Blogger, post-doc, and science communicator DN Lee politely declined an offer to work for a money-making operation for free. The word “whore” was used in response. DN Lee wrote about this experience and what it meant from her perspective as a black, female scientist at an early stage in her career. The overlords at Scientific American deleted the post for very vague reasons without consulting with DN Lee.

But that is not how the Internet works. And that is not how the online science communication community works. As requested by Dr. Isis with DN Lee’s permission, we are putting up the censored post. Unlike Scientific American, we think the human experiences of scientists are of interest to people who are interested in science. To get a grasp on the issue you can read the following:


DN Lee’s original post is back up at Scientific American after the factual accusations were confirmed. She does not get the credit she deserves if you are reading this here in measurable ways that will benefit her career. So, we are removing the post as its utility has passed.

As many, including yours truly, guessed early on, the take-down was due to lawyers worrying if the alleged events (ie, emails) were authentic. The lawyers were not necessarily worrying that they were made up. The correspondent may not have been a real Biology-Online representative (he was).

Scientific American stepped in it by obfuscating about the real reasons for the takedown, allowing it to appear that they did not try very hard to discuss the legal concerns with the author before or immediately after the takedown, issued conflicting explanations, appeared to doubt the victim’s veracity, and used explanations that easily reminded folks of loaded rhetoric used routinely to dismiss and distract. They also seem to have failed to grasp the immediacy of response necessary to manage response on the internet.

It doesn’t make the folks at Scientific American bad or misguided. They aren’t. They were very unaware of the situation they were stepping into, and that isn’t a good excuse for such an organization. It was legitimate to expect better. The whole incident was about managing appearances, and they failed. Hopefully, this has been a learning experience.


Giving credit where credit is due

Earlier this week, the very popular Facebook science outreach site, I Fucking Love Science, came under fire for its seemingly systematic use of copyrighted material from a variety of artists without attribution or their permission. This sparked a “conversation” – most of which is depressing and not worth reading – about how content should be shared. Over at the Symbiartic blog at Scientific American, artist (and the guy you want to design your tattoo for you) Glendon Mellow has, in the words of Peter Edmonds, composed an “important, smart post” summarizing his thoughts on the issue.

As members of the online culture, we don’t have to accept that image theft will always be the dominant way of sharing visual information online: culture matures. Expectations change. But right now, large portions of science communication online are part of the problem. – Glendon Mellow, “Mash-Up This! Science Communication’s Image Problem”

*Hat tip to Peter Edmonds.

Boy of Destiny

My post-Science Online 2012 interview with Bora Zivkovic is up at Scientific American Blogs. Hopefully, it conveys Calvin’s breadth of vision without the egomania and intense narcissism.