Sorry I disappeared for a couple days, there. I got a wadge of homework I had to deal with.
Because I can't resist flogging this particular dead horse, I'd just like to point out a few things:
The OSC letter came out some months after the PT comment I linked to, true. However, the only evidence cited by the OSC letters were the emails quoted, which were all -- as far as I could spot -- from 2004. As Coddington was working there, I think he would have known both the allegations made against the Smithsonian by Sternberg, and the content of at least a few of those emails; thus, his comments are relevant despite being made in Feb. 2005.
Sternberg claimed that he was moved twice, "without consultation, to inferior premises". According to Coddington, Sternberg was moved twice, the first time by prearrangement when all the RAs were being moved in a general office reshuffle, before the publication of the controversial paper
; and a second time by Sternberg's own request.
There is no evidence either way. Personally, I'm a bit skeptical of Sternberg's account, given his less than sterling record on truthfulness about being "fired" from the Proceedings
, but I leave that an open question. I would like to point out, though, that the claims he still has up on his website lack any form of documentary evidence, or even detailed description.
The NCSE advice to the Smithsonian, according to Elsberry, anyway, was "don't overreact, concentrate on the procedural and technical issues around the paper, and don't make the guy into a martyr." Somehow the OSC managed to spin that into something positively scandalous
"Eventually, they determined that they could not terminate you for cause and they were not going to make you a "martyr" by firing you for publishing a paper in ID. They came to the conclusion that you had not violated SI directives and that you could not be denied access for off-duty conduct. This was actually part of the strategy advocated by the NCSE. "
--I note, here, the paragraph in one of the emails, "One important thing to keep in mind, however, is the equal treatment of all RAs in the section. You must not impose more onerous restrictions on one particular RA than on other RA’s in the section [____]." You seem to have interpreted this as them preparing to restrict ALL the RA's privileges to get back at this guy. I had interpreted this as a statement that any special
privileges he had should be pulled, but that he shouldn't be restricted worse than any other RAs. Funny how we got such different angles on that....
(Incidentally, I've done a 6-month stint as a RA, and I have to say that unless the Smithsonian is really unusual, a RA wouldn't normally have a master key. A master key lets you into everyone
's office. I would question why an unpaid RA should *ever* have one! )
Anyway, back to the OSC letter. Another thing I would like to ask about -- about 2/3 the way through the letter, they quote a whole string of emails, the first of which talks about "tensions among the staff", and how it will be dealt with for the next 2 1/2 years, and the rest then dive into mostly a discussion about the peer-review issue. The OSC say, "In these e-mails they are continuing to explain why you should not be given access to the SI for the next '2.5 years.'" Eh? I didn't see that; since you are sympathetic to the OSC point of view, here, can you point me to what they got that from, specifically? But this is what I mean by "biased", in that they consistently put a spin on the emails which the emails largely don't bear.
I don't agree that the Smithsonian should have fully cooperated with an investigation by an organisation with no authority to do so, anyway. I know, it does
look bad. But it would have set a very bad precedent; it wastes their time and money, and would have opened the door to harassment "investigations" by every political special interest group which could claim an interest in anything they do. I can't think how they could afford that.
But finally (I'm about to stop flogging this poor beast, honest!) -- I would just like to point out that at the end of all the "persecution" and "hounding" which Sternberg (still!) claims on his website, he:
1. still has his keys,
2. still has an office at the Smithsonian,
3. still has full access to the crustacean collections,
4. and is still employed by the NIH in his original position.
So in terms of being "hounded out", he wasn't very, either before or after the OSC "investigation".
Don't get me wrong -- I've seen academic ostracism and "hounding" in action, and it can get __ugly
__, and it's often absolutely wrong, too. I just don't think that Sternberg faced anything unexpected or over-and-above what anyone else would have, or that he was even hit with anything particularly bad, or that he was targeted for his religious beliefs. I think he did face anger and a degree of ostracism because he behaved unprofessionally and brought an institution into disrepute -- and the poor quality of the paper at the center of all this is precisely
relevant to that. But he and the DI have played it up for maximum impact.
<i>Forte est vinu. Fortier est rex. Fortiores sunt mulieres: sup om vincit veritas.</i>