Help Stop Another Academic Outrage Mob

Lee Jussim
Dec 22, 2019 · 4 min read

I just discovered ANOTHER academic petition attempting to censor a published paper for nothing but concocted empty “reasons” that amount to little more than “the work offended us.”

The petition was directed to the editor of the journal (ENeuro) and the head of the professional society that sponsors the journal (Society for Neuroscience).

Below, you will find an open copy of a slightly edited email I sent to both of them in support of publishing the article and opposing retraction on grounds other than egregious errors (vaguely alleged without substantiation) or data fabrication (not even alleged).

Dear Drs. Bernard & Everitt,

I strongly oppose the call for retraction of this article:

A New Theory of Gender Dysphoria Incorporating the Distress, Social Behavioral, and Body-Ownership Networks

by the signatories of this petition:

Call for eNeuro to retract ‘gender dysphoria’ theory paper

The article has undergone peer review, and the signatories do not identify any actual errors; nor do they even allege data fabrication. This petition is just the leading edge of censorious academic outrage mobs seeking not to refute research that offends them, but to denounce and blacklist such work.

You are now the frontline in the defense of academic freedom. If the signatories have an objection to the paper, they are welcome to attempt to publish a critique. They have neither credibility, nor justification, to call for a retraction.

Publication Decision-by-Outrage Mob is not how we should be conducting ourselves.

Lee Jussim

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If you look up the authors of the censorious petition, you will discover that none actually have a shred of scientific accomplishments regarding transgender issues or gender dysphoria (the topics of the paper they targeted for retraction). The arrogance of the effort is only exceeded by its shameless self-righteousness.

If you oppose censorious mobs of outraged academics seeking to suppress science that they dislike, disagree with, or otherwise find offensive, I strongly encourage you to contact those to whom the Retraction Petition was addressed.

The editorial page of the targeted journal, ENeuro is here; and the home page of the targeted professional group, the Society for Neuroscience is here. It is easy enough to track down contact information from those pages, if you are so interested. I provide information on how to contact me at the end.

The best way to fight these outrage mobs is to stop them in their tracks. The best way to do that is to contact their targets and encourage them to not cave or kowtow to such mobs. Their intended targets need to hear from you.

I would be delighted for you to post a comment, but, before doing so, please read my Guidelines for Engaging in Controversial Discourse. Short version: Keep it civil (no insults or ad hominem, no profanity or sarcasm), brief, and on topic.

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I am Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Rutgers Psychology Department, although of course these views are mine and mine alone and do not reflect those of either my Department or University. You can find out more about my academic work here; I also am a regular blogger at Psychology Today.

If you are interested in this type of problem, I have covered a rising tide of academic outrage mobs in other essays at Psychology Today, including my most recent blog in which an academic was the target of an outrage mob for having the unmitigated gall to oppose required diversity statements; this one, on how a scientist was mobbed and actually lost a consulting position when her published scientific article on a topic similar to the present essay was targeted by academic and other activists, and this broader essay that identifies a slew of such incidents. My most data-informed essay on this problem appears here.

You can also follow me on Twitter, where I comment on issues like this one, as well as critically evaluate social science scholarship. If you have trouble tracking down email contact, Twitter is often a good way to ping me.

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