Scientific American has issued a lengthy response to the events which I wrote about yesterday. I’m not very satisfied with it, but it does indicate pretty clearly that Scientific American understands that they have a problem. There are commitments to further reporting on “the issues that are faced by women in science and women of color in science.” That is commendable and should be encouraged to the fullest extent possible.
On the other hand, the majority of the article seems to be devoted to what I call “CYA” verbiage. Dr. Lee’s original post was deleted because the editors were concerned about potential legal issues. Dr. Lee’s article “alleged a personal experience” and on short notice the editors were unable to “verify the facts of the blog post”. They couldn’t communicate with Dr. Lee in advance of deleting her article because it was Friday before a long weekend. (Cell phones? Email? Text messages? Skype? Land lines?) The initial Twitter response to the controversy was handled poorly because of dying batteries on someone’s cell phone. (Really? I can recommend some really great external battery products that I’ve used for years, no rocket science involved.)
They “regret”. They “recognize”. They “commit”. They “are investigating”. We, on the other hand, have “concerns, misunderstandings, and ill feelings”.
Notice what’s missing here. Nowhere does Ms. DiChristina ever even come close to admitting that she and/or the other Scientific American editors were wrong when it comes to the big picture. There were procedural problems and mistakes made that made them look bad – but they’re not admitting they were wrong.
In addition, nowhere is there anything that even comes close to being an apology to Dr. Lee. Again, there are regrets about the way that it was handled (it made them look bad), but there’s no apology. Apparently there’s nothing to apologize for — at least in their minds.
I came away from reading the article feeling like I had just been lectured by a sanctimonious Republican CongressCritter. There’s a condescending, “you just don’t understand” tone to the response that isn’t doing anything to make me feel better about Scientific American.
I “recognize” that I’m not buying it. I “regret” that I don’t have any trust or respect for Scientific American at the moment.