Nature mission (sic) statement

Maxine Clarke:

In printing the statement verbatim every week as we have done, making it clear when it originated, we have hitherto assumed that readers will excuse the wording in the interests of historical integrity. But feedback from readers of both sexes indicates that the phrase, even when cited as a product of its time, causes displeasure. Such signals have been occasional but persistent, and a response is required.

Suzanne Franks:

Who needs outright discrimination? It’s so much more pleasant and civilized to discriminate while pretending to be inclusive. It’s just one tiny step sideways, but in the right direction to deflect real and meaningful change. It’s just our small way of saying “patriarchy RULES!”

Chris Surridge:

I had always thought it was a disclaimer when quoting text letting me indicate that I know there is an error in the text but that I am quoting verbatim. Basically [sic] says “I didn’t make a mistake, the error is in the original”. Now it seems we can use it to indicate that we disagree with the original wording and are sure that the author would too if they were around to ask.

Bill Hooker:

So now at least I know what it is that I disagree with. I don’t think NPG should link to the 1869 statement, at least not without going through the modern version, as Nature (the journal site) does. I think the print journal should print the modern mission statement — with, if they want a nod to their impressive history, a comment to the effect that apart from updating sexist and exclusive language, not much has changed from the original (which is visible on our website, etc etc).

Suzanne Franks 2:

Well, I’m sorry, but much of my original critique remains unchanged. I don’t care if you have a nice new online mission statement. If you want to keep printing your old sexist one every week then contextualize it as a historical document and explain that it is sexist and outdated and was outdated at the time it was published and is included here only as another example of how women were explicitly excluded in the past. And contextualize it that way every time you print it, every week, not once in an editorial. That tiny little [sic] does not do the job. What it does is say “we know this is wrong but we don’t care, we are going to keep printing it anyway”. Continuing to print it uncontextualized each week says “we revere this bit of our history so much that we want you to read it every week. And we don’t really care all that much that it is sexist, ’cause we think it rocks so much!”
As I said in a comment, imagine the historical mission statement said “for scientific white men”. Would you still feel comfortable printing it every week? Would you feel that just inserting a little [sic] after it was a sufficient gesture to allow you to keep printing it unmodified? I’m guessing it’s less likely the answer would be yes.



2 responses to “Nature mission (sic) statement

  1. Thoughts:
    1. those aren’t Maxine’s words
    2. imo, problem #1 is that the editorial didn’t mention Nature’s current mission statement
    3. imo, problem #2 is that Nature doesn’t make sufficiently clear that the 1869 statement is a relic, a piece of history; you really shouldn’t be able to get to it with one click from any Nature site, but rather should have to go through the modern statement as at the link above.

  2. Hank Roberts

    For “scientific men” read “scientific bodies” …