Biologist and science blogger Dr. Danielle N. Lee has been writing on the Scientific American blog network for over two years under the name DNLee, focusing on “urban ecology, evolutionary biology & diversity in the sciences.” Recently, she was approached by Biology Online to write a series of monthly articles under her blog name as the Urban Scientist. One of her first questions was, obviously, how much would she be paid?

When Biology Online explained that their guest bloggers were expected to write for free (or “for exposure”), Lee politely declined:

“Thank you very much for your reply.
But I will have to decline your offer.
Have a great day.”

But rather than accepting this response at face value, Biology Online reportedly replied, “Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?” [READ MORE]


Saying no thank you & getting called a Wh***

"I was invited to Guest Blog post for a Life Science blog. I asked about the process, expectations and compensations. They responded. I said no.
The Blog Editor then called me a whore.
This is my response.”

Scientific American took down her blog response, I thought I would help share it here


An editor for a science website contacts a black scientist about blogging for his site. She asks for more details and inquires about how much it pays. He says they don’t pay. She thanks him and declines his offer. He then asks her whether she’s an urban scientist or an “urban whore”.

Full read + her response video here.

I was trapping small mammals on corn fields just off of a rural road. Each time, I would have to explain that I had permission to be there (provide name of land owner), who I was, what I was doing (often having to show them the animals I had in hand to prove it), and wait. Wait for the call-in and confirmation.

After so many visits, one cop eventually said he’d leave a note with dispatch so that they would stop responding to calls about me. He asked if I was wearing a hoodie; and I laughed because, yeah, I was.

Because Scientific American took down her blog post, I’m going to help spread it by reblogging a copy of it here

wachemshe hao hao kwangu mtapoa

I got this wrap cloth from Tanzania. It’s a khanga. It was the first khanga I purchased while I was in Africa for my nearly 3 month stay for field research last year. Everyone giggled when they saw me wear it and then gave a nod to suggest, “Well, okay”. I later learned that it translates to “Give trouble to others, but not me”. I laughed, thinking how appropriate it was. I was never a trouble-starter as a kid and I’m no fan of drama, but I always took this 21st century ghetto proverb most seriously:

Don’t start none. Won’t be none.

For those not familiar with inner city anthropology – it is simply a variation of the Golden Rule. Be nice and respectful to me and I will do the same. Everyone doesn’t live by the Golden Rule it seems. (Click to embiggen.)

The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.

My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

This is my official response:


It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..

After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed. This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) – it is still worth something. I’m simply choosing to waive that fee. But the fact is I told ol’ boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, ’cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection. And take heed of the advice on my khanga.

You don’t want none of this

Thanks to everyone who helped me focus my righteous anger on these less-celebrated equines. I appreciate your support, words of encouragement, and offers to ride down on his *$$.


I was invited to Guest Blog post for a Life Science blog. I asked about the process, expectations and compensations. They responded. I said no.
The Blog Editor then called me a whore.
This is my response.

A great, concise speech.  Awesome points about being careful about where you want to get published, remembering you have the right to say no, and that what you do is your skill - even if it’s something like art or writing, that doesn’t mean people get it for free.  Even if you’re young or old, of any race or gender, that doesn’t mean people can consider you worth less to them.

But it also is a reminder - be courteous.  If you’re doing business things, be professional.  How you present yourself and how you treat others matters.

Biologist Danielle N. Lee blogs as “The Urban Scientist." She admirably strives to widen the audience for science and explain how the fundamental principles of science can be observed in any environment. A few days ago she received an email solicitation from Biology-Online.org, an ass-ugly advertisement-encrusted content aggregator site. “Ofek,” a “Blog Editor” at Biology-Online, wrote Ms. Lee and asked her to contribute blog posts as a “guest blogger.” Ms. Lee asked some polite questions — how often, and do you pay your content providers — and upon receiving the answers, very politely declined.

And then he called her a whore.  And then Scientific America handled it ineptly and made it worse.  And then Ofek apologized and got fired.

It must be hard to make any money on the internet outside of porn or scams, least of all in science writing, which our society doesn’t value. But that  doesn’t excuse the back-stabbing and low class behaviour.

When I wrote about my family, I was alright. The readership found me quirky, but generally harmless. When I wrote in general about my lab or professional issues, I was alright. That’s the fortunate thing about being pseudonymous. People can read you in any voice they choose. When I wrote about broader issues related to women in science, I ruffled more feathers but I still usually had the strong backing of the feminist scientists. The things that made people the most uncomfortable were the posts I wrote that contained experiences where the intersections of race and ethnicity could not be denied. And the times when I chose to write in Spanish? That’s when the cries were the loudest from some of the readers…

Why is she on this network?
She doesn’t write science
There’s no place here for a blog about someone’s personal life
She’s not a serious scientist

One of the most effective derailing techniques used against non-majority scientists on the internet is the insistence that they are not contributing serious science. That they are not serious scientists. That their contributions don’t belong with those of the serious scientists. That they don’t belong in the club. That, if they were serious scientists, they would conform their vernacular to the cultural norm and stick to posts “about science.”

But, science is a human endeavor and if one of the primary goals of Scientific American is to serve as a “powerful tool for forward-thinking readers“, then surely they must be committed to increasing the ability of everyone to participate in the endeavor.

I’ll be sharing my own Stories About Science - Tales of The Dark Side of Science with The Story Collider. This week,  Wednesday, December 4, I …

Especially considering the fiasco over at Scientific American about a month ago now, I hope that this will promote some awesome discussion and am very jealous I can’t attend. 

Hey Undergrads! Get funded to go to the Botany 2013 Meeting in New Orleans, LA!

PLANTS (Preparing Leaders and Nuturing Tomorrows Scientists) is now accepting application to cover the travel costs for 12 undergrads from underrepresented groups to attend the annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America. 

Here is a link to the online application form, which is due March 15. 

Please spread the word around!

via The Urban Scientist