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'Scientific American' draws heat over ‘urban whore’ blog post

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The Oct. 2013 issue of Scientific American magazine.Scientific American

A brouhaha blew up on the blogosphere after the editor in chief of leading science publication Scientific American removed a shocking entry about sexism from one biologist-blogger.

Danielle N. Lee, who writes the Urban Scientist blog on Scientific American, posted the details of a conversation with someone who wanted her to write for free for his website. When Lee politely declined, according to a Wired article, the response she received was eye-opening:

“Because we don’t pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?”

'There are real and important issues regarding the treatment of women in science and women of color in science, both historically and currently.'

- 'Scientific American' editor in chief Marietta DiChristina

Lee wrote an entry to describe her feelings at receiving such an inappropriate comment.

“It wasn’t just that he called me a whore -- he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.”

But deeming her blog post about the incident a potential threat to the business, the science magazine deleted her entry.

“Unfortunately, we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove the post,” wrote Scientific American editor in chief Marietta DiChristina In a message posted to the site Sunday.

“We know that there are real and important issues regarding the treatment of women in science and women of color in science, both historically and currently, and are dismayed at the far too frequent cases in which women face prejudice and suffer inappropriate treatment as they strive for equality and respect.”

Bloggers and Twitter users were outraged over the entire situation -- both the original comment and the way in which Scientific American handled it.

“It makes me angry and sad for @DNLee5 -- a colleague and friend. It makes me look at@sciam twice – and not in a good way,” wrote one blogger.

"Since when does @sciam censor blogs for lacking science content? No one took down my posts [about music]," wrote a fellow SciAm science blogger.

The original email sent to Lee came from an editor at Biology-Online.org. A Monday post to its online forum claims that the “recently hired employee” responsible for the comment had been fired.

“Offensive and discriminatory behavior has always been discouraged. We intend to preserve this core function of the website. After an immediate and fair deliberation of the situation we decided to terminate the services of Ofek for his failure to represent and keep what we value in Biology Online.”

Scientific American has not reinstated the blog entry.