21 Oct Confronting sexism in the world of science communication
Beginning in October 2013, the science communications community has been dealing with issues of personal behaviour, inherent misogyny, betrayal, speaking out, doubt and professional worth. Much has been written, tweeted and posted; the paragraphs below are an attempt to collect the resources together for future reference. Our intent here is to capture both the key events and the remarkable commentary, analysis and (we hope) change that have come out of it. The stream of amazing articles and blog posts is too much to stay caught up on, so if you think there’s something missing that should be here, tweet them to @afmaxwell or @everickert.
The main points and chronology of the timeline can be found in this Storify, with further relevant content linked under the headings below.
10 October – 14 October 2013
Scientific American blogger and researcher Dr. Danielle N. Lee posted details of an email exchange with a Biology-Online editor, who labeled her a whore for declining to guest blog on the network. Lee’s post was removed within an hour by Scientific American.
- Lee’s original blog post on Urban Scientist
- Scientific American Editor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina tweets about deleting the post
Re blog inquiry: @sciam is a publication for discovering science. The post was not appropriate for this area & was therefore removed.
— Mariette DiChristina (@mdichristina) October 12, 2013
- Lee’s Buzzfeed interview
- Biology-Online forum users ask “When is it okay to call a scientist a whore?”
- Other Scientific American bloggers, including Kate Clancy, Melanie Tannenbaum and Janet Stemwedel, respond to the deleted post with evidence that they have themselves written posts that do not fit the criteria mentioned in DiChristina’s tweet
- Storify collection by Chronicle
- Scientific American is roundly condemned for having deleted the post, though some rush to the publication’s defence
- Scientific American reinstates Lee’s post, with an explanation of why it was removed in the first place and a sort-of apology to the author
- Apology from Biology-Online to Lee
- Commentary from Kate Clancy, Maryn McKenna, Dr. Isis, and others; Liz Ditz curates many of the responses
- Lee tweets her thanks for re-posting the blog
— DNLee (@DNLee5) October 14, 2013
— Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ) October 14, 2013
14 October – 15 October 2013
Possibly as a response to the Scientific American deletion/re-posting and tweeting, playwright and science journalist Monica Byrne updates her blog post about sexual harassment in the science communications world, naming Bora Zivkovic, Scientific American blog editor and Science Online founder, as her harasser.
A morning of being acutely aware how much of this world is built on the presumption that women will, and should, stay quiet.
— Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) October 14, 2013
- Monica’s updated blog post
- Zivkovic’s friends rally: Andrew Maynard emails Byrne, asking her to delete Zivkovic’s name from her post, and Roger Pielke comments that this might be perceived as a cover-up. Other Twitter accounts comment
— BRUCE KIMZEY, J.D. (@QuintBy) October 16, 2013
- Zivkovic blogs his admission the next day on his personal, non-Scientific American blog, saying that this was an isolated incident (link is from archive.org; the original post has since been removed)
To friends I let down and perhaps lost today: I understand why. I am sorry. I will miss you.
— Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ) October 15, 2013
- Zivkovic’s wife, Catharine Zivkovic, tweets her support for him
- People express shock at the admission from “the blogfather,” with support for Zivkovic and expressions of doubt e.g., this tweet from @HankCampbell, and also confusion from friends
- Reaction to Zivkovic’s tweeted admission
- Journalist Priya Shetty’s analysis and condemnation of the science world’s apparent silence and victim-blaming, and a response from Greg Laden
- Medium issues a call for submissions of personal stories of sexual harassment and its effects
But this happened … again
October 15 – October 16, 2013
A second science writer comes forward to accuse Zivkovic of sexual harassment. Hannah Waters, a science writer for the Smithsonian Institute and Scientific American blogger, describes the incidents on her blog.
- Waters’ blog post “The Insidious Power of Not-Quite Harrassment”
- Science Online board statement announcing resignation of Zivkovic
- Online reaction from The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin’s blog, here and here
- Kelly Hills proposes a strategy for addressing Zivkovic’s behaviour
- Zivkovic’s last tweet on the matter and admission
— Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ) October 16, 2013
This happened more than just twice
October 16 – October 18, 2013
Science writer and Scientific American blogger Kathleen Raven publishes two blog posts describing sexual harassment and abuse. Her first post does not name the men involved, but she later identifies her abusers in a second post; Zivkovic is one of them.
- “Mixed Up – this needs to stop”
- “Two Stories – one man got away with it – will the other too?”
- Hills’ expands her recommendations for removing Zivkovic’s power
- Zivkovic resigns from Scientific American
— Scientific American (@sciam) October 18, 2013
#ripplesofdoubt and other stories
A lot of female science writers are now questioning their own professional abilities: am I a good writer or just sexy enough/potentially beddable enough to get noticed? Writer and Beagle Project co-founder Karen James noticed this and initiated the hashtag #ripplesofdoubt to collect the conversations, opening them up and increasing exposure for the underlying current of sexism within science communications.
— Karen James (@kejames) October 17, 2013
- Conversations around attractiveness, self-worth and ability
For example, how many women are now questioning their talent and/or – it needs to be said – their physical attractiveness? #ScioX
— Karen James (@kejames) October 17, 2013
- Storify compiled by James
- Dr. Hope Jahren shares her story, “the worst part is not…”, and then in another piece talks about why the post struck a chord with so many
- Dr. Pamela Gay shares her stories of harassment, sexual assault and the retribution she’s experienced for speaking out
#ripplesofhope – moving forward
October 19, 2013 and after
Many people have laid out paths for dealing with the harassment and moving forward in the science blogging community. Here are just a few of the thoughtful musings on the road ahead.
- A #ripplesofhope hasthtag is started to complement #ripplesofdoubt
- Maryn McKenna proposes a way for Science Online to move forward
- The Science Online board issues a second statement and asks for suggestions for ways to create discussion opportunities around issues of harassment and community values
- Chad Orzel discusses the future of Science Online
- Bethany Brookshire writes about building a new normal in the wake of Zivkovic’s betrayal
- Hills asks if Science Online is a con or a conference and makes suggestions for the road ahead
- On New Year’s Day, 2014, Anton Zuiker, co-chair of Science Online, publishes a lengthy essay about his friendship with Zivkovic
- Simultaneously, Zivkovic publishes his own year in review, which refers to the final three months of the year as “a hiatus” and links to Zuiker’s post
- Lee, Byrne, Waters, Raven and James are included in Skepchick’s list of “10(ish) people who kicked ass in 2013“
- Martin Robbins publishes a guest post on Janet Stemwedel’s blog analyzing the events, as well as Zuiker and Zivkovic’s recent posts
- The Science Online board issues another statement
- Dr. Isis explains why so many people were outraged as Zivkovic and Zuiker’s posts
- Matthew R. Francis writes about leadership and heroes in Science Online
27 February – 1 March 2014
Hundreds arrived in Durham for Science Online together 2014.
- Alberto Roca storifies the session on “Boundaries, Behavior and Being an Ally”
- Anna Rascouët-Paz also storifies the session, and later so does Janet Stemwedel
- Brian Abraham describes the first day
- Pascale Lane writes about the elephant in the room and its effect on conference-goers.
- Kate Clancy posts on making sexual harassment reporting effective
- On the last day, Janet Stemwedel calls an impromptu session with the hashtag #sciosafe in the lobby to talk explicitly about Bora, harassment and how Science Online can move forward. Alberto Roca storifies the session
- Jamie Vernon recaps the conference and the #sciosafe session
- A few days after the conference ends, Anton Zuiker retracts and apologizes for his post on Bora and announces he is stepping down from the board of Science Online
- Janet Stemwedel’s summary of the #sciosafe session, with a list of requests to the Science Online board
- Science Online board member Scott Rosenberg’s perspective
And it continues…
- The March 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan includes a feature story on sexual harassment in which they quote both Waters and Zivkovic.
Understandably, a lot has been written about the events, including personal reflections and analysis. There are also good chronological summaries available. The following is in no way comprehensive.
- PLoS summary
- New Yorker summary and chronology
- On the imbalance of power in harassment
- Science, blogging, sexual harassment and the power of speaking out, from The Guardian
- On Gawker
- On Slate, Laura Helmuth questions the value of the mentorship tradition
- Jason Thibeault compares the response of the science blogging community to that in the atheist and skeptic communities to similar events, and P.Z. Meyers weighs in on the same theme a few days later
- On Google+, Brian Glanz discusses Bora’s role in the Open Science Federation
- Nicholas Evans writes about professionalism in science writing
- Judy Stone reflects on “otherness” in medicine
- Scott Barry Kaufmann writes about the effects of uncertainy about belonging in science and medicine
- Joseph Piergrossi examines his privilege and asks other men to do the same
- Nature editorial on ending harassment in science
- Lee posts for the first time since her original post was pulled three weeks before, about how the subsequent events have affected her and her struggles with being heard as a woman of colour in science
- SciAm post about dealing with unintentional sexism from July 2013
- Jailbreak the Patriarchy – this modest little Chrome extension genderswaps your online reading material on-screen. It’s a complete eye opener. Once clicked it changes she to he, hers to his, and gives you a glimpse into this other world. If you’re still on the fence about this whole sexual-abuse-that-doesn’t-involve-touching thing, install the extension, turn it on and read through some of the harassment posts with fresh eyes. It will make you think.