A New Science Blogging Scandal: Deja Vu All Over Again

David Crotty | The Scholarly Kitchen | October 17, 2013

In something of a blast from the past, the world of science blogging reared up in collective anger over Scientific American’s censorship of a controversial post from a paid blogger, written in response to some awful behavior from a representative of one of SciAm’s business partners. This may seem familiar to anyone who lived through the rise and fall of the first round of science blogging platforms and provides ample evidence that though things may have evolved, the same inherent conflicts between bloggers and platform providers remain.

To sum things up briefly, one of SciAm’s bloggers was asked to do some unpaid writing for SciAm’s partner platform, Biology-Online.com. When she declined, the representative from Biology-Online made a wholly inappropriate remark in response, which the blogger then made public through a subsequent SciAm blog posting.

SciAm, in perhaps a CYA overreaction, deleted the post, calling it “not appropriate”, later explaining that they did so over legal concerns and that the ability to do so was part of the terms agreed to by their bloggers.  This prompted a firestorm of criticism from the blogosphere, and offered an opportunity to analyze the continuing problems with sexism and racism both in science and society at large. SciAm was left in a difficult position, stuck between trying to prudently protect their business from potential libel claims while at the same time trying to protect their image in the community as an upright citizen, rather than an enabler of problematic behavior.