I haven’t been on Twitter a lot recently, but imagine my surprise when I glanced at my news feed and saw all the scientific bloggers I follow, talking about the same subject. This is unheard of, and they were all very unhappy. They even had a hashtag specifically for it #istandwithDNLee. Clearly, I had missed something and began digging for information.
A science blogger for Scientific American, Danielle N Lee, Ph.D., had been asked whether she would be interested in blogging for a different site, Biology Online. She had done her due diligence and asked for more details. When she discovered they wanted her efforts for free she politely declined the opportunity. What followed next was disgraceful.
The individual at Biology Online, identified as Ofek, replied via email asking her “Are you an Urban Scientist or an Urban Whore?” This is a horrible play on Dr. Lee’s blog for Scientific American where she is known as an Urban Scientist. This is so disgraceful. Would they have sent the same message to a male writer? Dr. Lee proceeded to put a blog up on Scientific American talking about this incident. The furore I was witnessing was due to Scientific American’s decision to remove the post. It has subsequently been reinserted. The link is: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/urban-scientist/2013/10/11/give-trouble-to-others-but-not-me/
What I found hard to believe was that someone had been so unprofessional to send that message. I understand that it might have been hard to believe that they had been turned down, but that would be the time to take a break. Never send an angry email or lash out at someone as they may not meekly look the other way. What actually happened was Ofek was made a public pariah on many social media outlets, and many science bloggers supported Dr. Lee. Don’t pick fights with people who are known to blog and have many different ways to get their message out! I am led to believe that ultimately Ofek has been fired, which I am sure was exceedingly far from their initial expectation and consequence of the message.
But Dr. Lee had a very clear and valuable message when she posted a response on YouTube. She wants everyone to know their worth and get compensated what they feel is appropriate for their efforts. Lots of bloggers write for free because they appreciate the opportunity to share their views, others want financial compensation. When you are offered an opportunity, you should consider what compensation is important to you. If it is not offered, then either you negotiate for it, or walk away from the offer. At no point should you be abused or offended. It is your choice whether you use your expertise and for whom you use it. Your talent is what distinguishes you from anyone else. Ensure you use your talents appropriately and wisely.
I am proud to be part of a community who stands up for the things we believe in. The public outpouring of disapproval was something I had never witnessed before. The message should have been received clearly that this group of individuals know their worth and their ability to spread their word widely. We stand for equal opportunities for all, regardless of sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and any other potentially discriminating factor.
Everyone needs to be treated with respect, which also means you need to treat yourself with the same respect we expect from others. If you demean your abilities and your worth, then you can’t be surprised if others follow your lead. Be open to opportunities and select those which suit your goals and values. Don’t feel that you have to take any and all offerings – you still need to provide a valuable product. If you spread yourself too thin, your value will fall as your standards inevitably slip. Your overall responsibility is to yourself. Your talent is what makes you a success, so use it wisely.