Here is his response,
Dear Dr. Graur and Dr. Moran,
Thanks for reading the commentary on my university’s communication page, hastily written for brevity and digestibility by me and our science communication officer, Lawrence Goodman. I was originally hoping the piece could focus on my latest research, but it turned into this sort of general Q&A chat. The commentary was written rather quickly and meant for a general audience perusing Brandeis research, so it is obviously not a peer-reviewed scientific publication.
I am well aware of both your reputations as fiery critics and experts of evolutionary biology, and you have somewhat of a following on the internet. Some of your earlier blog posts have been entertaining and even on point regarding how big projects like ENCODE have over-hyped the functional proportions of our genomes. So, it does NOT surprise me one bit that I would become your latest vitriolic target in your posts here, and here.
Could I learn more from you two about evolutionary biology theory? Indeed, I could. Can we revise our Q&A commentary to be more scientifically accurate while still being digestible to a general audience? Perhaps, if we have the time and I survive my tenure review, we may do so and take your input into consideration. Why respond and risk another snarky post from you guys? I could care less about your trivial blog critiques when I’ve received plenty of grants and paper rejections that cut much deeper into my existence as a young academic struggling to survive when the academic track has never been more challenging (<10% grant success rates at NIH, NSF, CIHR, etc).
I’m responding to ask that both of you reflect on the message your posts are sending to students and postdocs. As a young scientist, having a chat with my university PR rep, I have to now think twice about two senior tenured professors slamming my scientific credibility on your internet soapbox without a single direct email to me. How passive-aggressive!
Your message is saying that Academic science even less inviting to young scientists as it is, with faculty positions and grants falling way short of demand, and the tough sacrifices every young scientist is already making for the craft that we love. If we condone this type of sniping behavior, why would any young scientist want to learn and discuss with the older scientists of your generation?
The Science Blogosphere, Twittersphere, and the Open Data movements are the next generation of platforms for science communication, and I commend you two for being vocal contributors to these platforms quite early on. However, I also recently wrote a guest post on Bjorn Bremb’s blog arguing that for open data and discussion to work, we scientists need to uphold decorum and civility.
A direct email from you to me expressing your scientific concerns of our commentary would have been a better way to go. I am willing to stand corrected. Your blog posts, however, are disappointing and appear petty to me. Let’s all set a better example here for our trainees.
If you wish to post this response verbatim on your blogs, go ahead, since I had thought of posting this response on your blog’s comments section. But to follow my own advice, I’ll try a direct email to you first. And if I don’t hear back from you, I may then ask my friend Bjorn to help me post this on his blog.
Thank you for reading this till the end,
Nelson Lau, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor - Biology