continuing the bogglement

So there have been a lot of posts around the internet on the stupidity displayed by Biology Online and Scientific American. (see previous post if you’re lost.) But one in particular caught my eye and made me want to continue.

David Westcott at itsnotalecture give a good crisis PR response plan for both groups. I’m going to bookmark it because it really is that good – what to do with the public when one of yours gets stupid.

But the thing that caught my attention is that it’s all external. No, that’s not fair. The last paragraph is:

Finally, Biology-online should conduct its affairs more transparently and redesign its site to reinforce this value. The site should identify its leadership with full names and clear responsibilities. It should elaborate and clarify its policies on how it seeks content and why it asserts ownership of others’ work product. It should clearly express how it adds value to your readers and contributors.

What Mr. Westcott leaves out is the internal actions. Starting with a simple question: How could this have happened?

Has this “Ofek” done this before? Has he had similar behavior with staff or other potential writers? Odds are the answer is “yes” unless he’s new. But Biology Online needs to see if it knows the answer to those questions – and just as important see if it has policies and procedures in place to know the answer to those questions.

If anyone say the warning signs or previous behavior did they raise it with superiors? Did higher act on those warnings if they happen? Does Biology Online have a policy that allows and preferably encourages people to report problems — with checks to reduce the effect of office politics?

Is there a discipline and counseling policy for actions like this? Is there training or documentation for expected behavior? And does it cover Ofek’s behavior?

tl;dr — is what Ofek did prohibited, and does Biology Online have a program in place to show it’s prohibited and both catch and stop offenders?

My guess – no. Or we wouldn’t have been treated to SciAm’s follow-on error. Which means in addition to following Mr. Westcott’s advice it would behoove them to prevent it from happening again.


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