Sam’s new blog

As some of you know I recently shut down the blog I posted under my alter ego, the Devil’s Neuroscientist (DNS), on which was arguing against the pervasive zeitgeist and zeal of the open science movement. It was meant as a humorous attempt to balance the scales by being deliberately hyperbolic and sarcastic. At the same time I wanted to discuss some of the assumed truths and potential dangers of the proposals about how to improve science. It did however become a bit exhausting to maintain this line of argument and having to constantly remind people that I am not in fact the Devil’s Neuroscientist. I made the big mistake not to create a separate Twitter account for this. Perhaps I should even have launched the blog anonymously, although I felt at the time that this would be too trollish.

Either way, I was exasperated and stressed out by the experience (and possibly overreacting…), especially after some tweets suggested that I was trolling (despite not being anonymous) and as to whether I was being sexist, simply because the Devil’s Neuroscientist was female. My impression is that the people asking about this had not even read my blog but it’s not for me to say. My wife always says that Twitter exists solely to ruin people’s lives and I can see this being the case at least for B-list celebrities and politicians. For me this was the sign that it was time to pull the plug.

I know that inventing fake women is not the solution to fixing the gender imbalance in science. In fact, this was how I got the idea in the first place: within a very short time span there were two completely independent incidents in which I was mistaken for a woman. One was by a journal which had me registered under the name “Shannon” (I must have in fact reviewed for this journal under this name without ever noticing…). The other instance was some emails from an admin person at my institution who kept referring to me as a “she”. It was then that I decided that it makes sense to make DNS a woman. For one thing this (and the fact that she used American spelling) was practical as it helped me separate our identities in my mind. However, I also felt it deliberately highlighted the fact that people far too often assume that someone participating in these kinds of discussions is male. The sad truth is that many women in science regularly receive emails assuming they are men. The fact that it somehow seems special or funny when the reverse happens to me is the true problem here.

Anyway, it has been my impression that many people seemed to enjoy DNS’ contributions to these debates. The other day I discussed what should happen next and decided that there should be a new blog with the same purpose. But this time the format will be different.  Posts will be anonymous and by many different authors. I haven’t quite formalised the organisational aspects yet but I will do so soon, after I finished some overdue real-world work.  I will email a number of people who may be interested in contributing but the invitation is open to anyone. Wherever we stand on these open science discussions, I believe the voices of many different DNSes should be great for the cosmic balance. So stay tuned…

In the meantime, this is my own new blog. Here every opinion will be my own, uncontaminated by any demonic possessions. I will also migrate the various posts I made previously about parapsychology research from my lab webpage because that isn’t meant to be a blog and I have long felt uncomfortable with the fact that my students and research fellows are thus associated with these posts without their direct consent (the old links will remain active though).

2 thoughts on “Sam’s new blog

  1. Sam – I’m a bit late in replying to this, but no one (to my knowledge) thought DNS was sexist “simply because the Devil’s Neuroscientist was female.” I did read many of your posts, and never thought to raise the question of whether DNS could ***possibly*** be perceived as sexist by some until the more elaborate descriptor “female American demon princess” appeared. Now, if you’re going to put forth such a persona as a known white male from the UK, it should not have come as a surprise that this might raise an eyebrow or two. But I am more schooled in the ways of alternate identities, of course…

    In my view, your observation that DNS has “been permanently banned from the plane of mortals” was due to an unfortunate self-imposed exile. I don’t think anyone wanted this to happen.

    At any rate, I wish you much success with The Neuroscience Devils, which has risen from the ashes like Satan’s Phoenix.


    1. Thanks for your comment. I had posted a little clarification but you were logged off at the time and I deleted it (there was no point for that post after I shut down the blog).

      What was the bit that raised your eyebrow? The word ‘princess’ or that I called her ‘American’? I had never hidden the fact that I was male (or my identity for that matter) and that the DNS character was female. I also always made it clear that she was female but that she was a demon who took hold of me in service of the Science Devil.

      I agree that the description was perhaps a bit hasty. I never really wanted her to be an American per se but she used US-spelling so it was easier to see if it’s me or her who is talking. At the time I wrote this sentence I thought saying she was American rather than “American-spelling” made more sense.

      I can see that the princess thing was ill-chosen perhaps. The phrase ‘demon prince’ is fairly widespread and I didn’t think much of it – since she was a woman that made her a princess.

      What annoyed me was not really the question but the manner it was done by a public tweet to the whole effing world. I only found out when a friend of mine alerted me to it – how about coming to me first? Might as well send me a mob to my home address. As I said in my post, my wife doesn’t like Twitter because she thinks it solely exists for ruining people’s lives. I actually had planned to use it only to receive news about studies etc. I was (and still am) very tempted to dial back my public profile because of this.

      This was followed by having to talk to people (not you) who had evidently never even read my blog about whether I was offending people. I definitely wasn’t wearing any half-naked cartoon babes on my clothes as far as I recall. (In fact I was probably wearing my wife’s pink bathrobe because it’s so comfy…). I wasn’t writing about a “woman’s experience of science” as was suggested (seriously, read the damn blog before jumping to conclusions). I was writing about the experience of a female demon who takes control of a male scientist’s body to write some critical (but hopefully entertaining) blog posts.

      You are right that this exile from the human world is self-imposed. Nobody told me to ban it but I got very exasperated by the whole thing. A lot of things came together that weekend. I had had one too many people conflating me with DNS which really pissed me off. I know it was probably naive of me not to suspect that this would happen but I thought I had tried so hard to delineate her and me – one way being that she was female!

      Also, for the record I am not a “UK male” but a legal immigrant (well, legal at least for another 6 weeks till the UK Independence Party win the election) in this country. I am white, male, straight, blue-eyed and (kind of) blond though and I am aware of the difference this makes.

      Anyway, thanks for your reply. I think the new blog could be a great project (and less stressful for me :P). It is a good thing to have come out of this debacle.


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