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Censorship Your Rights Online

Scientific American In Blog Removal Controversy 254

Lasrick writes "Danielle N. Lee, Ph.D, the Urban Scientist blogger at Scientific American, has been mistreated twice: once by the blog editor at and now by SciAm itself. The blog editor asked Dr. Lee to contribute a blog post at Biology-Online, and when she declined (presumably for lack of monetary compensation), the blog editor asked her whether she was 'an urban scientist or an urban whore.' Then, SciAm deleted her blog post, in which she wrote about the incident."
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Scientific American In Blog Removal Controversy

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  • by Austrian Anarchy ( 3010653 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:17PM (#45116439) Homepage Journal
    So real science is just like we see it on TV? Nice to know.
    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:22PM (#45116457) Journal
      Although Biology-online is a nice sounding name, it doesn't look like much but another attempt to make money off clicks, not being a particularly great source of information or biology, but having stuff people want to click on anyway.

      Much like Wired.
      • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:25PM (#45116479)

        so Biology-online is mostly what we'd call an urban click-whore?

        • Yes.

          In any case, it's kind of hard to get worked up about someone insulting someone else on the internet.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Well, it oughta be easy! Just because it's rampant doesn't mean it's acceptable! It's time we put a stop to this crap.

          • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:58PM (#45116661)

            In any case, it's kind of hard to get worked up about someone insulting someone else on the internet.

            But it wasn't even an internet insult. The insult happened in Email, presumably as private as the NSA will allow it to be.
            No one knew about it besides the recipient and someone claiming to represent the blog site.

            Reprehensible as it was, It would have ended there, and probably should have.
            Her reputation was not enhanced by dragging it into the public.

            She had her own blog, The Urban Scientist, on which she could have answered this if she really
            felt the need to take a private matter public, but to drag that into someone else's forum was

            Sci-Am is not the platform to settle scores for private insults. Taking it there merely damages Sci-AM,
            an innocent bystander.

            • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:43PM (#45116917) Homepage Journal

              Reprehensible as it was, It would have ended there, and probably should have. Her reputation was not enhanced by dragging it into the public.

              Maybe not, but airing things out in public can have other benefits. I've on many occasions responded to such harassment by mentioning it to others working for the same organization, and invariably I get replies describing similar treatment that others have received from the same perp(s). I've even seen a few cases where, after a bit of open discussion of the topic, the aggressor was the one fired. This hasn't happened with me, but I'm pretty sure I've triggered at least a few "reorgs" by talking openly about how the org was being run. This can be to most of the workers' (and the org's) benefit in the long run.

              Mistreating someone and then trying to intimidate them into silence is rarely in the organization's best interests. It usually means that the upper management is being kept ignorant of their organization's internal problems, and it doesn't take a managerial genius to understand the problems that this can lead to.

              In any case, I seriously doubt that it would have ended there. In my experience, people who get away with such things generally conclude that their behavior is accepted, and they continue to treat others the same way.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by icebike ( 68054 )

                But there was no management involved. No one to complain to.
                Am-Si had no way to police the issue. No control at all.

                She got a nastygram from a website.
                She had her own platform to pontificate on the matter.

                Why take it to some third party site and cause an flame war to ensue there?
                Its like taking your family squabbles into Starbucks or starting a shouting match in a Restaurant.
                When they throw you out, how is any part of that THEIR fault?

              • I repeat, sciam was not the place for this given the alternative blog, which was in fact "in public". Readers who choose to follow the person can get the scoop, while those who prefer impersonal, objective science can read science.

                Did you mention this in a news post or interview mentioning your organization? Guessing no, because you would have been fired. That's the difference between the two blogs.

                Discussing openly and discussing on your employers news feed are wildly different.

              • I'm old, I don't need to gossip to let people know what I think. If I don't like someone then they know it and so does everyone else, at no point do I need to say a bad word about the object of my loathing. However I also realise gossip is a basic human behaviour that is impossible to avoid. Without it society would not function because "gossip" is just another word for "peer pressure", without gossip there is no social pressure to conform, and without some level of conformity there's no cooperation.
            • "Private matter"? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:04PM (#45117037) Homepage Journal

              There's no reason to cover for an abusive person.

              It's not a good bet that it was private in any sense. If that's what they said to her directly, what were they saying behind her back?

            • by forand ( 530402 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:43PM (#45117587) Homepage
              It should also be noted that the blog with the offensive editor is a business partner of Sci-AM so they are not an innocent bystander. This blog [] has a screen shot of Sci-AM's "Partner Network" before it was edited []. Furthermore, her Sci-AM blog IS her blog. As others have pointed out [], Sci-AM is being inconsistent at best in their actions.
              • by icebike ( 68054 )

                Your own links prove exactly the opposite of what you claim.

                Sci-Am is not being inconsistent. Its perfectly consistent.

                They've removed the petulant blog post, and they have ceased their partnership with Biology Online.

                You seem to suggest they have some sort of editorial control of the emails sent out by their partners, and therefore they are culpable for the email BO sent.
                Are you delusional, or did you just post that screed without thinking?

            • by bluFox ( 612877 )
              Sci-Am is not an innocent bystander. The wired article claims that it is one of the partners of Sci-Am network (I dont know how they got that information.).
              • by icebike ( 68054 )

                So what if it's a partner.

                Do you think Sci-Am had approval authority over Biology Online's emails?

                They are no longer a partner, and her petulant complaint is gone too. Sounds like good parenting to me.

                What would your mother do if you and your sibling brought some petty bickering to her dinner table?

                Send you both to your rooms?
                Done and done.

            • Yep, basic social protocols haven't changed in a long time. My grandpa would have summed it up with something like "Don't air dirty laundry in public". or maybe "take the fight outside". She used SciAm because it had the broadest reach, she was out to crucify this guy's reputation and kill his career, which he may well deserve. However by using, as opposed to asking, SciAm to build the cross for her she has abandoned the moral high ground and picked a undignified and unprofessional gutter brawl in SciAM's
            • "But it wasn't even an internet insult. The insult happened in Email"

              Psst. Do you want to know a secret? (Furtively glances around). Email uses the internet...

          • Context is everything. What might be almost friendly on Reddit is a lot more problematic when coming from an editor of, yes, a blog, but a blog that at least pretends to be professional. And it becomes newsworthy when SciAm gets all "Ooo, can't talk about that!" Which really, is pretty lame and inconsistent with previous policy.

          • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:19PM (#45117435) Homepage

            In a professional context?

            That guys' lucky he's not being sued. Referring to a colleague as a prostitute is sexual harassment.

      • "Although Biology-online is a nice sounding name, it doesn't look like much but another attempt to make money off clicks, not being a particularly great source of information or biology, but having stuff people want to click on anyway."

        The problem is that Scientific American itself has become little more than an opinion whore.

        Scientific American has chased me away with its unscientific political and social stance and rants. I can read that sh*t anywhere... I don't want or need to read it in a magazine that's supposed to be about science.

        Their editorials have increasingly become politically motivated (and unrelated to actual science), as have their articles and their blog.

        I haven't bought a copy in years because of this, and it's

        • by ancientt ( 569920 ) <> on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:57PM (#45117007) Homepage Journal

          I thought it was just me. I enjoyed a subscription for quite a while, and was content to ignore the political and social commentary for quite a while. Eventually, however, I found it just more effort to focus on the actual science than it was worth. With plenty of other sources to turn to for actual science, finally I just decided not to renew.

          I miss the old days when I could hold the printed pages in my hand and learn something. I still get the data from other sources of course but it isn't quite the same. From time to time I have considered resubscribing in the hope of finding that missed feeling, but it sounds like I wouldn't be pleasantly surprised.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          I suppose that intellectual dishonesty comes from the Editor. If you dig through the links, Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief, now says "we were not able to communicate our decision to Dr. Lee before removing the post on a late Friday afternoon before a long weekend," and goes on to talk about "holiday-weekend commitments."

          As if sending an email to the authour saying "I did this, let's discuss next week" is difficult. And, who gets Columbus Day off, except the post office and banks?
        • by Psion ( 2244 )
          Another former subscriber here, and I just can't tolerate the obvious bias that has crept into the once-great publication. I subscribed for years, then let it lapse, picked it up again out of nostalgia, let it lapse, and now completely ignore it.
          • by Hartree ( 191324 )

            Worse than just the viewpoint changes, is the extent to which the articles are dumbed down.

            In the 70s, the articles tended to start off pretty general, but would go deeper into the subject as you read. It was some high quality writing and information.

            Now, it's gee whiz, multiverse, and other buzzwords. And that's the deepest you get.

        • by OneAhead ( 1495535 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @10:53PM (#45118013)
          Not Scientific American's fault reality has a liberal bias. And yes, very astute of you, it's getting worse and worse; quite dramatically so indeed. Why o why, good lady, would you think that is happening? Why is the shore moving further and further away? Why can't it stop moving?
  • So let's extend the analogy, since it was used first by the representative it's fair game right?

    Headline should have been: representative admits it is always looking to screw it's contributors!
  • by rueger ( 210566 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:41PM (#45116569) Homepage
    It seems that the whole scientific publication industry is undergoing big changes, and as a result a lot of sloppy and/or dishonest behaviour is popping up.

    As reported at The Guardian []and elsewhere:

    Hundreds of open access journals, including those published by industry giants Sage, Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer, have accepted a fake scientific paper in a sting operation that reveals the "contours of an emerging wild west in academic publishing". The hoax, which was set up by John Bohannon, a science journalist at Harvard University, saw various versions of a bogus scientific paper being submitted to 304 open access journals worldwide over a period of 10 months.

    • Be careful of what the Guardian says on this topic. They are very anti-open access for journals.
      • by rueger ( 210566 )
        I actually heard a lengthy interview with the author the study last week, and I did not get that impression. Just anti "print anything that comes over the transom as long as they pay."
    • The main problem with that little investigation is that it failed to submit the paper to any non open access publications for comparison. Failing to do that means it doesn't really indicate anything specifically about open access journals since we do not know that non open access journals would have done any better.

      It also points out that in science, publication in a peer reviewed journal of any sort is really just the first step. Once published it gets reviewed by the world at large and people can reproduc

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:44PM (#45116585) Homepage

    She was right to want to say something and discuss the issue, but stuff like that belongs somewhere that clearly labels it an op-ed piece. It was not an article about science.

    SciAm was wrong for removing it without notifying her of why. Perhaps they should have just moved it to an op-ed section for her. Or maybe it's against their policy to comment about competing websites, though that'd be weird. They tweeted this:

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

    Everyone has moments, hopefully not many, where they are slighted professionally. Having an audience placed in front of you does not mean you get to neglect them and use it as a soapbox for your issues.

    • by Autumnmist ( 80543 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:50PM (#45116617)

      Except the whole point is that many science bloggers at SciAm have posted "non-scientific" posts as well, so the "this is not about discovering science" excuse is BS. []

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A quick look at Dr. Lee's other blog posts show a range of topics, some of which are directly science-related and others which talk more about the profession of science. So I call bullshit on the "not appropriate" comment. While it may be true that "every one has moments ... where they are slighted professionally", that does not make it acceptable, and one very effective way to combat such comments is to discuss the comments in a public way so others can see and learn what is and is not allowed. I would

    • She was right to want to say something and discuss the issue, but stuff like that belongs somewhere that clearly labels it an op-ed piece.

      I'm not sure what would be a more appropriate than a "blog" to post an opinion. The whole point of a blog section is to separate the articles from more rigorous topics.

      It was not an article about science.

      It was an article about the "industry" of science, a topic that is often covered by in that forum.

  • WTF... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MouseTheLuckyDog ( 2752443 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @06:56PM (#45116643)

    is an urban scientist?

  • by Rolpa ( 3036845 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @07:17PM (#45116761)
    I think this is a little more outrageous than a joke about big dongles, don't you think? ;)
  • by Schnoodledorfer ( 1223854 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:04PM (#45117035)
    This was recently posted on Sci Am's website: A Message from Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief []. It looks like a pretty reasonable explanation to me. The excuse is that it happened on a three-day weekend (Monday is Columbus Day in the USA) so they were short staffed. They were worried that if the accusation isn't correct, they could be sued, so they want to check the accuracy of the blog first. They acknowledge that they should have done better and claim that they will develop procedures for the future.
    • They acknowledge that they should have done better and claim that they will develop procedures for the future.

      Sometimes these excuses are acceptable, and other times heads need to roll. As an avid Sci Am reader for 20+ years I am appalled. The content is becoming a bit less serious and has been heading a little too much toward something more like Popular Science, and now with this crap I am seriously considering cancelling my subscription. I have always liked Sci Am because it was a layman's science magazine with a sense of humor but without as much unnecessary fluff as Discover, Pop Sci, etc. Hmm...

  • is too late for the pebbles to vote.
  • Two stories? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:35PM (#45117543) Homepage

    Why is SciAm claiming the post was off-topic (clearly a bullshit excuse given other bloggers posts) then claiming it was due to legal reasons?

    Oh and blaming not telling the author on poor cell phone reception... Right. Someone can click the delete button but can't be bothered to send an email?

    It's just lies and more lies, a non-apology, and bullshit. I don't buy it for a second.

    My bet: someone at biology online emailed SciAm to complain and SciAm was more than happy to censor Dr Lee. Now that they've been caught, they are furiously trying to backpedal and pretend it's all just a big misunderstanding.

    I'm canceling my subscription, I don't want any part of such a two-faced crappy organization.

  • People still read that infomercial rag? I recall 20 years ago SA still had relevant and interesting articles, but recently, it's just a rag filled with dodgy adverts for gimmicky watches and questionable "science" cruises...
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:55PM (#45117665) Journal

    If I were Scientific American, the last thing in the world I'd want to be associated with is this "" loser. Seriously, unless you're in law enforcement or the sex trade, you probably shouldn't be calling anyone a whore in your professional capacity.

    But her response was combative, contained profanity, and implied (if unlikely) threats of violence. If I were a stodgy magazine like SciAm, I wouldn't want to be associated with that either.

  • Well, the Biology Online editor seems to have had a problem with politeness and professionalism. But it's also not particularly professional to post E-mails publicly and use them for a rallying cry for feminism in the sciences. The "science blogosphere" is not science, and who knows why the editor wrote what he wrote; maybe he (?) was just having a bad day. Professionalism and tolerance also means developing a thick skin and ignoring the occasional unprofessional behavior of others. I think everybody comes

  • by hooiberg ( 1789158 ) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:32AM (#45119309)
    Well, the bastard has been fired: [] Good riddance.

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