Bora! Bora! Bora! Could this be SciAm’s Pearl Harbour?

This is a sorry tale. And Scientific American and their Blogs Editor, Bora Zivkovic are covered in the proverbial effluent. Scientific American’s editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina has not covered herself with very much glory. Biology Online has tarnished what little reputation it had.

It all started as an unpleasant little incident when DN Lee, a scientist and a blogger at Scientific American, was called a “whore” by an “editor” at biology-online because she declined (very politely) to contribute free material for that site. She took exception to being called such names and blogged about it at her SciAm blog. The idiot who had referred to her in such terms was dismissed.

Then Scientific American made a fool of itself.  It removed her blog post. (All the rest follows only as a consequence of that one action).

Scientist and science communicator @DNLee5 declined an offer to blog for free from biology-online.org and got called a ‘whore’.  @DNLee5 posted a thoughtful response on herScientific American‘s blog The Urban Scientist.  A short time later, her response vanished

Scientific American editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina also made herself out to be very economical with the truth. First she explained that the post was inappropriate and then – when the noise mounted –  said it had been removed for legal reasons. After the fire storm the post was reinstated.

But that was not all. Monica Byrne recounted her story. This Happened by Monica Byrne. The apparently well respected (in some circles) Bora Zivkovic, Blogs Editor for Scientific American, was a regular wolf in sheep’s clothing. His reputation in the blogosphere as being very helpful to women bloggers now seems to have been built on a hidden agenda. (Zivkovic is known as being hypocritical in other circles).

Priya Shetty was astonished at the silence on the blogosphere and was scathing in her article. Silence she argued was condoning the behaviour (as it was).

Bora apologised  – but not before the critical comments had escalated to a level which made it impossible to stay silent. This was when DN Lee’s post was reinstated by Scientific American.  And then further details emerged that this was not just some isolated incident but appeared to be a pattern in Bora’s behaviour.

(UPDATE!  And yet another “But he didn’t just make a mistake, apologize, atone and change his behavior. He harassed, and kept harassing”)

Andrew Maynard performed some ethical calisthenics and suggested that Bora had done so much good that he didn’t deserve to be named and shamed. He deserved “compassion”! He only managed to come out as an apologist for Bora — but his ethical standards came up rather short (in my opinion). The use of positions of power (actual or implied) for sexual harassment cannot be excused – I think – in any circumstances. Greg Laden is another blogger who tries to appear objective but comes out as an apologist for his friend Bora. (I recall that he tried in a very similar style to excuse the disgraced Marc Hauser – also apparently a friend). So I think Greg Laden’s excuses for the wrongdoings of establishment figures are to be discounted.

But the bottom line is that it took much too long for SciAm to show any kind of support – if it could even be called support – for DN Lee. The grudging reinstatement of her post hardly redresses the balance. The many friends of Bora are either silent or are drafting carefully worded apologia in his support. SciAm is now contorting itself to ensure that Bora’s position at SciAm is not jeopardised. I don’t see how SciAm can avoid a public rebuke for Bora.

Shades of Pearl Harbour! Bora! Bora! Bora! will be etched in SciAm’s psyche for some time to come.

(For those who can’t remember the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!  is the Japanese code-word used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved at Pearl Harbour)
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2 Responses to “Bora! Bora! Bora! Could this be SciAm’s Pearl Harbour?”

  1. Scientific American sends Bora on “leave” | The k2p blog Says:

    […] thing is clear after this last weeks’s convulsions at Scientific American. Breaking the silence can have an effect in the face of wrongdoing but it requires a society […]

  2. Bora’s gardening leave ends in resignation from Scientific American | The k2p blog Says:

    […] the noise and the revelation that his sexual harassment was not just an isolated incident, Bora Zivkovic’s position was no […]

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