Monday, November 3, 2014

AAAS CEO Alan Leshner speaks publicly at last, but sidesteps main concerns about terminations at Science

Yesterday the Columbia Journalism Review posted an online story about recent upheavals at Science, sparked by the abrupt termination of four employees in September. The story quotes the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Alan Leshner--who is also the Executive Publisher of Science--at length about the "digital first" strategy which provided the justification for letting colleagues with up to 23 years service to the organization go with little or no notice. I am also quoted extensively about the three months' leave of absence I had taken in protest of these terminations.

It's good to see Leshner acknowledge, at least tacitly, that the public (and especially the scientific community) has a right to know more about what goes on inside the AAAS, a nonprofit membership organization with a democratically elected Board of Directors (at least in principle.) But his explanations fall flat because they do not explain why the terminations had to be carried out in such brutal fashion; and very importantly, his statements that the AAAS attempts to retrain employees to meet new challenges are off the mark, at least in this particular case. None of the four employees were offered such retraining as far as I and other members of the news staff are aware.

Let's hope that Leshner's claims about AAAS human resources policies will actually be put into wider practice in the future.

Update: Since my leave of absence has accomplished more than I expected it to, as the CJR reporter explains in her story, I will be coming back to work a month early, ie November 28.

Apology: to Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt, for originally saying in the headline of my October 20 post that she had "slandered" the news staff and its reporting abilities. I have since changed that to the more appropriate term "dissing." I am still waiting, however, for Marcia to apologize to the entire news staff for accusing us of making false or inaccurate statements about the circumstances of the termination of the four colleagues.