Recent events in the online science community have been difficult to process. I think it’s important to create a safe environment, one where members don’t have to fear harassment – from peers or from leaders – and one where people can expect to be treated with respect. I’ve been taking the time to listen and learn this week, and beyond that statement, I’m not sure that I have much that’s necessary to add at this point.
But something has been bothering, something that extends well beyond recent events, and for me, it’s important and necessary to say it. I have tremendous respect for people in this community, and I love the access to unique perspectives. However, I’m unsettled by some of the outrage at dissenting opinions – different approaches, other perspectives, different reactions, other concerns. Yet in some corners, it seems that if you and I don’t agree completely on every point, then I’m completely wrong, a perpetuator of the status quo, an enemy of the cause. The backlash is swift, vehement, intimidating. When I see this type of response in action, I shut down.
In any situation, I am allowed my reactions – and I try to give the same consideration to others. But I am responsible for my actions, for the things I do and the things I say to other people – and sometimes I stumble. In my experience, few situations and solutions are clearly, absolutely, immediately defined (at least when it comes to those involving people). There are central points of clarity (e.g. harassment is unacceptable). But our personal reactions will vary greatly (shock, anger, confusion, sadness?). We will likely have different perspectives on how to move forward; this is true for individuals but especially for proposed community actions. I think the community benefits from hearing diverse voices, to discuss important issues and, as necessary, arrive at a consensus for dealing with them. Yet I wonder if the hostility quiets some of those voices – it certainly has mine.