[Coral-List] politics and Coral-List moderation

Mike Jankulak mike.jankulak at noaa.gov
Thu Nov 17 14:45:00 EST 2016

We moderators have been watching the recent discussions on the list, as
well as the meta-discussions about whether those discussions are
appropriate. Additionally there has been some off-list discussion
seeking clarity about some of the questions that have been raised. So we
thought it might be helpful to make a public statement on the subject.

First of all, this is a US-Government-hosted list and that of course
informs the tenor and content of our discourse. Specifically it is not
acceptable for anyone to use the list as a lobbying platform, the
clearest example of which might be asking people to contact their
elected officials to persuade them to take action on some kind of
pending legislation.

Secondly, yes, we do read every message start to finish before approving
it, and we do on very rare occasions reject a message because of its
content. This might be because the argument has gotten a little too
heated, or the language a little too salty. It might be because we judge
someone has skated a little too close to the lobbying rule. It may be
that some hot-button topic has drifted so much that the discussion
cannot fairly be said to have anything to do with coral any longer. But
even in borderline cases we can usually find a middle ground, to suggest
edits that are voluntarily adopted, and most messages are approved for
posting in the end.

The current meta-discussion deals specifically with the role that
politics does, and should, play in our conversations. On this topic I
would say that any kind of 'no politics' rule would be
counter-productive and, in fact, harmful to the scientific discourse. It
is undeniable that the policies of the US Government (and others) have
great relevance to coral science, and the coming change in
administrations might be expected to have profound implications for
those policies and how they may be enforced. It is only natural that the
new administration would be the focus of discussion right now.

That being said, I would like for it to be stated clearly that it is
never appropriate to attack any person, be they someone on the list or a
politician, and certainly not based on their party affiliation, whether
stated or merely perceived. Spirited debate about a person's
on-the-record opinions or proposed regulatory actions is one thing.
Personal attacks are quite another thing and must not be tolerated.

The two areas where I might gently encourage restraint on the part of
our posters are (1) where discussions may be drifting to more purely
political matters and losing any relevance to corals, or (2) protracted
on-list meta-discussions about whether a particular conversation is
appropriate for the list. If you are genuinely concerned that the
mission and integrity of Coral-List is threatened by political themes in
our discussions then I would suggest contacting the moderators with
those concerns, rather than posting directly to the list.

You can send a message to the entire moderation team, including whoever
happens to be on-duty at the moment, using this address:

coral-list-owner at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

We love hearing from you! If you have questions about how we moderate,
or whether certain topics are appropriate for the list, please send them
along. At times when there seems to be a lot of uncertainty we may even
post a clarification like this one. Believe it or not our job is
actually easier the more our community tells us about how we're doing.

Before I end this I want to state for the record that the foregoing are
my own opinions only, I do not speak for the US Government or for all
Coral-List moderators. We all approach moderation subjectively and we
all make slightly different calls. But I think we'd all agree that
rejecting posts due to content is a thankfully rare circumstance and
something to be used as a last resort. Coral-List subscribers can be
passionate and opinionated but we also happen to be self-policing and
respectful of others in the vast majority of cases.

Mike J+, coral-list mod team

Mike Jankulak, Systems Administrator, University of Miami / CIMAS
NOAA / Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory
4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149 -- 305-361-4543

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