Category: sciences

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How Scientific Publishers Can End Bullying And Harassment In The Sciences

“We cannot rely on individual departments or colleges/universities to protect the victims of academic bullying or harassment. Decades of inaction and inadequate action have shown that senior faculty members will continue to engage in unacceptable behavior unless there are real consequences that threaten to take their power away. Their academic careers, however, are based in their ability to successfully publish their work and results in prestigious and meritorious journals, and therefore it is truly the publishers who hold the power to police their actions. If we are serious about solving our bullying and harassment problems, and making scientific research opportunities truly the open and merit-based game we idealize them to be, we can take this next great step. We can not only condemn, but forbid, the unacceptable behavior that continues to cost our fields so many of our best and brightest minds.”

A great number of promising scientific careers have been derailed not based on the scientific merits of the young researcher in question, but rooted in the harassment and bullying they’ve had to endure. When a senior, more powerful professional makes the choice to bully or harass a junior individual, there is usually little recourse the victim can take. Filing a complaint usually harms the victim’s career more than the perpetrator. Despite the existence of Title IX, the policies of colleges and universities are mostly toothless, and designed to protect the institution, not the victim. But if they wanted to, scientific publishers could change the game immediately. By placing a ban on who is allowed to author papers based on violations of their codes of ethics/conduct, they could essentially punish the perpetrators in the one way they’d actually care about the most: in a way that harms their scientific legacy.

Take a look at a new proposal to end bullying and harassment in the sciences. I am sure it’s not perfect, but it’s the most revolutionary step towards protecting people of all genders, colors, and religions from bullying, harassment, and abuse ever seriously considered.