Why Did This Top Science Journal Editor Expose A Blogger's Pen Name?

The pseudonymous Isis the Scientist had her name revealed after a confrontation on Twitter.

Henry Gee
Wikimedia Commons

If you're in the scientific field, or even if you're just a regular reader of, say, this site, you're probably familiar with Nature, one of the top scientific journals in the world. They're the publishers of Watson and Crick, for God's sake, which makes what happened last week a little troubling.

A senior editor at the journal, Henry Gee, revealed the real name of a science blogger who usually goes by the pseudonym Isis the Scientist. On Twitter, he wrote (and I'm redacting the name for Isis's privacy):

@drisis Hah! Nature boycotted by inconsequential sports physio [name]. Nature quakes in its boots.

People have since taken issue with 1) the fact that he didn't respect the privacy of a blogger, and 2) took a belittling, arguably sexist tone toward her. Isis has been critical of Nature _in the past, and Gee has since been defending the outing based on how she has used the _nom de plume "to spread hurtful untruths." (She's been critical of perceived sexism in the journal, something the publication again took heat for again recently after publishing a controversial letter on women in science.)

Isis took to her blog yesterday to talk about the issues:

So, while I am “ok”, were his actions “ok?” Of course not, and they give me pause. I have undoubtedly been vocal over the last four years of the fact that I believe Nature, the flagship of our profession, does not have a strong track record of treating women fairly. I believe that Henry Gee, a representative of the journal, is responsible for some of that culture. That’s not “vitriolic” and it’s not “bullying”. That is me saying, as a woman, that there is something wrong with how this journal and its editors engage 50% of the population (or 20% of scientists) and I believe in my right to say “this is not ‘ok’.” Henry Gee responded by skywriting my real name because he believed that would hurt me personally – my career, my safety, my family. Whatever. Regardless of the actual outcome, the direct personal nature of the attack is highlighted by its support from some that I “had it coming.. Henry Gee’s actions were meant to intimidate me into silence. He took this approach likely with the thought that it was the most powerful way he could hurt me. Nothing more. Although I am ok, there are some recent victims of outing behavior that are not. That’s frightening. To think that the editor of a journal would respond to criticism of his professional conduct regarding the fair treatment of women by attempting to personally injure and damage..

The tweet certainly comes off as personal, especially when Gee--also an occassional writer for _The Guardian_--must be used to at least some criticism. (In fact, some of those columns have definitely been criticized.) Regardless of intent, though, it doesn't make _Nature _look good to be doxxing people with (completely rational) criticisms about sexism. It makes them--or at least Gee--look like bullies.