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).