Biology Online has most/all of the Wiktionary on the site, including the entry for whore.

Yes, it's editable.
posted by zippy at 9:11 PM on October 12, 2013


tavella: "DirtyOldTown, I don't think there's a lot of reason to think that the Ofek in the paper citation is the one connected to BiologyOnline - it's just a from an article citation list for another article from Retrovirology. So yeah, looks more Step 9-ish than good detective work."

I love watching neologism during their infancies.
posted by Samizdata at 9:18 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "The poor forum moderator at the B-O forums is clearly in over her head.
I am a woman too and have never encountered disrespect here in Biology Online.org. And I still look forward for contributing more to this site. I've been here for seven years and I can attest that this is the first time I heard about a staff of Biology Online showing unethical/unprofessional behavior.

Biology Online is run by a few people.. some of us, including me, are working remotely and thus most of us are communicating solely and rely through email. Like I said, we do not encourage nor tolerate that behavior that is why I immediately reported this incident yesterday to the other site's admins upon seeing this thread.

I know you want a speedy action but it is also necessary to conduct a fair investigation. It was only yesterday that I was informed that Ofek is a new employee of the website as an Editor. I was promised that this will be dealt with as soon as possible. I hope this would be resolved by Monday.

If the complaint is proven true and Ofek failed to give an ethical reason for his behavior I too would ask that he sends his apologies and that fair action must be taken to prevent this incident from happening again.

Thank you.

I feel for her - but still. Ofek's head should have been on a pike hours ago.
"

Ummmm, yeah, I can NOT see any ethical way the word "whore" can be used in a non-Shakespearan domain.

At all.
posted by Samizdata at 9:21 PM on October 12, 2013


This makes me miss Stephen Jay Gould even more.
"Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny—and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do)."
"Capturing the Center," Natural History 107 (December 1998); S. J. Gould
Ofek's aforementioned tone-deaf comment is, with admittedly extreme understatement, asking the wrong questions.

Science.
posted by simulacra at 9:24 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


This makes me angry, and I agree that every person of courage and good conscience should add to the chorus that says "this is not acceptable-- for anyone." And I'm not usually one for boycotting an organization, but wow-- how did you take the beloved Scientific American magazine of my youth and turn it into this bland fount of weaselly corporatese legal-speak? It's Jalopy's law coming true right before my eyes.

But at the same time, now I have discovered both DN Lee and Janet Stemwedel, who are bloggers in areas that I have always been interested in but didn't know anyone else even thought about. Urban ecology? The ethics of scientific knowledge building? That is some awesome stuff, right there. Shame I learned about these two science writers in such a rotten way.
posted by seasparrow at 9:31 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mariette DiChristina of SciAm offers this additional ass-covering non-explanation to BuzzFeed:
I’d like to elaborate on the original brief statement on Twitter that this blog fell outside Scientific American’s mission to communicate science. While we interpret that mission with a lot of latitude, Dr. Lee’s post went beyond and verged into the personal, and that’s why it was taken down. Dr. Lee’s post is out extensively in the blogosphere, which is appropriate. Dr. Lee is a valued member of the Scientific American blog network. In a related matter, Biology Online has an ad network relationship, and not an editorial one. Obviously, Scientific American does not want to be associated with activities that are detrimental to the productive communication of science. We are pursuing next steps.
posted by scody at 9:37 PM on October 12, 2013


"We are pursuing next steps."

They're still deciding how the money numbers shake out.
posted by rhizome at 9:48 PM on October 12, 2013


More like, they threw the folder in their lawyer's in-basket.
posted by Ardiril at 9:50 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing we can do is follow Dr. Lee's request and support some of the projects she is involved in. While I also support shaming the man who behaved atrociously, helping transform the field of science into something more diverse sounds like one way of reducing the chances of somebody behaving like this in the future.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:55 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reading that post:


by wildfunguy » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:14 am
He was making an anology, not literally calling her a whore. However, be it racist, sexist, or whatever, it seems suggestive of the way he percieves her. Not to mention plain old rude.
They may not have intended or anticipated such harm, but they were at least being imprudent.
neurotically exotic

wildfunguy
Death Adder


Posts: 68
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just makes me wonder a little less how out-of-touch people can be sometimes. Yeah it seems suggestive, dumbass!
posted by oceanjesse at 10:24 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Regarding our of touch people, I had a professor in grad school who was a hard core socialist (and a real socialist, not a "left of John Birch" socialist) who used the word "whore" to describe anyone who did anything for money. I can't imagine that even he would have the poor sense to call a potential professional contact that to her (or his) face.

Indeed, that anyone involved in recruiting bloggers for a website would think insulting a blogger is a good idea is mind boggling to me. I swear, it's like this dude had never been on the Internet before.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:37 PM on October 12, 2013


Dr. Lee’s post went beyond and verged into the personal, and that’s why it was taken down.

What a load of horseshit! The last link in the OP goes to a list of SA blog posts that we're not explicitly about science. The last one is a story of a woman who had a miscarriage. The author concludes her story thusly:

"I feel lucky that I had stories of women who’d gone down this road before me, and that through those stories, I was empowered to make the best decision for myself . . . I do think it is through telling stories of motherhood won and motherhood lost that we give power to our own experiences and share whatever wisdom we have gained with women who will weave their own motherhood stories. I hope that by sharing my story here that at least one woman will find information or solace for her own journey."

How is that not personal? And how is using the personal experience of a woman, as a means for discussing and understanding the common experiences of women, less valid as a discussion topic? It's not like sexism in the sciences is chatfilter; that shit is definitely a problem. This reminds me of how women novelists were (are) trivialized because they wrote about personal, trivial subjects like romance and domestic life.

But of course, SA didn't apply this criteria to Kate Clancy's post, which leads me to think this reaction is based on race as much as gender. Or, that posts can be personal as long as they don't point specifically to prejudice within the ranks.
posted by bibliowench at 10:39 PM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


DiChristina is still full of it.

Look, if she/they had some concern that the divulging of email addresses and messages in this context might somehow have legal implications for Scientific American, which is pretty much the only justification I can imagine that I'd accept for pulling Dr. Lee's post, then they should have said so.

Instead, they're going with this "off-mission for the site" nonsense, which is self-evidently bullshit. Because — why would they care? Why would they do something that would only increase the controversy? They wouldn't. They had some other motivation for subjecting the blog entry to special scrutiny under which they decided that it needed to be pulled.

Either that undisclosed motivation is justifiable, or it isn't. If it is, then disclose it. Say: "We're worried about some legal implications of this whole thing and how the blog post might involve Scientific American, so we decided to pull it until we've had our attorneys sound off on it. It doesn't reflect upon Dr. Lee; and Scientific American strongly believes that Dr. Lee and all other scientist bloggers be treated with the respect they deserve as the professionals they are."

But, alas, no. Instead we get what amounts to slapping Dr. Lee on the wrist.

Forget about Biology Online — they're an aggregator who expects people to write for free. It's no wonder that they'd have a loose cannon editor and be incompetent at containing a PR disaster. Instead, consider Scientific American and Mariette DiChristina, who have also displayed bad judgment and an incompetence at avoiding or containing bad public relations.

And, of course, at the bottom of this is the simple fact that Dr. Lee has just shined a light on the kind of thing that happens all the time.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:45 PM on October 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


"Why would they do something that would only increase the controversy?"

Perhaps this quote from Lee's blog entry. -- In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

That reads like a threat to me.
posted by Ardiril at 10:51 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or perhaps? -- I appreciate your [...] offers to ride down on his *$$.
posted by Ardiril at 11:02 PM on October 12, 2013


This is the perfect rebuttal to the idea that, if women would just be polite, they'd be treated better.

Actually it's a perfect example that, even in the face of a total asswad, she remained professional. This is why in the ensuing shitstorm, the bugs haven't totally swarmed out of the woodwork claiming that she "overreacted" to the insult: she hasn't given the false equivalence crowd a straw to grasp.
posted by chimaera at 11:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


"That reads like a threat to me."

And that's a good reason to pull the post. Not "this blog fell outside Scientific American’s mission to communicate science".

It was entirely possible for SciAm to publicly support Dr. Lee in this while also pulling the blog post because they felt that it included some language that might cause some legal problems. They could have just said so.

DiChristina is sorta kinda trying to do this in scody's quote above, to support Dr. Lee and criticize "Ofek", but doing it so lukewarmly and while pushing that "our mission is to communicate science" obfuscation, that it's ineffective and the end result ends up sounding mostly like silencing Dr. Lee and little more.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:45 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


"It was entirely possible for SciAm to publicly support Dr. Lee"

True, but as we have seen countless times before in cases of outrage-filter, the best response overall is no response. Simply let it burn out and blow away. The consequences are usually insignificant, and no more than a small brushfire otherwise. People are learning that twitter-trends are not panic-buttons.

Hell, even if ofek is more than a fake email address, do you think either SA or BO are going to identify him publicly and risk a lawsuit?
posted by Ardiril at 12:07 AM on October 13, 2013


Yeah, so, the "her stating her immediate reactions and feelings is a threat" is the kind of failure to read nuance that comes up when shit like this happens to POC and women but not when it's a white dude. No matter how she responded, somebody's gonna say she fucked up. That sucks.
posted by NoraReed at 1:10 AM on October 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


"There's just something odd about the about page."

I agree. This does not look like the kind of website that solicits professors for content. I'm beginning to wonder if the email was phishing for an academic essay that wouldn't appear in any plagiarism database.
posted by Ardiril at 2:20 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, so, the 'her stating her immediate reactions and feelings is a threat' is the kind of failure to read nuance that comes up when shit like this happens to POC and women but not when it's a white dude. No matter how she responded, somebody's gonna say she fucked up. That sucks."

Yeah, that's what's really bugging me about SciAm's decision and response. By pulling the blog post, they're implicitly putting an onus on her when it properly should be on "Ofek".

I totally agree with you that it's most likely that Dr. Lee didn't get the benefit of the doubt that a white male blogger likely would have gotten, but I can see that someone might have some concerns about her post — what Ardiril quotes aside, just disclosing the actual messages and the guy's email address in this context might be something that would rightly given an editor pause. I'm not going to say that there's no plausible justifiable reason for them to have pulled the post.

What I will say, though, is that if they had a justifiable reason, they could have made that clear while strongly emphasizing that they supported Dr. Lee in her complaint against being so badly treated by "Ofek". It just wouldn't have been difficult to do that.

But DiChristina didn't do that and hasn't even managed to do that while responding to criticism and attempting to defuse a PR disaster. So that makes me think that, yes, in fact, their main concern is the idea that somehow Dr. Lee did something wrong.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:22 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


> What possible "ethical reason" obligates a grown ass adult to call someone a whore?

> I know that I shouldn't laugh - but I laughed, because it's the absurdity of "there's two sides to every story" laid bare.

It sounds like the moderator is just quoting the company's conduct policy.
posted by nangar at 2:27 AM on October 13, 2013


I understand things are different in the USA, but in Australia and many other places you can't fire people without at least some due process. I'm not sure how Biology Online is related to Ofek, but if there's an employment relationship then I'd wait until after the weekend before criticising their reaction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:16 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"but in Australia..." - As it happens, the registrant for biology-online.org appears to be located in Sydney.
posted by Ardiril at 3:23 AM on October 13, 2013


the bugs haven't totally swarmed out of the woodwork claiming that she "overreacted" to the insult

...except for the SciAm editor, you mean?

This does not look like the kind of website that solicits professors for content.

They have a blog with many posts from guest authors/scientists. It doesn't have any posts from mid-september to present which sort of fits the fact that Ofek was hired recently.

but in Australia and many other places you can't fire people without at least some due process

I want to reiterate again that, while a prompt firing would have calmed the whole thing down, a very brief, "This is not OK and we are dealing with it" posted somewhere prominent on Friday or Saturday morning would have gone a long way as well. The problem comes with an extended silence. Silence looks like complicity at worst, incompetence at best.
posted by muddgirl at 5:16 AM on October 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also a heartfelt apology and a reiteration that it is being investigated, extended to DNLee, both privately to her email and publicly in a comment on a blog.
posted by muddgirl at 5:17 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Writer/editor Chris Clarke brings another perspective to why SciAm is not being bright about how they are handling this.
posted by leslies at 5:48 AM on October 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have to say that, for me, the story is Scientific American's (and, by extension, Nature's) poor handling of this. The kind of "nothing to see here" feel of those editorial responses are so tone-deaf to the way the internet works, one wonders why these people have any internet presence at all. Perhaps Nature feels they are unassailable....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


As far as alleged "threats" go, "don't let me catch you on these streets" seems so mild and so obviously figurative. It's not as if Ofek is going to be walking around "these streets," only to have Dr. Lee swan around a corner in a leather jacket and a DA haircut, snapping her fingers like in West Side Story.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


And people still ask Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science? It's a quandary, isn't it?
posted by theora55 at 8:25 AM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is now a fuller response here.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:07 AM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


A fuller response, but not a satisfying one; legal concerns are being cited NOW, but that's the first anyone's said about it. Why not say that in the initial tweet, rather than that the post was off-topic? Also they "regret that they weren't able to tell her but timelines didn't permit it," which is complete bullshit; you can send an email at any time of the day or night. Even if they were unable to have a conversation with her before they "had" to delete the post, they could have dropped her a line to say "Hey, we have $concerns about your blog post, so we're going to take it offline while we review." They didn't.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on October 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


The full response makes sense to me.

They should have done a much better job of explaining why they had to remove the post. It makes no sense to me that the initial response was so poor. I'm unswayed by how apparently one person was in charge of this, weekend or no, dying phone or no.

It would have been so easy to say something like, "this post contains specific factual allegations about third parties. As a flat rule, we have to confirm these kinds of allegations before publishing them on our site. More on this after the weekend." It would have been at least somewhat acceptable if they'd at least said this much to Dr. Lee.

Dealing with potential, realistic legal challenges is a real thing. SciAm has to protect its interests. So, I'm sympathetic to that extent.

But, the way they went about it was all wrong, on a number of levels.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mariette DiChristina at 10:14 AM on 12 Oct 13:

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


Mariette DiChristina on 13 Oct 13:

"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."

Removing Dr. Lee's post because SciAm is a "publication for discovering science" and her post was "not appropriate" sounds an awful lot like you were "commenting upon the substance of the post" by censoring it - so which is it SciAm?

'Cus it looks like you got caught doing something bad (see step 1) and lied about your motivations when called out on it (steps 2 - 7).
posted by mattbcoset at 11:22 AM on October 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Okay, at this point I really just want to know who the hell Ofek is and why his back is so thoroughly got.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:23 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fuller response is just fuller doublespeak. She contends: "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." And yet, her initial response was nothing but a comment of the substance of the post: "@sciam is a publication for discovering science. The post was not appropriate for this area & was therefore removed."

She then reiterated her comment about the substance of the post when she spoke to Buzzfeed: "I’d like to elaborate on the original brief statement on Twitter that this blog fell outside Scientific American’s mission to communicate science. While we interpret that mission with a lot of latitude, Dr. Lee’s post went beyond and verged into the personal, and that’s why it was taken down."

(on preview: or, what mattbcoset said.)
posted by scody at 11:25 AM on October 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It could very easily be one kind of doublespeak, or maybe it's another kind of doublespeak. For example, maybe they didn't want to say at the time that "these facts are unconfirmed, we'll get back to them when they are", because as a general policy, they might cover their butts more easily by never even implying that SciAm vets the facts of their blog posts.

Either way, SciAm handled this poorly.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:36 AM on October 13, 2013


Sounds to me like the folder made its way out of the lawyer's in-basket. I'm guessing they're just going to ignore the fact of the initial response.
posted by rhizome at 11:50 AM on October 13, 2013


Really moved by scientists of color comments to SciAm editor post:
"When I graduated from high school in 1999, I was an avid reader of Scientific American. I was excited to go to college to major in a STEM field. I never realized how much racism I would face and how lonely it would feel. What a world of difference Scientific American could have made had it made the point of featuring women of color in STEM regularly, not just on its website but in its physical publication. I might have known that I was not alone. [emphasis mine] How many bright young women of color might have stayed in the field had they had that same information?"
—13. quantumdani 2:36 pm 10/13/2013

...

"If SciAm 'take very seriously the issues that are faced by women in science and women of color in science,' maybe it should let women of color speak for themselves when these sexist and racist incidents happen, rather than just in your own lawyer-filtered 'feature articles.'"
—18. standbackimgoingtousescience 3:00 pm 10/13/2013
Stand back: women who are scientists, women who are scientists of color, just used some science.

This is science. QED.
posted by simulacra at 1:05 PM on October 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Biology-Online looks basically like some SEO farm site to me. So I wonder how stringent SciAm's Partner Network vetting process is.
posted by ymgve at 2:54 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


True, but as we have seen countless times before in cases of outrage-filter, the best response overall is no response. Simply let it burn out and blow away. The consequences are usually insignificant, and no more than a small brushfire otherwise. People are learning that twitter-trends are not panic-buttons.

Except not? You can very easily avoid the entire problem if you just act immediately. I really doubt this is a business in the sense that it has an office, it barely seems like it's a step above a shitty gaming messageboard or something.

This entire exchange reminds me of sooo many shitty internet forum moderator power trips/freak outs i've seen in the past. And you know how they ended on decent sites? with the person being demodded and banned.

Letting the whole thing burn out is on the same level as the shitty reporting on the government shutdown with the whole "well there's two sides to every story and we refuse to take one". Sometimes there just isn't. There's the right side, and the wrong side.

This post is the equivalent of person A walking up to person B on the street, asking them for a cigarette, then punching them in the face when they say no. Acting like there's "two nuanced sides to this story" is being obtuse.

The best way to avoid this sort of shitmess is to boot the person out the door the instant you see the problem. Good administrators need to act like bouncers at a club. Why does it matter why that guy punched the other guy? He threw the first punch, throw him the fuck out.

What creates this type of "drama" is inaction due to "well more details are forthcoming bla bla bla". It almost makes me feel like either:

A. Some people in their organization don't entirely disagree with what he said and why, or don't want to "back down from a fight" or recant any statements(see also this bullshit)

B. They want to seem like some big professional corporation that actually has bureaucracy to churn through thereby making them more legitimate/esteemed/etc.

These are the only two answers i can think of, and they're both incredibly "highschool senior running a blog that makes them "serious money" on ads who wants to seem like a real businessperson" to me.

I agree that doing nothing would be better than what they did, since basically anything would be. They're scraping the underside of the lip of the toilet bowl here. But that's also a cowardly, and bullshit way to respond.

Delete the guys account on your CMS and make a post saying "woah, sorry we had a dickhead in here, won't happen in the future". The HR posturing BS they're doing just makes it seem like they're puffing up their chest to look cool next to SA, and it really makes them look like shit.
posted by emptythought at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm actually much less annoyed with Biology-Online than I am with SciAm. Mainly because B-O very much does come across as a wannabe real website. SciAm, however, should know better, but this is at least the second time when they've proven that protecting themselves legally is more important than speaking the truth. Which is antithetical to scientific discovery.
posted by jaguar at 5:24 PM on October 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I saw this great earlier post by Dr. Lee linked on Twitter: A Dream Deferred: How access to STEM is denied to many students before they get in the door good. I really hope that one of the net positives to come from this debacle is that her ideas and concerns receive some active, concrete and productive attention, support, and dissemination from people who are in a position to make a difference.
posted by taz at 10:03 PM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apologies if I've missed it somewhere in the thread, but does it remain the case that we don't know the identity of Ofek? I ask because my first question, upon reading the transcript of the exchange, was whether Ofek was male or female. Clearly DNLee has reached the conclusion that Ofek is male, but I was wondering if that has actually been established. Not that I'd be surprised. But I've heard women call each other names, too. (Bonus Question: Is the situation somehow less offensive if Ofek is presumed female? More offensive? Equally offensive?)
posted by azaner at 11:49 PM on October 13, 2013


> Although we regret that this was necessary, a publisher must be able to protect its interests

This was just sad doublespeak on the part of the editor-in-chief. What greater interests for a publisher than its own writers? Power corrupts, or at least it makes one a little out of touch.
posted by polymodus at 12:09 AM on October 14, 2013


Ofek has now been fired
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:47 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


The announcement that "Ofek" was fired came from someone called Alan Weisleder. I think he might be one of the partners in keebali.com, an Israeli company whose website says it "acquire[s] successful websites that we believe we can turn into even greater successes."

So two things: it's currently 10 AM Monday morning in Israel, so that would explain why things just happened now. And the people who said that (e.g.) "B-O very much does come across as a wannabe real website" are apparently right: these sites are effectively content farms. I have no idea why Sci-Am would associate with them; I'm inclined to ask if it wants to be a scientific magazine or a scientific ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:13 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's what I don't understand wrt DiChristina's statement: What kind of connectivity issues make it impossible to send an email, text, or phone call to a contributor, but possible to give BuzzFeed an interview? And what kind of legal issues make it unwise for a black woman to talk about her experience, but perfectly fine for white people to talk about that same black woman's experience?
posted by KathrynT at 8:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ofek has now been fired

According to a random email from a guy associated with a content farm company. It's odd, I work here and I am a strong advocate for people's rights to be as pseudonymous as they like, but it is a little weird that we've gotten this report that consists entirely with reference to some real human (who presumably lost their real job) by only their pseudonym. And yet the alternative (giving out someone's real information) is basically the equivalent to siccing an internet mob on them. And yet there's something sort of open-ended feeling about this "We fired a person who wasn't really a person" aspect to this.

I feel like the real story is with the real people at SciAm anyhow (and I am super curious to hear how they got associated with biology-online in the first place) since they are real people who have consistent internet presences and, supposedly, a social media policy. I feel like there's a land grab opportunity for someone who wants to teach big venerable associations to deal with conflict and apologies better (than this).
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


That's a really odd e-mail. Very unprofessional!!! I am shocked!!!
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:04 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, Ofek is a (distinctively Israeli) male given name, and sometimes a surname, so it's probably the guy's real name, just not his full name.
posted by nangar at 9:52 AM on October 14, 2013


I'm with Jessamyn on the strange feeling about a possibly fake employee at a ... content farm holding company ... the layers of anti-Idoru reality here make my brain itch.

After Scientific American, my second interest is understanding just how many sorta-not legit sites are controlled by this company and others like it, and what that business is like.
posted by zippy at 10:09 AM on October 14, 2013


What makes people think "Ofek" is a pseudonym? Because the name is unfamiliar? Because...that is a name. Like, if the guy's name had been José, it would be weird to assume that "José" was a pseudonym. I mean, sure, Ofek could be someone else's sock puppet, but nothing about the name suggests that.

The business seems sketchy, but if there was going to be something as calculated as a fake firing, then why didn't they just do it sooner, instead of waiting over the weekend? If there was going to be deceit involved, I would think that Ofek would just continue working under a different name.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:25 AM on October 14, 2013


Everyone in this thread who was all "They have no excuse for not acting immediately" is the reason Shirley Sherrod got fired. There is nothing wrong with taking time to make sure you have the complete story and all the facts are in before you fire someone. You are bad people and should feel bad.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:30 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are bad people and should feel bad.

Make an effort please.
posted by jessamyn at 10:34 AM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


FWIW, Ofek is a (distinctively Israeli) male given name, and sometimes a surname, so it's probably the guy's real name, just not his full name.

It's also the name of a satellite.
posted by rhizome at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2013


Wow, Mariette DiChristina (and/or SciAm in general) really does appear to be willing to change the data to fit the theory, no? Yesterday she stated: "We would like to make clear that Biology-Online is neither a part of Scientific American, nor a 'content partner.' We are investigating what links we currently have with Biology-Online."

And indeed, as of today, SciAm's Partner Network page makes no mention of Biology-Online. But as pointed out by rpare in the comments to DiChristina's statement, that certainly wasn't the case yesterday.
posted by scody at 11:07 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bio-Online has apologized for their newly-hired and more-newly fired employee. Hopefully SciAm does likewise.
posted by Twang at 11:34 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a fantastic piece at SciAm.

The way to change the boundaries across STEM and science communication is to do a better job acknowledging the existing implicit and explicit ones. Too often I meet colleagues who think they are gender and/or race “blind,” and they see that as a progressive stance. But not talking about implicit bias is what tends to make us rely on implicit bias – we just tend to call it an issue of “fit.”
posted by rtha at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


The post rtha links at SciAm is terrific - I really like how she discusses the ways in which this situation was messed up and then goes on to discuss how SciAm can move forward and use this as a way to significantly improve how they handle this kind of situation and to educate about the kind of sexism/racism that many people have to confront in their lives in the STEM community. If Danielle Lee's crappy experience becomes fodder for that kind of education and positive change it will certainly improve the sour taste in many of our mouths.
posted by leslies at 12:20 PM on October 14, 2013


Yeah, the more you look at biology-online, the weirder it is. Dig into its archives and you will find a lot of crazy amateur pseudoscience, a lot of very dated or poorly presented information, etc. I had never heard of it before. The design is very ancient. The mission is unclear. The monetization strategy escapes me. Whatever the hell it is, it doesn't seem like a very distinguished place that could demand unpaid work from actual scientists, although some of the content does seem to be that. I guess it's like junior league HuffingtonPost for college biology students?

So the much more interesting question is WTF was SciAm doing in including this roadside rest-area of a website as a partner in its network in the first place?
posted by spitbull at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2013


And now as I look at other SciAm "partner" sites on the list, I see why. There is no quality control going on there at all.
posted by spitbull at 12:38 PM on October 14, 2013


Setting aside the weirdness surrounding the entity known only as Ofek, Recent Hire, it was a bit of a relief to see B-O's straightforward apology to Dr. Lee and their unequivocal denunciation of Ofek's email.
posted by BrashTech at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2013


Dr. Lee's post is finally, finally back up.
posted by KathrynT at 2:08 PM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope SciAm also takes this opportunity to clarify with they bloggers, readers, and mods what the policies are (and what language will be used) regarding pulling a post. Because when you say "Oh, it's not science-y enough" and then a day or two later go to "Oh, we meant because legal reasons" you sound like you don't actually have a policy, or people who know what it is, and that is a mess.
posted by rtha at 2:22 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no idea why Sci-Am would associate with them; I'm inclined to ask if it wants to be a scientific magazine or a scientific ...

I think they're dinosaurs.

No seriously, i think they're doing this thing that a lot of old media companies have done, which is when the cock of reality finally slaps then in the face they freak out and run around like headless chickens punching the defcon 1 button and screaming OH FUCK WE NEED TO GET IN ON THIS INTERNET SHIT ASAP ASSIGN A TEAM TO IT AUTOBOTS ROLL OUT.

They're torn, like a lot of these companies are. Somewhere deep inside their lizard brains they realize they need division 1 content, but at the same time they also don't want to let more than a tiny bit of their precious bodily fluids print content that they, you know, charge real money for just seep out online without seeing some greenbacks.

But they need a site full of stuff. So they assign it to some young intern kids who "get this internets stuff"

Jammed between a rock and a hard place, they propose running lots of content from "trusted partner sites". A category of which, barring organizations like the deck(which mefi uses!) is just a euphemism for "Shady as fuck shitty SEO/blogspam content aggregators with wildly varying quality of content averaging out to "left out til cold microwaved college chow hall leftovers"".

And then when something shitty happens, hey, we didn't write it they did lol and you get these triple salchow ass covering manuevers.

So forgive me when i don't take any of the "oops, we fucked up" apologies that seriously. Because it reads like a cereal company apologizing that someone got half a rat in their box of frosted doodads when they're perfectly aware that 1/1000000 boxes are likely to see that happen". B.O. will keep being shitty and statistically doing what they want to do while they're "days since accident" sign rolls over to 0 and restarts, and i'm sure there's multiple people at sci-am who saw this coming but were completely ignored and gave up on trying to change shit.

Seriously though, anyone see what i'm saying here?

I also don't really believe, as i said before, that any deliberation or investigation was going on here. I think that it took this long for the only person who had admin access or was actually in charge got online and checked on his site and heard about this shit. I'm pretty sure BO is like 10 guys doing a job one step above mechanical turk just posting, reposting, or plagiarizing generic blogspam and low quality drek and one guy who pays the server bills at that "investment" company.

So forgive me if i'm not more "And the world is saved!". Because this reminds me of this scene in futurama wayyyyy too much.
posted by emptythought at 2:26 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah except SciAm is part of Nature Publishing Group, and you cannot tell me they don't have a serious digital platform strategy or talent pool. Maybe NPG is killing the SciAm brand on purpose.
posted by spitbull at 2:59 PM on October 14, 2013


I don't have time to plumb the details right now, but my sense is that SciAm's relationship with BO is a kickback one as a content provider. There is a whole swath of online publishing business that is oriented around those "Elsewhere on the Web" sections on websites, each containing pithy articles like those you see on BO's front page right now ("Why are there so many different kinds of plants?").

BO has a crappy website that is obviously not geared toward being a primary source for anything. That's because they farm all of their articles out to other sites, newspapers, or scholastic, or whatever is a good demographic match. There is a revenue split between all of the players (BO, SciAm, and the site that the end-user ultimately clicks on the article) from the advertising that is hooked up to each of the articles flowing through the pipeline.
posted by rhizome at 3:05 PM on October 14, 2013


What makes people think "Ofek" is a pseudonym?

Nothing specific about the name Ofek, and eveything about how the company and its properties are run.

For starters, Biology Online claims to be a real thing, and Scientific American has some tenuous relationship with them, but most of the people on its about us page are pseudonyms and on closer inspection Biology Online does a huge amount of spammy stuff, like creating a mirror of the Wiktionary (Wikipedia's sister dictionary project) and linking each entry back to comments on the sites, some of which in those links have a claimed 4.5 million views.

Then we find that Biology Online isn't really a stand alone site, in the sense of Ofek working there, that the person who appears to be the head admin of the site isn't in communication with Ofek, and instead we get a message from the founder of yet another company, who previously was not as far as I can tell an obvious part of the story, apologizing (good!) and saying Ofek is gone (fine).

The problem is, there's so much fake-ness around Biology Online, that combined with this second level of "man behind the curtains"-ness, I would not be at all surprised if Ofek was a sock puppet account used to make Biology Online look larger and therefore more professional.

It's not like we're dealing with a site with a good reputation, or that we might take a look at and say "yeah, these folks are straight shooters." Not prior to this a bad rep either, just a real sense that this is a Potemkin Village, and it's hard to tell who is real and who is not.
posted by zippy at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


I agree; it makes sense to discuss whether and what Sci-Am did wrong, but BO's response is almost moot: no matter how it handles the situation, it's still a vendor of processed word product, not a real publisher. It's hard to criticise it for acting unprofessionally when we really can't have any professional expectations of it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:04 PM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: a vendor of processed word product
posted by localroger at 5:16 PM on October 14, 2013


That about wraps it up. SciAm buried their apology where only those with knowledge and interest in the matter are likely to see it, and for the most part, the only people who raised hell were an insignificant mob who will now move on to the next episode of America Gots Outrage.

#twitterstormpppttthhhh..........
posted by Ardiril at 6:54 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh, Nature Publishing Group has had its share of high-profile sexist gaffes.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


SciAm Blogs also took down Karen Stollznow's blog post describing being sexually harassed at Skeptic conventions.

Wait, they did that? Holy shit. I was following that for a couple of days like a week after it went down, and it was still up then. That would be deeply troubling, especially since it was a really lucid post that was very careful to tie in everything to the practice of science.
posted by lodurr at 6:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: Why is unreasonable to expect a website to operate on Internet time?

I had to do a double-take on this, because my first really strong response would be 'why is it reasonable?'

Websites are run by people. People have lives. You can't fire or even discipline someone without HR weighing in, and HR people (believe it or not) have lives.

I don't know about you, but I am not my work, and I don't expect anyone else to be, either.
posted by lodurr at 6:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't fire or even discipline someone without HR weighing in

Again, Biology-Online clearly doesn't have an HR department. It is pretty clearly a content farm run by one guy with sole hiring-firing power. My father ran his own business and if he got a call in the middle of the night on Sunday morning saying, "One of your employees contacted me in a business capacity and then called me a whore!" his response would not be, "Call me back on Monday! This is me-time!"
posted by muddgirl at 6:46 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think that's clear at all. Content farms run by one guy don't have significant content relationships with Nature Publishing Group. The existence of sock puppets doesn't imply that they all correspond to one person. (Also, if in fact it's only one guy -- well, you can't fire yourself, right?)

I'll happily accept that it's a content farm, that it's basically bogus, etc. -- but I think it's wildly unrealistic and unreasonable to suppose that just because a business is on the web, it ought to have instant response to complaints.

I'm not defending them, and I recognize that you'd like to see quicker response. But even a regular workplace operating during the work week wouldn't move as fast as you want them to. Given that the likely arrangment of labor here is a sysadmin running things and a sales guy running the larger show, with one or more people hustling content, none of them sharing office space and very possibly not even in the same time zone, I think you should expect them to move slower, at least initially, than a conventional business.

And if we assume that there's only one person hustling the content, that makes an even bigger case for not expecting them to fire someone on Saturday night. That would basically shut down their business.

As for what SciAm does in response and when they do it, I think it's unreasonable to suppose that significant marketing decisions are going to get made on Saturday night in response to people saying shit in emails and that getting reported on the internet. The partner relationship with Biology Online was someone's idea, it required a contract, it entailed system integration and changes to their CMS, probably affects the workflow of 6-12 people at SciAm or Nature Publishing Group.

I completely accept that this was a bad thing to go down and I'm pissed at SciAm for how they've handled it -- the real issue here should be what they did in pulling the blog post (and I'm especially pissed that they ultimately pulled the Stollznow post (which I think I was remembering wrong, I now think I must have read that somewhere else to begin with and seen someone else's response on the SciAm blogs). But this expectation that just because a business is on the Internet means we have to expect it to respond instantaneously is one of the dark sides I foresaw to the cluetrain bullshit when it was first going around.
posted by lodurr at 10:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, you're moving the goalposts: First it's because it's a business on the internet that it should move instantly; now, it's because it's a small business and your father wouldn't have run it that way.
posted by lodurr at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think muddgirl's main point is that a lot of businesses don't have HR departments, so waiting for HR to respond is going to be a helluva long wait.
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2013


If that's the point, it's still unrealistic to expect same day turnaround on a weekend.
posted by lodurr at 10:48 AM on October 15, 2013


I think we can all agree that the actions of a multinational web aggregator whose representative calls someone a whore and that otherwise gives the impression of being maybe a half step above a generic domain camper may not reflect best business practices.
posted by zippy at 12:06 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ever since early on I've kind of wondered if Ofek was some sort of intern or part time employee who had his fill of working for someone who was "maybe a half step above a generic domain camper" and decided to go out with a bang just to make life very hard for his former employer. If so, it's a pity he couldn't come up with a less wankerish way to do it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:48 PM on October 15, 2013


Ofek's probably a postdoc or a PhD working as a lab assistant, in either case with no real prospects to occupy what he envisions as his rightful place in his profession. The system that trains scientists (in this country, at least) is basically set up to breed resentment that way.
posted by lodurr at 6:54 AM on October 16, 2013


I don't feel sorry for him one bit. I have friends with thankless jobs and people in general who get treated like the scum of the earth working crappy jobs in shitty conditions and they don't call their customers or potential clients whore. This guy did something screwed up, and as far as I can tell, still hasn't apologized profusely for his actions. Has he? Has this guy turned up anywhere? (it was established it was a guy, correct?)
posted by cashman at 9:45 AM on October 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


i dont' think we fell sorry for him (I know I don't); I'm just imagining a plausible someone and the kind of path that might have brought them there.
posted by lodurr at 9:54 AM on October 16, 2013


(it was established it was a guy, correct?)

The admin on B-O referred to Ofek as "he/him" more than once.
posted by scody at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2013


Heh, Nature Publishing Group has had its share of high-profile sexist gaffes.

Yea, i actually chuckled when i saw the post(s) above about how sci-ams online presence is run by REAL PROFESSIONALS WHO KNOW HOW TO INTERNET.

In reality very few to none of these big publishing houses that now have tons of web presence have spotless track records. Conde nast has been involved in a lot of bullshit(including owning reddit, which is basically where a large portion of the exact kind of weird sexist shit this entire situation is about is centered), and if i spent a few minutes i could probably go down a list of most of the big magazines web presence companies and find some dumbassed foot in mouth gaffe that's happened under their watch like this.

Should they be better than this? yea, probably. Can we expect them to be? given the track record of everyone else, no, not really.

I really really really doubt this is the last time that sci-am is going to be associated with a shitty situation like this. And don't forget the fact that they acted plenty badly here despite their site being operated by people who "understand how to internet".
posted by emptythought at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2013


Things do not appear to be getting better for Scientific American's reputation. Two science bloggers, Monica Byrne and Hannah Waters, have written about being sexually harassed by SA blog network editor Bora Zivkovic.
posted by bibliowench at 6:15 PM on October 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


He's got an apology up on his own blog, but commentators on Monica Byrne's blog dispute his claim that "it is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since".
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:43 PM on October 16, 2013


Oh, that was quick:

ScienceOnline Board statement 10/16/2013
....Bora Zivkovic has voluntarily resigned from the ScienceOnline Board of Directors. The Board is reviewing Bora’s future role in the organization.
Via Monica Byrne's blog, which is a gift that keeps on giving.

Serious question: if anyone describes themselves as "a very huggy person" or "a very sexual person", is it really code for "I am offering a justification for my frequent sexual harassment"? Is it an observation that someone might offer in normal conversation, or is it always the prelude to an advance?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:26 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I'm remembering right that when the sexual harassment allegations against (now former) San Diego mayor Bob Filner began surfacing, he said something about being a huggy/affectionate person.

I am also a huggy person but have somehow managed to not assault anyone.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am also a huggy person but have somehow managed to not assault anyone.

As a somewhat huggy guy, I will ALWAYS wait for a similarly huggy woman to reach out first, then respond. You want a hug, great. One-arm side hug? Cue accepted, one arm side-hug returned. I release first. A guy can be huggy without being threatening or creepy -- it's just rare, I guess.

Guys, you get the two-tap bro-hug.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:17 AM on October 17, 2013


if anyone describes themselves as "a very huggy person" or "a very sexual person"

I am huggy. I usually mention it to people specifically to open a door to "so is it okay if I hug you...?" or "Let me know if you don't like hugging" conversations or at least overtures. I am a small woman so hugs from me are maybe not particularly threatening but I always like to make sure I'm not touching people who don't want to be touched.
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's weird to me - I'm pretty huggy myself, but I find I don't initiate hugs nearly as often as I used to (especially in a more professional setting). I'm not sure if that's because default office culture has changed over the past decade or so (which would be a good thing), or because I feel like it was okay to give a morning hug to someone when I was 21-25, but feel like maybe I'm being creepy if I do it when I'm 44.

I was ready for aches and pains and having to watch my diet, but I never really thought I'd have to watch myself as I got older to make sure I'm not doing something that could be construed as 'creepy.'
posted by Mooski at 7:56 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heh, I may or may not have bro-hugged one of my future professors at a reception when interviewing for grad school. Thinking back it is a pretty WTF-was-I-thinking moment, but I still got in, so I guess he (correctly) interpreted it as benign.

Anyway, in my late 20s I am less reckless about going in for the hug, but I also haven't excised it from my physical vocabulary either. As others have mentioned, I do usually test the water with something like the shoulder-clap or double-hand handshake first.

I don't think the incidents with Bora indicate that workplace hugs are off-limits categorically. I think the main reason that what he did came off as so inappropriate is because of the weirdly sexual vibe he insisted on introducing (itself already inappropriate) before the hug happened. In that context it was just not good.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2013


I have been friends with Monica for several years. I never said anything to her about that blog post when it happened, even though I had my suspicions that it was Bora. I have met Bora several times and have long admired and appreciated what he has done for science blogging and the broader online science community.

I admit to mostly just being stunned by the whole thing, especially since I was still annoyed at Bora for his very non-committal response to the situation in the FPP in his capacity as blog editor at Scientific American.

Thankfully, it does seem as though the attacks on Monica and Hannah are not as strong as they would have been even a year ago. Unfortunately, neither are people talking about the fact that Monica just had an award-winning play in a New York festival or that her novel is about to come out (Seriously, read her blog. She's fantastic, and this thing that Bora did to her should not be all you know about her).

I...am eating Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ben & Jerry's and wishing for a better world.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:20 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


This seems like a sensible reaction to the Bora episode:

Don’t Be a Creep: Lessons from the latest terrible, sad, fascinating scandal in the science blogging world.
You will occasionally meet younger people who go out of their way to speak with you at professional events, ask you interesting and sometimes personal questions, and hang on your every word. Those are not puppy-dog, crushed-out eyes staring up at you. These are eyes hungry for a professional break. These people are not trying to sleep with you. They are trying to get hired by you.

posted by Joe in Australia at 9:35 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


.... it does seem as though the attacks on Monica and Hannah are not as strong as they would have been even a year ago

my stepson & I were musing the other day, wondering if the slightly less-vicious reaction to the karen stollznow affair was in large part due to PZ Myers coming out so publicly on it. I see he's done something similar w.r.t. Monica Byrne. (Don't read it without seeing his apology for too-understated phrasing at the end.) It has to help when prominent men make it clear they won't stand for abuse of power by men over women.
posted by lodurr at 6:06 AM on October 18, 2013


"Following recent events, Bora Zivkovic has offered his resignation from Scientific American, and Scientific American has decided to accept that resignation."
posted by seraphine at 9:19 PM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


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