kanazawa and racism (take 2)

Remember this? When LSE professor Satoshi Kanazawa wrote a post asking why Black women were less attractive? So, LSE has completed its internal review and disciplinary hearing. The result? Kanazawa is not allowed to publish anything that isn’t peer reviewed for one year, and won’t be teaching any required courses at the school. And he has to write an apology. Their response, and Kanazawa’s apology, after the break. I’m not sure how I feel about the response. But I am glad, for the rest of us, that we don’t have to hear his idiocy for the next year.

 

Dr Satoshi Kanazawa – findings of internal review and disciplinary hearing

The internal review and formal disciplinary hearing into a controversial blog posting by Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, Reader in the Department of Management, at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has now been completed.

It has concluded that some of the arguments used in the publication were flawed and not supported by evidence, that an error was made in publishing the blog post and that Dr Kanazawa did not give due consideration to his approach or audience. Disciplinary action has been taken and Dr Kanazawa has written a letter of apology. Measures have also been put in place to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again. In particular, Dr Kanazawa must refrain from publishing in all non-peer reviewed outlets for a year. Further, he will not be teaching any compulsory courses in the School for this academic year.

On 15 May 2011 Dr Satoshi Kanazawa posted a blog entry on the Psychology Today website entitled “Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?”. The School received considerable criticism from LSE students, academics and members of the public about the blog article.

In response, the School appointed a committee of senior academics to investigate the blog posting and its impact. It was clear that a number of people had been greatly offended by the blog and for this Dr Kanazawa has apologised. The review and hearing also considered the quality of the research underlying the article. After examination of the blog and detailed discussion with Dr Kanazawa, the hearing concluded that some of the assertions put forward in the blog post were flawed and would have benefited from more rigorous academic scrutiny. The view was that the author ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence.

It was the opinion of the hearing that the publication of the article had brought the School into disrepute. During the internal investigation and at the disciplinary hearing Dr Kanazawa expressed regret for the offence caused by the article and the damage to the School’s reputation. The School has accepted that Dr Kanazawa has learnt from this experience and will not make the same errors in future.

Ends

Notes:

The letter of apology by Dr Satoshi Kanazawa to LSE Director Professor Judith Rees reads as follows:

Dear Professor Rees:

I am writing to express my sincere apology for the controversial post on myPsychology Today blog and the damage it has caused to the reputation of the School. I regret that the controversy surrounding its publication has offended and hurt the feelings of so many both inside and outside the School. The blog post in question was motivated entirely by my scientific curiosity and my desire to solve an empirical puzzle. It was not at all motivated by a desire to seek or cause controversy and I deeply regret the unintended consequences that its publication nevertheless had because of my error in judgment. I accept I made an error in publishing the blog post.

In retrospect, I should have been more careful in selecting the title of the blog post and the language that I used to express my ideas. In the aftermath of its publication, and from all the criticisms that I have received, I have learned that some of my arguments may have been flawed and not supported by the available evidence. In my blog post, I did not give due consideration to my approach to the interpretation of the data and my use of language.

The past three months have been most difficult for all concerned, and I would never want to relive the experience. I give you my solemn word that in the future I will give more consideration to the approach to my work and I will never again do anything to damage the reputation of the School.

Yours sincerely,

Satoshi Kanazawa

Reader

13 thoughts on “kanazawa and racism (take 2)”

    1. Yeah. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Can’t publish anything non-peer reviewed for a year? Weird. I mean… why a year? After a year what do you expect will be different?

      Also, I’m not so big on censorship. My view: if he’s so shameful that you can’t let him speak, why not fire him? If you’re not willing to fire him, what is the justification for censorship?

      I’m also uncomfortable about punishing “being wrong” scientifically. In part because eventually, we’ll all be “wrong”. Now… Kanazawa seems less interested in being right than in being contrarian/well-known. But still. I have, no doubt, written things on blogs that are wrong. Does that subject me to intervention from Columbia? Can we all be censored in our jobs for getting things wrong? Then we can never publish anything!

      Then again… there are different degrees of “being wrong.” He was not only monumentally wrong. He was racist. And incredibly sloppy.

      I’m not sure how I feel about this. Part of me thinks they should have fired him. Part of me thinks, if they didn’t, this response it’s appropriate. And perhaps goes to far.

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      1. He certainly is a racist (or a public academic figure who knows that controversy will give him more attention), but the wannabe lawyer in me asks: why can’t he, as an individual(not representing LSE), say what he wants? Also, given the controversy is there a decent peer review journal that would want to publish his stuff?

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  1. I think the punishment is rather light. Also, it’s a classic non-apology. Please note that Kanazawa mostly apologizes for the title of the blog post and the way in which it was written. He admits that his arguments may have been flawed–but that’s as far as it goes. I don’t believe for a second that he didn’t want to cause controversy. That’s the only reason someone writes an article like the one he wrote.

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  2. Ironically, the blog wasn’t peer-reviewed either. Does this mean he is free to make his claims as long as he doesn’t do it in actual reputable publications?

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  3. Academics abusing their titles to gain credibility for their bogus work is a serious problem, but I don’t know what to do about it. I would rather not have faculty fired for their non-academic writings, obviously.

    But there is a large (growing?) market for academic titles in non-academic settings. What if (and this hasn’t happened) a publisher gives me $100 to write an inflated blurb for a book, over the university’s name? More realistically, what if (and this definitely not happened) a foundation gives me $500,000 to write propaganda which they publish independently, using my affiliation as cover?

    Without the academic title these things would be worth much less. If you’re going to do that, you might reasonably be subjected to some scrutiny by the reputation-holder.

    Maybe our professional associations need to give us guidelines for this stuff, so that if the writing isn’t independently peer-reviewed — or doesn’t meet some standard — we have to disclaim our affiliations.

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  4. My opinion is that academics’ applauding this punishment is a devil’s bargain. When academics support carving out exceptions to academic freedom in instances like this where we are outraged by what people say, we lose our moral footing when academics who outrage people-we-don’t-like are attacked.

    Telling somebody they will be fired if they write any sort of op-ed or blog post in the next year–hell, can Kanazawa even tweet?–is inconsistent with what the academy and sociology are supposed to be for.

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  5. Aside from the censorship issue (which Jeremy nailed), I see two problems with the punishment.

    One, “no non-peer reviewed” outlets seems arbitrary, and ambiguous in practice. What about chapters in edited volumes? Bibliography entries? Book reviews? Can he comment on an article that’s published in a journal with a linked blog, given these comments can be scrutinized and rebutted by his peers? Can he comment on a paper that’s presented at a podcasted conference? Etc.

    On the flip side, Kanazawa — like many, many others — has been able to get work through peer review that “would have benefited from more rigorous academic scrutiny.” Heck, that describes most published papers, and at some level it’s the engine that drives scientific dialogue.

    Two, he can’t teach required courses for a year. I understand why LSE had to include this as part of the punishment, but, um, doesn’t it seem a tad like it’s setting up the wrong incentive structure? Say something offensive, and you don’t have to teach freshman comp next year! Say something really offensive, and you’re off the hook for the next decade!

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  6. When academics sign newspaper ads opposing or supporting wars or potential Supreme Court justices, the affiliations are always listed being for identification. This seems fair to me, and to remove the university home just makes it harder to know who the signers–or opiners are, to track down their work, and to know how to evaluate their opinions.
    Paul Krugman’s Princeton appointment–and Nobel prize–are mentioned whenever he opines because it identifies him and makes him more interesting. But we all know we can find Nobel winners and Princeton economists who disagree with him. And he’s comfortable writing about things that fall at least somewhat outside the area of his professional expertise.
    I have no reason to believe that my professional associations will offer guidelines that help me make better decisions to protect public discourse or my reputation than I would in the absence of such guidelines (sorry, Philip.)

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  7. The whole episode sounds like a case of “next time, you’ll get fired”. The year-length suspensions are just a demonstration of what it would be to work for SK without the benefits or teaching LSE students and publishing with the LSE affiliation. I don’t think (re: Shamus’ question) that the “year-off” sentence is meant to change his behaviour through 365 days of careful meditation. It is used as a threat for a more permanent sanction: getting fired. The last paragraph/sentence of the apology letter shows some acknowledgment of that (re: Jamy, the end of the letter is actually meaningful).

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