Man's face in profile overlaid with mask in profile

Quick hit: the science front of nymwars

While the discussions about pseudonym use on Google+ continues on, there’s a different front that opened up in mid-August: Science Blogs, which is the home of a huge number of top science blogs, has decided to end psuedonymnous blogging.

On August 18, biomedical researcher DrugMonkey wrote:

I have just been informed that ScienceBlogs will no longer be hosting anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers. In case you are interested, despite extensive communication from many of us as to why we blog under pseudonyms, I have not been given any rationale or reason for this move. Particularly, no rationale or reason that responds to the many valid points raised by the pseudonymous folks.

Years ago, Janet D. Stemwedel wrote a scientific-career-focussed list of reasons to use a pseudonym:

You are a student whose advisor will equate your blogging with time not spent doing research… You are trying to get a promotion/tenure and you have no idea how the committees that will be deciding whether to promote/tenure you view blogging… Blogging about what you blog about under your own name might significantly reduce your safety. (This might include doing research with animals, providing reproductive health care services…)

Closely following this, epidemiologist René Najera was tracked down by an online opponent and this resulted in his employer asking him to stop blogging. Tara C. Smith writes that science blogging isn’t new to this:

These things aren’t just theoretical. HIV denier Andrew Maniotis showed up, unannounced, at my work office one day a few years ago. The recently-arrested “David Mabus” showed up at an atheist convention.

Maggie Koerth-Baker has a great piece at Boing Boing about the difference between being a professional writer and a scientist¸ which also has links to a lot of discussion in and near the Science Blogs community:

I know who DrugMonkey is [in the sense of knowing his pseudonymous persona] and I know that he has to be as responsible for everything he writes under that name as I am responsible for what I write as Maggie Koerth-Baker. The difference is that writing is my profession. It’s not his. Instead, he has to balance the needs of a profession in laboratory science with the needs of a writing hobby.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , on by .

About Mary

Mary is a women in tech activist, a programmer, a writer, and a sometime computational linguist. She writes at Her previous projects include co-founding the Ada Initiative and major contributions to the Geek Feminism blog. She's @me_gardiner on Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Quick hit: the science front of nymwars

  1. Lauren

    That’s too bad about the policy change. I wonder how many bloggers Science Blogs will be losing as those wishing to keep their pseudonyms move to other hosts.

  2. tigtog

    There’s quite a bit of speculation over there that Nat Geo only ever really wanted the domain name, and seems determined to essentially reboot the brand entirely.

    1. Dorothea

      Bah. As a former Sb blogger who left after PepsiGate, I hope NatGeo crashes and burns for doing this to friends of mine.

      NatGeo might also wish to consider that this is the first time in my life I’ve ever had anything negative to say about NatGeo.

  3. admiraliphone

    Here’s a reason for pseudonyms in science blogging: Ken Cuccinelli

  4. Anon4fun

    Kristine Schachinger in her article “Real Names: Google+, Government & The Identity Ecosystem” touches on several points that may be relevant here. For example:

    “Google’s ambitions for Google+ appear to go far beyond social signals, marketing, and their efforts to make a better product. Dig a little further and you’ll find something called the National Strategy For Trusted Identities In Cyberspace (NSTIC).”

Comments are closed.