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Ethics

Essay criticizing efforts to increase diversity in organic synthesis deleted after backlash from chemists

Publishing of a personal essay in Angewandte Chemie points to deeper problems within the community, chemists say

by Laura Howes
June 8, 2020

 

20200608lnp1-journal.jpg
Credit: Angewandte Chemie, International Edition
Hudlický's essay has now been removed from Angewandte Chemie's website.

A June 5 essay on the state of organic synthesis sparked immediate outcry from chemists due to the author’s criticism of efforts to increase representation of women and underrepresented groups in the field. The journal that published the essay, Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, has since removed the article from its web site and suspended two of its editors, while it investigates the editorial process that led to the essay’s publication. Several members of the journal’s international advisory board have also resigned in protest over the essay.

The piece, written by Tomáš Hudlický of Brock University in recognition of the 83rd birthday of organic chemist Dieter Seebach, reflects on factors that influence how the field of organic synthesis continues to develop. One of the factors that Hudlický discusses is workforce diversity. He argues that efforts to promote diversity have prioritized inclusion of certain groups of people at the expense of meritocracy. At the end of July, Hudlický posted a four-page statement further explaining the ideas he expressed in his essay and discussing his concerns about the fall out from Angewandte publishing the piece.

After immediate and intense criticism of the piece by chemists on social media, the journal quickly deleted the essay from its website. The digital object identifier (DOI), a universal code used to identify published articles, first sent readers to a “page not found” error message, and now redirects to a statement by the journal’s editor in chief, Neville Compton.

20200608lnp1-hudlicky.jpg
Credit: Guacamoleman/Wikimedia
Hudlický.

In that statement, Compton writes that “while diversity of opinion and thoughts can spur change and debate, this essay had no place in our journal.” Compton added that the journal will “share the actions we are implementing within the next week to ensure this will not happen again.” Angewandte Chemie is the official journal of the German Chemical Society (GDCh). In a follow-up statement released on June 8, the German Chemical Society apologized for the publication of the essay. The statement added that two editors involved in the essay’s publication have been suspended and the referees who reviewed the essay will no longer be used as peer reviewers for the journal.

On June 9, Angewandte Chemie shared a more detailed list of actions that the journal and its publisher have taken since the essay was published. The publisher has established an interim editor-in-chief committee made up of four employees from the editorial department of Wiley-VCH. This committee will take full editorial responsibility for Angewandte Chemie. Wiley-VCH has not confirmed Compton’s status at the publication. The journal says it is introducing a new process for peer-reviewing opinion pieces that will rely on experts in the topic of the essay instead of reviewers from the field of the journal. The journal also pledges to build more diversity within the editorial and advisory boards and develop new editorial guidelines incorporating diversity equality and inclusion principles and practices. An external review is planned to evaluate the journal’s processes, while an internal review is ongoing.

On social media, some researchers have stated that they have already withdrawn articles for consideration by the journal and others have told C&EN that they are considering ending their membership of the GDCh.

On June 8, 16 chemists issued a joint statement announcing they were resigning from Angewandte Chemie’s international advisory board. In the statement, the chemists denounced “the essay and the process by which it was published” before adding that their resignation “provides the journal with an opportunity to reconstitute the Board in a way that reflects our broader communty and society.” One of the 16, Cathleen Crudden, a chemist at Queen’s University, had originally announced her resignation from the board on June 5. She says she felt she could no longer have her name associated with the journal. “In addition to this one instance, Angewandte Chemie has shown a significant lack of leadership in terms of addressing issues related to equity, so I felt it was time for me to remove my name from their board,” she wrote in statement emailed to C&EN.

The Royal Society of Chemistry, American Chemical Society, German Chemical Society, and Chemical Research Society of India released a joint statement on June 8 that didn’t address the essay directly but stated that “sexism, racism, discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and many other forms of inequality are sadly all too prevalent in the chemical sciences, both at individual and institutional levels.” And the provost of Brock University, Greg Finn, released an open letter on June 7, in which he wrote that “The statements contained in the paper are not representative of the Brock community” and that further response was being considered.

Chemists criticizing the essay say that the opinions expressed by Hudlický point to much wider problems within the chemistry community, which has failed to adequately address overt and covert discrimination against chemists who are members of underrepresented groups. “Fixing this is not about removing one article,” says Jen Heemstra, a chemist at Emory University and author of C&EN’s Office Hours column. “It is about dismantling the pervasive, toxic culture that selects for and promotes these values.”

“As an experienced recruiter and a leader of a large group of chemists in the pharmaceutical sector, I can tell you that these views [expressed by Hudlický] are not only factually wrong, they represent the exact types of biases that have long plagued the field of organic chemistry,” says L.-C. Campeau, executive director, head of Process Chemistry and Discovery Process Chemistry at Merck & Co. “In our own work, we’ve benefited immensely from a more inclusive culture and increased diversity leading to more creative solutions to the unprecedented scientific problems that we solve every day in our quest to improve human health.”

In fact, studies have shown that students from underrepresented minority groups innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2020, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1915378117). Also, in one study, scientists from groups underrepresented in the sciences were less likely to get invited or assigned to give talks at scientific meetings (Nature 2019, DOI: 10.1038/d41586-019-03688-w).

Hudlický feels that his essay had been taken out of context and he stands by what he wrote, adding that he has received emails of support as well as criticism since the article was published and then deleted. He points out the diversity of his own research group, and explains that he is not against diversity, instead he is arguing against preferential hiring of one group over another.

Hudlický confirms that the article had gone through peer review and that Angewandte Chemie had not informed him before it removed his article from the journal’s site. He describes attempts to destroy his career and those of the editors who handled his essay as going “beyond censorship.” He argues that his article should not have been deleted from the literature record and instead the journal should have invited chemists to write rebuttals.

“The real tragedy is that this article does not represent an isolated opinion,” says Andy Cooper, an organometallic chemist at the University of Liverpool. “Most of us have seen or experienced this kind of stuff up close, and it needs to change.”

The surprise, says César A. Urbina-Blanco, a senior postdoc at Ghent University, is that the views made it through peer review and were published by what he felt was a respected journal. The hard work that chemistry needs to do, he says, involves looking at where these attitudes survive, something that has too often fallen to those who are most affected by them. “Minorities are the only ones starting these conversations when we shouldn’t have to be,” he says. “Academia is where we belong, but it’s not us who need to change.”

UPDATE

This story was updated on June 10, 2020, to include more actions announced by the Angewandte Chemie and Wiley-VCH and to mention a joint statement from international chemical societies and an open letter from the Brock University provost.

CORRECTION

This story was updated on June 18, 2020, to correct the title and affiliation for César A. Urbina-Blanco. He's a senior postdoc at Ghent University.

Update

This story was updated on Aug 3, 2020, to mention a written statement from Hudlický at the end of July.

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Comments
Jacob Burke (June 11, 2020 12:41 PM)
Mark Twain said that the weakest of all weak things is an untested virtue. Or, said another way, truth emerges from the full, frequent, and fierce debate of ideas. That is how science and society normally progress, and I believe it is the only way to progress. What, then, can be said about people who believe that some ideas are so offensive that they must be scrubbed from the historical record. Why is the answer to speech not more and better speech, but the silencing of the originally speaker? Silencing and censuring speech is not a substituent for an answer.
Greg Benz (June 11, 2020 12:48 PM)
I have to agree. The magazine does not consider diversity of thought to be important, only diversity of physical features.
Purnendu K Dasgupta (June 11, 2020 1:02 PM)
I wholeheartedly agree with Burke. If something is true and just it will ultimately prevail. The solution to Neo-Nazis is not preventing Mein Kampf ever being available to read. The solution to the article is encourage publication of thoughtful reasoned rebuttals.
Laura G Hens (June 11, 2020 1:24 PM)
I agree with this comment. Anyone disagreeing can write a rebuttal and explain there their reasons. As I understand, the essay is now gone, the author was pointing to merits as opposed to quotas. And yes, discriminating people by merits is discrimination. I do prefer merit discrimination to quota selection. This is because I can work harder and I cannot (I do not want to) change my ethnics and sexual preferences. At this point it will be nice to hear counter reasons specially the ones from the censors.
Myrna Mandjikov (June 11, 2020 2:50 PM)
The article should be debated not silenced.
Bruce Burton (June 11, 2020 3:03 PM)
Well put, Jacob Burke.
Joseph Trimboli (June 11, 2020 5:06 PM)
I must also agree with Jacob Burke - it's clear we will never have a well learned understanding of tolerance if we squash ANY debate of opposing views. Whilst the views expressed by the article are obnoxious and factually incorrect - I would have liked to have seen the rebuttals - which would have buried the premise of the article - to learn more about the topic. It's not illegal to state a heinous view - but it is wrong to leave it unchallenged or indeed not take up an opportunity to educate others.
Peter Braun (June 11, 2020 5:28 PM)
Do we really need to discuss the view that students should submit unconditionally to their "Masters"? Should be also let Nazis have a voice and discuss the merits and downfalls of their ideas?
Xiaolin Hao (June 11, 2020 11:18 PM)
I can't agree more with you. It is sad to see that even scientific journals are no longer places of intellectual and academic debate, but rather places of 'political correctness' and liberalism.
Dan Feigelson (June 22, 2020 12:21 PM)
First time I've looked at C&EN in years. Didn't realize that "meritocracy" is now a dirty word among academic chemists.

Are organic syntheses now being conducted on the basis of under-represented substituent groups? Or is it still ok to choose substituent groups that are likely to give the molecule being made the desired activity?
Kim G. Hansen (July 28, 2020 2:00 PM)
Jacob, you are so right. The solution is to prove the author(s) wrong, not to silence him(them). Everything else is a combination of 1984 and Fahrenheitv 451.
Stanley Vickers (June 11, 2020 12:55 PM)
Let us be for equal opportunity but not allocations based on sex, race or other physical characteristics. Defend free speech. Guard against mass hysteria (are we allowed to use "hysteria" or have the 'thought police' deleted this word from common usage and identified it as belonging to the lexicon of sexist words?)
Nelly Schroeder (June 11, 2020 1:14 PM)
Disappointed to see a Twitter mob, containing several of my colleagues, basically end Hudlicky's career in a few hours. And for what? Yeah his essay wasn't that well-written but it was just expressing opinions that would have been said out loud five to ten years ago. I don't even agree with parts of it but I can at least try to hold two opposed ideas in my head.

Also the response from NSERC (the Canadian science funding agency) was abhorrent. God forbid they stick up for academic freedom. But, no, just deliberately call his views "deplorable" to placate the Twitter crowd. Such shameless virtue signalling.

This video was posted in the Retraction Watch comments and is a pretty accurate summary of how Chemistry Twitter & the EDI community treats any view that doesn't perfectly align with their own: https://streamable.com/l34kb8
John Mark Danna (June 11, 2020 1:24 PM)
Censorship cannot be turned on and off. It either exists or does not. Why not let the community discuss the point of view of the author? I agree with Jacob Burke. Someone, nameless - and with diffuse referral to an exiting board - claims to be ashamed, embarrassed, values not represented. OK. What are those values? I vote NO to censorship.
When we all had our first opportunity in a real laboratory, we all had learning and ground to cover in spite of our academic accomplishment. We learned by success and failure. Hopefully without tragedy. Not having access to the article, I can only assume from a brief synopsis that the article argued against blanket quotas while not fostering true advancement for those who need it in a real teaching / learning opportunity. I vote for "Smarting Up" rather than "Dumbing Down".
Don't lower the bar and then claim equal opportunity. Yes, you got this opportunity because we HAD to give it to you. Equality is already a law. Instead, help those by enhanced training. Don't push them into a scenario beyond their capabilities because of something like skin color. Treat everyone as a person. Go beyond the external. Real change will take place within each person and cannot be mandated. Sorry. You cannot legislate / censor / force morality. Let the discussion commence so that people can educate their mores and values to align with truth. The truth, I think, will be something different that what is being accepted for now based on media blitz. I personally do not embrace racism or bigotry. I love working and learning with people of diverse thought, background, education. That, for me, is an enriched, creative environment. Please don't stifle creative and wonderful minds with censorship.
Voltaire (June 11, 2020 1:33 PM)
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

"Cancel culture" has no place in academia. Hudlický might or might not be correct to some degree about diversity efforts, but he sure is right that the proper response is to write rebuttals, not act like a mob of angry Twitter users.
Voltaire (June 12, 2020 12:12 PM)
Also, where is any sympathy for the poor and/or disabled in these diversity pushes? It's always about (non-white or Asian) race and gender. What about a white person who can't afford a new wheelchair? What about a child of Hmong immigrants who is assumed to be a middle-class or above East Asian but shares a bedroom with five siblings and cousins and is the first in his/her entire family to go to college?
James Castro (June 11, 2020 1:39 PM)
Joseph Stalin would approve of this censorship.
People of all races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and sexual permutations should have equal opportunities -- that's a given. But insisting on quotas is insane. Next there will be activists claiming there are two many Jewish doctors, too many Korean grocers, and too many African American basketball players. And too many female mothers.
Our civilization is going insane.
Luciano D'Agostino (June 11, 2020 1:52 PM)
I would like to criticize and also debate. But about what? Could you, please, send me a pirate copy of the essay?
willie x gluck (June 12, 2020 11:17 AM)
The crux of the controversial comments is quoted in Retraction Watch https://bit.ly/2AUhIAY
Dr. M. S. Quereshi (June 11, 2020 2:52 PM)
Let us get the statistics. For the decades 2070 to 2000 how many PDF from the visible minorities in USA and Canada were there and how many found the faculty positions after the first post doctoral ship?
KK13 (June 12, 2020 11:03 AM)
To begin with, let me tell you what you need to focus on, first: A good grasp of grammar to even apply for a position. It took me three tries to understand what you wrote. What makes you think the students you teach will accept that?

I have been a faculty through that process, and I know what it takes to achieve. Faculty position in USA is no joke, it's a stringent "filtration" process, just not for any Tom, Jane and Harry.
Tim Stuk (June 11, 2020 2:54 PM)
So C&EN wants to castigate Hudlicky for suggesting meritocracy over a quota system*, but is also promoting a paper which bogusly claims "underrepresented minority groups innovate at higher rates than majority students"? Are you for racism or against it? I'm confused.
*I assume that's what is was about. It's been burned for heresy so I can't read it.
Richard Kramer (June 11, 2020 3:22 PM)
Angewandte Chemistry's handling of this controversy is alarming, even to the point of being terrifying. It represents a sad day for the concept of seeking the truth by means of vigorous open debate.

I've not yet been able to locate the full text of the offending article. It appears that the Ministry of Truth is now sufficiently powerful and ubiquitous to achieve the article's near complete eradication, even from the internet.

Not only have the right thinking Forces of Good been marshalled to completely destroy the career and life of the wrong thinking unperson who authored the opinion, but the editors and reviewers have also been deemed to merit destruction.

The pace of Progress is clearly accelerating. At this rate, not only will all future offending authors be reliably banished to oblivion, but following this example by a leading German peer reviewed journal, we can look forward to the day when the Final Solution is complete and all of our major peer reveiwed journals will also be UnwokeEditorRein.
No meritocracy without equity (June 11, 2020 3:54 PM)
The argument that promoting diversity means ignoring efforts based on merit has always been a code for "these people don't belong here" and exposes the mindset, typically held by white men, that people who are not white men are not capable of doing work as well as them.

What is routinely ignored is the scientifically demonstrated bias exposing this mindset, frequently held by scientists who think they are purely rational and objective. Also ignored are the mentoring, opportunities, friendships and opened doors that white men have given to other white men, that are not given to persons in the underrepresented groups because of the implicit bias that they don't belong there and that they aren't as capable as the white male students, grads, profs, etc. Then the same white men mistakenly believe the playing field was always level - it's not and never was - and they got their entirely on their own merits - they didn't. People advance because some else is willing to take a chance on them, and that often has less to do with merit than subjective personal experiences. It's been demonstrated that people form groups with, and promote those within the group, who are most like them. People are more willing to take chances on and support people who are like them.

There is no censorship here - no one is stopping Hudlicky from creating a blog or writing a book on his views - or even doing some research to support his opinion with hard data. To cry censorship because one does not get to publish a personal essay in the academic journal of their choice is the height of arrogance, as well as ignorance of what censorship truly is. At least Hudlicky has a career that he can claim people are trying to destroy; there are countless careers of the underrepresented that never got off the ground because they were destroyed by people with similar attitudes.

What are personal essays doing in a peer-reviewed journal of chemistry, anyway? What is this, the humanities? Personal essays, opinions, and other works not based on data are appropriate for newsletters, magazines, and such. Peer-reviewed journals of the hard sciences should contain peer-reviewed research and letters discussing said research.

Bottom line is the journal was not an appropriate forum for a personal essay with biased opinions and it was rightly removed. If there was an appropriate merit-based structure in place, it never would have been published in the first place. Authors who submitted to the journal have cause to be concerned and should not be faulted for pulling their submissions.

Likewise, if the larger systems in place were equitable, properly structured to remove bias and give all a fair chance, then we wouldn't have any underrepresented groups, and this entire issue would not exist. At the very least, we would be a lot closer a true meritocracy than the myth of merit we have now. There is no meritocracy to destroy - it still does not exist.
Miquel Comes (June 11, 2020 8:58 PM)
To Mr "No meritocracy without equity", the length of your comment says it all. To whom do you want to convince that merits would exclude or would be opposite to equal opportunities? No mention at all that such opinions are published from time to time in either Science or Nature journals? Did you forgot about university fees? Why are not free? Ever heard about Bologna? No, not the cute Italian town, but the plan from the European elites to erase equal opportunities. Not a word on this? Not a word on the 'no quota no equality' schools for the European elites? Mr "No meritocracy without equity", your selective (discriminant) memory amazes me!
James Cooper (June 11, 2020 10:12 PM)
The beauty of science and discourse is that anyone, and I mean anyone, can go against convention, perceived or not, and play his or her hand by making a case that stands up to scrutiny by others. Ideas should be subject to review and verification by anyone paying attention. The minute that we as a society start closing discussions based on feelings is the time at which I will lose faith in "scientists." One of the first lessons we learn is that life isn't fair. Those of us who have chosen to overcome unfairness have gravitated toward success. Those who haven't are still whining.
Alan Schwartz (June 11, 2020 8:40 PM)
The problem with the above defense of the journal's actions can be found in a word used several times in the response – “underrepresented”

What does underrepresented mean? The dictionary definition is “inadequately represented” This suggests that some (agreed?) standard has not been met. We then must ask what is that standard and how was it established?

For example, should the number of people (insert your own defining characteristic) holding tenured positions in chemistry departments be proportional to the number of people sharing the same characteristic in the general population? As an alternative, perhaps the basis of the proportionality should not be the general population but some other population – those graduating with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry? Masters degree candidates? PhD’s etc.

It is very difficult to decouple the concept of underrepresentation from the call for quotas. The latter are, to me, unacceptable.
Joaquin Barroso (June 11, 2020 9:45 PM)
People talking about meritocracy sound like only geniuses were admitted before the quotas, and that at the same time these quotas let just about *anyone* fitting the label get in. Both premises are wrong and they're not mutually bound. I agree that debate in academia should not only be welcomed but encouraged, however, when one side of the panel is empty there is no debate; there's a lecture.
G. T. Spyridis (June 11, 2020 11:59 PM)
Chemistry journals need to stick to publishing peer reviewed papers that deal with chemistry.
Here peer review is a critical cog in the publication process.
If you publish editorials you have entered the minefield of opinion.
A peer-reviewed opinion! LOL! Shades of Joseph Goebbels.
And reviewers who passed the manuscript are now banned as reviewers and two editors suspended over it.
Wow! Have you airbrushed, photoshopped nowadays, their likeness out of any photographs they were in as Stalin had done? Freedom of speech is fine just so long as what you are saying parrots the Party line eh?
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court had a saying that fits here: the answer to freedom of speech is *more* freedom of speech.


István Ujváry (June 12, 2020 1:48 AM)
'No meritocracy without equity' writes:

"It's been demonstrated that people form groups with, and promote those within the group, who are most like them. People are more willing to take chances on and support people who are like them."

Interesting statement. Would you please point out the when and where such "demonstrations" were published. Only science-related studies, please; Political views and party membership are not relevant here. ;-)
Who defines diversity and what personal opinions we are allowed to have? (June 12, 2020 2:23 AM)
This is definitely a level of censorship and shaming that the scientific community should not have fallen down to. The original authors right to express his opinion, however much it disagrees with majority opinion, should have been respected. I would have liked to have the chance to read his article, and write a rebuttal from my own experience/challenges as a person of different color skin in the USA. Kicking down this person just for saying his opinion denied me that chance.

Diversity and meritocracy should both be embraced in choosing the next generation of scientists. If one is promoted too much over the other, soon the system will tip in the opposite direction of whatever equal ground people shoot for. Having come from a third world foreign country to the US, gotten a PhD at a prestigious University, and stayed as a postdoc in an elite University for five years in a struggle to enter an academic career; my experiences of potential yet un-provable discrimination is endless. Seeing a long name than Americans are used to, seeing a brown skin, or simply not being having the right connections has led to the shot-down of many of my scientific research proposals that in my (and my collaborators) opinion had virtue above certain other proposals/grants that were given the green light. Trying to advance an academic career turned out to be impossible for me due to these challenging circumstances. Would it have turned out better for me if I was of a different gender, different sexual orientation, or someone majority considers as an underrepresented minority? Possibly yes.

Is a first generation college graduate struggling for education opportunities in their home country, migrating to the USA, trying to establish a career, considered an underrepresented minority in the scientific community? Circumstances dictate I should be; there's only about five professors in reasonably well known colleges of my national/ethnic background in the entirety of the US. Despite whatever qualifications I had, I couldn't apply for most awards or grants as a grad student or a postdoc in the US; because I was not an american citizen. Where was the diversity in that in the scientific community? The playing field was never level for me. No one did or will stand up for our specific group of underrepresented disadvantaged scientists, just because the numbers are low.

Having said all of the above, if meritocracy was the major defining factor, I think I would have had the career I dreamed for. Truth of the matter is, todays publications, grants, or hiring is highly dependent on who knows who, rather than meritocracy or diversity. So it is a shame that the term "diversity" was used to silence this authors opinion. While diversity does matter in a work place, it is not all that matters. Love, kindness, and respect for others is being lost in a generation just racing to work 24/7 losing the family values. It is that system that needs to be repaired first and foremost. We are becoming meaningless machines that eat, exercise, and work all day; just to get by in life. Silencing a persons free thinking is only going to push us further towards that herd mentality.
john tamine (June 12, 2020 3:23 AM)
all of the efforts directed toward increasing "diversity" are predicated upon the fundamentally flawed argument that a disparity in participation MUST be proof of discrimination. based upon that reasoning, that would mean that the disproportionate number of african americans in the NFL and the NBA proves that those organizations actively discriminate against caucasians. does ANYONE believe that?

i naively assumed "equality" meant that everyone should enjoy equal freedom to choose their interests and life paths. clearly that is not the case. instead, "equality" has been redefined to mean proportional participation by every identifiable group. i'd just like to know who decides which girls must give up their dream of motherhood and instead pursue a career in STEM? who will decide which individuals from selected "minorities" must sacrifice their dreams and aspirations in order to fill a quota that satisfies the SJW's first-grade bookkeeper concept of "equality?" can i shove a calculus text in their face and tell them THEY'VE been selected for the good of "equality," then ask how they like it?

OR... maybe we could just allow for the possibility that the disparity in participation in STEM careers, or anything else, is simply a reflection of a disparity of inclination, and STOP THE RELENTLESS POLITICALLY CORRECT SOCIAL ENGINEERING AND VIRTUE SIGNALLING!
Yikes (June 12, 2020 5:25 AM)
Reading these comments was truly a horrible experience. There is absolutely a difference between denying freedom of speech and allowing unsubstantiated, harmful views a platform by publishing them in a prestigious journal. Hudlický's arguments have been debated, they are harmful, and they should not be given a platform or the weight of endorsement by an established publication.

I'd encourage most of the above commenters to do some further reading, and above all listen to female scientists and scientists of color when they talk about their experiences with bias and discrimination.

"I would have liked to have seen the rebuttals" Many have been posted. Google it. You can start here: https://twitter.com/dasingleton/status/1268965079040569345

"Would you please point out the when and where such "demonstrations" were published" GOOGLE IT. The article "How Diversity Makes Us Smarter" published in Scientific American is a nice summary and points to multiple primary sources.

"maybe we could just allow for the possibility that the disparity in participation in STEM careers, or anything else, is simply a reflection of a disparity of inclination" My turn to ask you for sources. This whole thing was honestly a mess.
Voltaire (June 12, 2020 12:24 PM)
What about female scientists and scientists of color who have not experienced discrimination and get insults or have their experiences denied when they say so? What about those who don't even say so in the first place because they fear that doing so would jeopardize their careers? Do they count less because they're fewer in number? Or is there something they're doing that we can learn from?
James Cooper (June 12, 2020 4:54 PM)
In some circles we call that censorship, Yikes. Personally, I think technical journals should only publish research and leave the essays and editorials to publications like Scientific American and Nature. However, once the opinion piece is published, to retract it in the face of the PC Police is disingenuous and mere pandering.

When it comes to listening to female scientists and scientists of color, I know plenty of successful scientists from all types of backgrounds. The one thing they all have in common is they tend to discuss ideas, challenges and solutions. I don't here them talking about how unfair life can be and how they've been robbed of opportunities. Maybe you're used to hanging out with social scientists.
Abs (June 13, 2020 5:49 AM)

To Yikes:

Unlike you, reading these comments gave me hope.

For many people, probably including yourself, all inequalities are a
result of structural inequities and barriers, discrimination,
historical injustice, and similar factors. (Innate differences between
groups are impossible, even the mere suggestion of that is harmful and
threatens safety). The more radical among you, represented by the
woke-mob that is especially active on social media today, have no
qualms about destroying the careers of those who disagree on good
faith. Thankfully, these comments illustrate that there remain many of
us (maybe even the silent majority) who continue to be sceptical of
your positions and defend free thought.

Just because someone disagrees with you, you should not assume that
they have not talked to "female scientists and scientists of color",
nor should you assume that they have not done the appropriate reading.
There is a huge amount of literature out there that at the very least
forces us to take seriously the suggestion that population level
differences can arise due to many complex factors, some of which may
have nothing to do with societal structures and historical
discrimination.

I will be the first to admit that we do not currently have
sufficiently sophisticated tools at the moment to precisely parse out
the reasons behind differences in outcomes across groups. That is a
scientific question which can be (and will be) resolved ultimately.
Until then, it is completely legitimate throw out various speculations
and theories; this is how science progresses. If one were only allowed
to propose theories that conform to the way our moral systems want the
world to be, and avoid ones which might lead to immoral outcomes, then
there would be no progress in knowledge; we would be stuck in the
middle ages. (I see no real difference between the inquisition
censoring science that did not conform to their religious world-view,
and those who today destroy the lives of researchers for pursuing the
truth; google Noah Carl, for example).

There are many researchers trying to get to the bottom of group
differences that might arise due to biological reasons. Obviously you
think all these researchers have been "debunked". No they haven't, and
certainly no more than than many of the theories arising from social
science have been. For example, the science of sex differences is
well-established (see, e.g.,
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/taking-sex-differences-in-personality-seriously/)
. There are many researchers studying differences in inclinations, as
well as in variability, across various groups. Needless to say this
research is controversial in certain circles, but it is mainstream. In
any area of science where we are still trying to find out the truth,
there are and will be mistakes in studies, and every paper can be
carefully parsed and criticized by someone with enough time and moral
conviction. On the other hand, a lot of studies that attempt to give
societal explanations for current inequalities have been hit hard by
the replication crisis in humanities and social science (stereotype
threat is the poster child for this). Furthermore, many of the books
that aimed to debunk biological explanations have been themselves
debunked, for an example check out this review of "Superior":
https://quillette.com/2019/06/05/superior-the-return-of-race-science-a-review/

If you want to really see beyond your bubble,I will recommend the book
the “The ape that understood the universe” by Steve Stewart-Williams.
Needless to see, we do not understand everything yet, it may well turn
out that all my sources are wrong and you are right. That is not the
point; the point is currently we simply do not know well enough and
yet you seem to be under the false impression that half the possible
answers are simply impossible. And you are sufficiently convinced that
you are right that you think a contrary position should not even be
given a platform. I hope that some day you will look upon this and
realise your folly: on factual as well as moral grounds.

Given the above, and the intense effort to promote equality and
diversity in academia currently (most of those efforts implicitly
assume that all differences must be due to some kind of social reasons
that if addressed properly will lead to representation in STEM that
perfectly mirrors the proportion of the group in the general
population, even though there is very little evidence for this
assumption) it is perfectly legitimate to ask if at least some of
these efforts are doing more good and harm.

Mama mia (June 13, 2020 11:38 AM)
You are spot on. These comments in the comments section have me shocked as a female scientist about apparently how much other scientists are blindly willing to frame not publishing this piece a matter of 'free speech' when reading it could have shown them it was a piece of non-substantiated garbage without proper referencing. It was more of a personal rant than a scientific piece, from a chemist who presents his personal view as impactful when speaking about an area he is not an expert in, but publishing it in such an esteemed journal will inevitably give it an air of eminence. As the commenters above, who rush to its defense, clearly show.

Commenter Voltaire asks "What about female scientists and scientists of color who have not experienced discrimination and get insults or have their experiences denied when they say so? Do they count less because they're fewer in number?"

Well, certainly they exist (I have experienced discrimination myself in the form of lack of respect linked to my gender, but I do also regularly express how many wonderful male colleagues I work with on a daily basis) but how do their experiences invalidate those from scientists who have experienced discrimation? They don't count less because they are fewer in number - it just baffles me you think that somehow negates the ones who do experience injustice.

James Cooper also commits the traditional minimalization of other people's problems. Always when disadvantaged groups speak their mind, there's those who will say "well, the succesful ones don't mention their problems!". In other words, 'you should stay quiet because I am uncomfortable hearing your problems'. So that nothing even gets resolved. Ugh. He presents a false dichotomy between 'successful scientists who never mention unfairness of life' and 'unsuccessful scientists who mention unfairness'. Trying to silence people into not mentioning unfairnesses by making them think that can't mean they are/become successful. So easy to see through his strategy.

Yes, I am *also* a successful female scientist. And I *do* mention unfairness of life and being robbed of opportunities. (This includes mentioning unfairnesses to men by the way, which has been my main interest in the past as I like that topic.) I'm not afraid of being presented as less successful by James Cooper because I do talk about biases and problems. For I'm still the same successful scientist no matter what he thinks.
James Cooper (June 15, 2020 11:35 AM)
I'm not uncomfortable listening to people talk about how unfair life is, Mama; I just find it boring and prefer to discuss other topics. Most of us learned early on that life is unfair. Most of us, especially males who love science, have been picked on, bullied, disparaged, etc. I eventually accepted it for what it was and moved on. I'm not trying to silence anyone. I don't condone censorship. That's where I disagree with Yikes and that's where I disagree with you.
John A. Budny (June 13, 2020 1:46 PM)
The real "horrible experience" was the rejection of the principle of meritocracy. As you stated, merit, as judged by an increase of epistemic value, is a "harmful view". How is that so? Let me see if I got this right: We need to replace a demonstrated contribution to a knowledge base with biologic traits and characteristics. Is that correct? Do you have evidence that your suggestion works? The references you note, both of individuals from social media and literature citations, are opinion-laden and fact-impoverished. (BTW, citing a reference doesn't make it factual or give the matter credibility). Indeed, destroying meritocracy is a "horrible experience" because it is the most sinister form of prejudice: sinister because it uses the exact process that you claim to abhor and prejudice because it rejects individuals of accomplished merit, without regard to their biologic traits and characteristics, who have demonstrated their contribution to the epistemic value. This is what you are saying; is this what you really mean?
Luciano D'Agostino (June 12, 2020 3:01 PM)
In any case, I believe that C&EN can concede him the given name under the photo, not only the family one. Please.
István Ujváry (June 13, 2020 2:33 AM)
Nomen est omen...
How to (scientifically) determine 'gender' and 'race' according to Hostra et al. in the PNAS-paper cited above by Laura Howes:
"Main Covariates. The ProQuest dissertation data do not contain direct reports of student gender and race characteristics, but we identify the degree to which their name corresponds to the race or gender reported by persons with particular first (gender) and last (race) names. We compiled datasets from the US censuses (38) to predict race and from the US Social Security Administration (39) to predict gender. We matched these to data on n = 20,264 private university scholars between 1993 and 2015. The private university data contain race and gender information alongside scholar names, which allows us to train a threshold algorithm to estimate race and gender based on names. Using these thresholds, we classify advisees in the ProQuest dissertation data into one of three race categories and to assign a gender (40)."
BTW: Has any forum, including CEN, which is the weekly journal of ACS of which Tomas Hudlicky is most likely a member of, approached the controversial essay's author regarding his ostracism?
John A. Budny (June 15, 2020 11:45 AM)
RE: The "Methods" procedure in the PNAS paper by Hostra et al. cited above by Laura Howes to which you referred: Is a name such as "Lynn Smith" a black or white (wrt race) male or female (wrt to gender)? I know people that are both black and while with name of Smith and likewise, both males and females with the name of Lynn. Secondly, is not the process you quoted that was used in the PNAS paper a prejudicial practice because it presupposes a conclusion based on race and gender? When we've completed the PNAS slicing-and-dicing process based on race and sex criteria, how in the world are we going to deal with those individuals that are ambidextrous once we extend the segregation to right-handed or left-handed individuals - Oops, did I commit a faux pas by listing right-handed before left-handed? The nonsense can continue, but what does it have to do with advancing chemistry? The problem goes away if the single criteria of "merit" (quantifiable contributions to understanding chemistry) is used? Mother Nature - OMG! another faux pas? - should I have said "Father Nature"? - take you pick, if the Thought Police will let you - Whoever Nature doesn't really care if you are black or white, male or female, left-handed or right-handed, part your hair on the left or the right, bla, bla, bla . . . She/He guards her/his secrets equally from all! So if you uncover any of tightly guarded secrets, you are to be rewarded.
István Ujváry (June 14, 2020 1:22 AM)
To Yikes: You have clearly failed to read let alone understand my quote on 'similis simila gaudet' that requested demonstrative examples:
"It's been demonstrated that people form groups with, and promote those within the group, who are most like them. People are more willing to take chances on and support people who are like them."

Please scroll up and read the comment again.
István Ujváry (June 14, 2020 1:29 AM)
To Laura Howes:
Is Hudlicky a member of ACS? If yes, he should have been interviewed for your article.
BTW: I ordered his 2007-book last week:
https://www.wiley-vch.de/en/areas-interest/natural-sciences/chemistry-11ch/organic-chemistry-11ch8/methods-synthesis-techniques-11ch81/the-way-of-synthesis-978-3-527-32077-6
John A. Budny (June 15, 2020 12:33 PM)
Requesting C&EN interview Hudlicky is an excellent suggestion. Such an interview accomplishes five extremely important objectives because it gives:
1. Hudlicky the freedom of the voice that was taken from him by the editorial management of Angewandte Chemie;
2. The rest of civilization an opportunity to hear what Hudlicky said so we can disagree or agree with him and by-pass the decision made for us by Thought Police from Angewandte Chemie and Brock University;
3. Angewandte Chemie the opportunity the criteria for peer review for Opinion, Editorial, and Commentary pieces that appear in the journal or how does peer review of an opinion work;
4. Angewandte Chemie and Gregory C. Finn, Academic Provost and Vice-President of Brock University the opportunity to explain and defend their anti-intellectual stance;
5. C&EN the opportunity to demonstrate that they practice and encourage seeking truth, practicing journalism the way it should be executed and respecting the intellect of its readers by allowing them to make up their own minds.
At a bare minimum, the readers of C&EN, deserve a follow-up article with an explanation why the process of intellectual query was abandoned by both Angewandte Chemie and Brock University, the very institutions within which the search for knowledge should not only occur but thrive, excel and be encouraged.
István Ujváry (June 14, 2020 1:36 AM)
Yikes, clearly you couldn't comprehend my comment. I was asking demonstrative examples in science of 'similis simula gaudet':
"It's been demonstrated that people form groups with, and promote those within the group, who are most like them. People are more willing to take chances on and support people who are like them."
Please scroll up, read and understand the comment.
Charles F. Heimerdinger (June 14, 2020 7:48 AM)
In her book "The Diversity Delusion" (see https://www.manhattan-institute.org/diversity-delusion) Heather MacDonald would argue that Tomáš Hudlický was silenced by "people who believe that human beings are defined by their skin color, gender, and sexual preference, and that oppression based on these characteristics is the American (and by extension the Western) experience. argues that the root of this problem is the belief in America’s endemic racism and sexism, a belief that has engendered a metastasizing diversity bureaucracy in society and academia. Diversity commissars denounce meritocratic standards as discriminatory, enforce hiring quotas, and teach students and adults alike to think of themselves as perpetual victims."

Whatever happened to the disclaimer, "The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Angewandte Chemie,. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything."?

I'm glad that Tomáš Hudlický has not buckled under pressure from PC crowd and stands by what he wrote.
István Ujváry (June 14, 2020 9:49 AM)
The blog cites and gives a link to a recent PNAS paper by Hofstra et al who think "that students from underrepresented minority groups innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions." When looking at the Materials and Methods section one finds the origin of the 'main covariates' the authors used to assign sex and race:
"The ProQuest dissertation data do not contain direct reports of student gender and race characteristics, but we identify the degree to which their name corresponds to the race or gender reported by persons with particular first (gender) and last (race) names. We compiled datasets from the US censuses (38) to predict race and from the US Social Security Administration (39) to predict gender.'
Nomen est omen?
Elmer Homero (June 15, 2020 12:23 PM)
For those who are interested in knowing what everyone talks about, but they themselves do not know what they are talking about, here is the article from Professor Hudlický:
https://sci-hub.tw/downloads-ii/2020-06-05/1b/10.1002@anie.202006717.pdf
It is a shame one has to go "underground" to read someones published and honest opinion. What is offensive are the denigrating comments and censorship from Chemie.

As a minority myself I have been discriminated against, I know how it feels, being excluded is enraging. But for the same reason, I agree with Prof Hudlický when he states ""preferential treatment for one group leads to disadvantages for another". In academia specifically, there are no positions for everyone, only 10% of postdocs becomes a professor. If you "include" someone because of race or ethnic background, you are excluding someone because of race or ethnic background. And now thanks to that forced inclusion, those benefited are seen as chosen not because they deserve it, but because of their group belonging.

Universities in the US are driven by a mercantilistic approach, they take a significant percentage of the grant money obtained by their researchers. Money for "diversity" is for grabs too, so they have to play the game. But of course that money only applies to US nationals for long term faculty (permanent residents/citizens). On top of that they have to show some racial quotas to prevent investigations from the Dept. of Justice.

If US universities really cared about diversity and not just money and compliance, then they would apply that "justice" to non-resident graduate students and postdocs. Instead most foreign grad students and postdocs come from a couple of Asian countries, in detriment of real diversity. Very few visa holders from Latin American countries for instance. But, "oh well they are not 'Americans'", those they can discriminate, no money or fines there.
Paul Eckler (June 17, 2020 1:24 PM)
Why is this subject controversial? I think there is broad support for increased diversity in STEM. It is no surprise that those passed over by such policies object.
John A. Budny (June 17, 2020 7:24 PM)
It is controversial because for some, diversity is selective, especially diversity of thought.
Mark H McAdon (June 18, 2020 10:21 AM)
Even today, among us are married women Ph.D. chemists denied advancement on assumption that their work will be hampered by a need to prepare the dinner for the husband. We can do better.

Given a thimbleful of facts we rush to make generalizations as large as a tub.
 Gordon W. Allport, Harvard psychologist

If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them . . . We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.
 Sir Karl Raimund Popper, Austrian philosopher and professor

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
 Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dale Kruep (June 19, 2020 3:32 PM)
I am very proud of my colleagues who have pointed out that censorship is still censorship and it doesn't matter how vociferously you hide behind "political correctness". How is that not just another form of discrimination?
Yarda (June 23, 2020 7:20 PM)
"Strange world. One survived communism, and now it's here, too. " - Tomas Hudlicky comment about the reactions.

How comes that almost everyone clearly sees this backslash as pure censorship and yet few Neo-communists got the power to withdraw the article and fire 2 senior editors ?

This is exactly what I lived for 30 years - free speech was not possible and if someone said something communists didn't like - he/she was fired and sometimes jailed. Do NOT be mistaken - this is pure CENSORSHIP called "political correctness" these days.

Fire all those who are suppressing freedom of speech !!
Arthur Snow (July 9, 2020 10:16 AM)
June 19, 2020
C&EN Editor-in-Chief
1155 16th St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Letter to the Editor:

The June 15, 2020, issue of C&EN page 4 presented a news concentrate about deletion of an essay by Tomas Hudlicky, first published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition - then a few days later removed. This essay was apparently reviewed, editorially approved and then, after criticism, retracted with the two editors responsible for its publication being suspended. The C&EN concentrate does not provide us with specific verbiage in this essay that some have objected to nor has it obtained statements on the matter from the two suspended editors. Hudlicky’s “feelings” are reported, but no direct quotation statements from him are given. In your signed editorial on page 3, you appear to agree with the criticism and go on to write that you will not repeat the view apparently expressed in the essay nor will you “bring up any of the data connecting diversity with scientific innovation.”
Over my 42 year career in chemistry I have found Hudlicky’s synthetic research very useful and found his insights very admirable. I would like to know exactly what he said about diversity and its connection with chemistry. It is a very important issue in today’s world. It appears to me that C&EN can play a vital role here. Many years ago C&EN occasionally published features under the Point and Counterpoint category. These features addressed controversial issues and were authored by primary proponents with direct statements of positions and rebuttals in the counterpoint section. An excellent example is the point-counterpoint article on the hydrogen economy in 2005. It was a great learning experience where we are given direct information from active participants on each side of an important issue and make up our own mind. C&EN, Angewandte Chemie, Science and Nature should NOT be trying to think for us by publishing only their interpretations.

Sincerely,

Arthur W. Snow
Kim chip (July 11, 2020 12:06 AM)
The editors are only saying the truth, i am a woman and I am not offended by this, it's true men and women are different, men excel in different things much more than women, and they are better most of the time. The Nazi are the ones who are objecting to the article, where is free speech? where is western civilization, diversity and inclusion are stupid ideas created by the evil Marxists liberals and communists,
citc (July 13, 2020 3:54 AM)
The arguments about free speech is irrelevant now. If someone does not want to publish your work, you can publish yourself on your own web site.

https://chemistryinthecity.neocities.org
Joe Atkinson (August 6, 2020 3:36 PM)
I have an electronic copy of Hudlicky's article if anyone wants it.

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