“The board ‘clearly view this as me having done one too many somethings. Somehow, I’m a powder keg for them that they don’t like.'”
The Legal Insurrection team has been reporting on the big donors to several elite universities nixing future contributions over the response of those institutions to the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.
Our team has also noted student protesters are now experiencing some significant consequences to poorly thought-out demonstrations.
Now, there is news from the world of science, offering another data point that suggests the days of unrestrained and unpunished leftist lunacy in the world of academics are now nearing its much-needed end.
Pioneering life sciences journal eLife finds itself at the center of a white-hot furor after its governing board fired editor-in-chief Michael Eisen following his endorsement on social media of a satirical article expressing sympathy for Palestinians caught in the escalating violence in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
The decision, which was called for by some corners of the scientific community, and ignited a subsequent backlash in others, highlights disagreements among researchers about institutions’ restrictions on free speech when science and politics collide.
…On Monday, Eisen, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley who is Jewish, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he was being replaced “for retweeting a @TheOnion piece that calls out indifference to the lives of Palestinian civilians.”
In a statement posted to its website and emailed to eLife editors Tuesday, the journal confirmed the firing by the board, which is made up of representatives of eLife’s founding funders — the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society in Germany, and the London-based Wellcome Trust. But it suggested that the tweet in question was not the sole reason for Eisen’s ouster.
“Mike has been given clear feedback from the board that his approach to leadership, communication and social media has at key times been detrimental to the cohesion of the community we are trying to build and hence to eLife’s mission,” the statement said. “It is against this background that a further incidence of this behaviour has contributed to the board’s decision.”
Why the firing over the promotion of “The Onion” satire piece? What is being left out of the ensuing discussion is Eisen’s quote:
“Bingo,” he wrote in a response to The Onion link, titled “Dying Gazans Criticized For Not Using Last Words To Condemn Hamas.” In another post, he wrote, “The Onion speaks with more courage, insight and moral clarity than the leaders of every academic institution put together. I wish there were a @TheOnion university.” [Eisen, it should be noted, is himself Jewish.]
Eisen uses the term powder keg to describe himself.
Eisen’s changes to the journal’s publication strategy have also proved divisive. Eisen, who became editor-in-chief of eLife in 2019, pioneered a policy in which the journal works only with articles that have already been posted on a preprint server. If the journal decides to send an article out for peer review, it then guarantees it will publish it, and posts reviewer comments and a short editorial assessment of the work’s significance alongside the paper. eLife charges authors US$2,000 per review.
Several eLife editors resigned in protest over the policy, citing issues with Eisen’s willingness to listen to feedback and concerns over the journal’s reputation. Some in the community called for Eisen to be fired. “I have certainly not always responded in an ideal manner” to criticisms, Eisen admits.
“I’m not afraid of pissing people off,” he adds. The board “clearly view this as me having done one too many somethings. Somehow, I’m a powder keg for them that they don’t like.”
The journal’s statement says that the “board remains committed to eLife’s ‘Publish — Review — Curate’ model”.
Perhaps if Eisen had studied more chemistry, he would have realized that explosives can be unstable and destructive to those who misuse them.
Interestingly, now, there is suddenly a lot of concern about free speech in scientific academia.
Since Eisen was fired, at least five of the journal’s editors have said on X that they had resigned. Other scientists said they would stop participating in eLife events. a member of the nonprofit journal’s board of directors said he opposed the board’s actions. Other academics organized a petition letter protesting Eisen’s firing and saying it is having a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in academia.
Call me back when climatologists who disagree with the global warming pseudoscience are funded to do their research or when those epidemiologists who were reviled for challenging COVID-19 pandemic policies have their reputations restored.
— nadinbrzezinski 🇮🇱 🇺🇦 🇺🇸#OAF (@nadinbrzezinski) October 27, 2023
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