On the one hand, it has been a rough couple of months for science communication. We’ve been reeling from problem with sexism/racism/harassment to another. The reputations of even science communication juggernauts like Scientific American and Nature Magazine have not survived intact.
On the other hand, we seem to actually be talking about these issues publicly, which may be a sort of progress.
Established institutions, with their established audiences, retain the capacity to dominate such public discussions. In a must-read post (originally published last week and now republished on the excellent LadyBits), our Raleigh Sewer Tour buddy Anne Jefferson explains the problem of institutions, who claim to not be sexist or racist, providing a platform for bad actors to amplify their sexist and racist messages. As she lays out the problem, it is akin to the issue of false balance in journalism surrounding issues like vaccinations.
Anne also lays out three easy steps to avoid handing your institution’s supposedly progressive megaphone to a jerk. My favorite is tip #1:
If you receive racist or sexist material for publication, DON’T PUBLISH IT. Throw it out.