NMR website posting Jan 2009

In Jan 2009, during the Israeli assault on Gaza, I posted an entry on a scientific mailing list serving scientists in the field of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance). The post may be read here.

Not surprisingly, the post generated many responses, both positive and negative. Some excerpts may be examined here: both positive and negative. The ratio of positive/negative responses sent to me personally was about 7:1. There were very few "non-polarized" responses, which is perhaps rather sad.

Many of the negative respondees were understandably concerned about the "subversion" of a scientific mailing list for "political purposes". I do understand this concern, and would normally have a lot of sympathy with this argument, but in this particular case, the extreme nature of the events (for example, the showering of one of the most densely populated regions of the world with white phosphorus, an extremely nasty chemical weapon) seems to justify some minor disruption of business-as-usual. In addition, very few respondents had objected to the appearance, on the same mailing list, of a prior "political" posting, in that case proposing that US scientists lobby their congressmen for increased funding. The difference in reaction suggests that it was the content of my post, rather than its political nature, that provoked the objections.

The moderator of the list defended the dissemination of my post as follows:

Malcolm's message is related to science and we are scientists. It is political and we are human beings. I agree that if this list was to become a political forum, it would be inapropriate as there are better places for that. But a political / scientific email every once in a while reminds us that we, scientists, are not totally removed from the rest of the world, not only as humans but even as scientists: whether we like it or not, we also play a social and political role in society and we can / should question it.

In further defense of my use of the NMR mailing list I cite the many positive reactions, many of which came from people I do not know and could not have contacted personally.