The journal Science discusses positionality statements

November 16, 2023 • 9:15 am

Science magazine (you can call it a “journal” if you wish) recently published a surprisingly objective article on “positionality statements,” statements about the author’s background, race, gender, and views that are often included these days along with scientific papers. (Science is usually woke and often doesn’t present both sides of an issue.)

Positionality statements are often quite detailed, intended to give readers an idea of where the author is coming from, even though that’s supposed to be irrelevant in judging science. Another reason quoted in the article is that writing such statements somehow makes the author aware of his or her biases or unconscious reasons for doing the work, or to reflect on what future work they should do given their background.  To my mind, that’s weird, as authors should already know that, and there’s no reason to make public your thoughts on these issues.

I’ve written about positionality statements before. Below are three examples I gave, and you’ll also want to read Sally Satel’s article at Persuasion, “Focus on the research, not the researcher.”  There Satel suggests that positionality statements may actually be inimical to science as they may condition editors to accept papers out of sympathy, may themselves be biased, and of course violate the dictum that you judge science by, to quote a famoous man, the content of the paper, not the color of the author’s skin.  However, Satel says that in one restricted area such statements may be justified:

 . . . . positionality statements do make more sense in some narrow contexts. According to Jukka Savolainen, a Professor of Sociology at Wayne State University, positionality statements probably originated in ethnographic research. When we spoke, he told me that “it makes sense to be concerned about the characteristics of individual scholars doing field work when they are the only instrument of data collection and interpretation.”  That is, when a researcher is working alone in a foreign culture, it may be worth illuminating possible sources of inadvertent bias.

But of course such statements are widespread in many fields beyond anthropology. None of the three statements I give below are from such papers:

So, here we go (the posts will lead you to the original papers):

From this post:

I (first author) was raised as a Muslim immigrant-origin girl in a small Iowa town and constantly aware that my family was “different.” Having been an educator in PK-12 contexts, my goal in studying developmental psychology was to make the process easier for other youth who, like myself, were intersectionally minoritized and privileged because of religious, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and/or other identities or experiences. I was unprepared for the microaggressions embedded in developmental scholarship rooted in non-inclusive modes of knowledge production that resisted the nuances of the diverse individuals and groups I sought to better understand. . . . I seek to place myself in relationships and contexts to learn and engage in a co-conspiring, co-liberatory inquiry stance.

From another post, a statement about several authors:

Ash T. Zemenick is a nonbinary trans person who grew up with an economically and academically supportive household to which they attribute many of their opportunities. They are now the manager of the University of California Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, in Truckee, California, and are a cofounder and lead director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States. Shaun Turney is a white heterosexual transgender Canadian man who was supported in both his transition and his education by his university-educated parents. He is currently on paternity leave from his work as a non–tenure-track course lecturer in biology. Alex J. Webster is a cis white queer woman who grew up in an economically stable household and is now raising a child in a nontraditional queer family structure. She is a research professor in the University of New Mexico’s Department of Biology, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States. Sarah C. Jones is a disabled (ADHD) cis white queer woman who grew up in a supportive and economically stable household with two university-educated parents. She is a director of Project Biodiversify, and serves as the education manager for Budburst, a project of the Chicago Botanic Garden, in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Marjorie G. Weber is a cis white woman who grew up in an economically stable household. She is an assistant professor in Michigan State University’s Plant Biology Department and Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, in East Lansing, Michigan, and is a cofounder and director of Project Biodiversify, in the United States.

And one given by Sally Satel in her article below:

Consider the positionality statement by the authors of “Low-income Black mothers parenting adolescents in the mass incarceration era: The long reach of criminalization,” which appeared in the American Sociological Review in in 2019:

“Both authors are middle-to upper-middle-class white women—one is a mother, the other is not. A commitment to antiracist, intersectional, and feminist principles guides our research efforts, and we conducted this work with an awareness of the politics, dangers, and limitations of affluent white academics writing about the lives of low-income Black Americans.”

So what we see above is both self-flagellation and virtue signaling, but does it help you assess the science? Not to my mind.  The papers are already of a woke tenor, and to learn that the authors are themselves engaged in confessional identitarianism doesn’t help you judge them better. All you can say is, “Yes, the authors are minoritized or aware of their status as outsiders,” but does that help you judge the results?  Nope.  Maybe it helps the authors to examine their own viewpoints, as the Science article below avers, but they can do that on their own time. It needn’t be splashed all over a paper. As Sally noted:

Currently, only one journal I could find—the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering—requires positionality statements. Others, like the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, “encourage” but don’t require them.

Click on the screenshot below to access the Science article, which you can also find archived here:

Here are the “pros” as quoted in the article,:

“It’s an invitation to think more broadly about what your role as a researcher is in the work that you’re trying to understand,” says Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora, a biological anthropologist at the University of Veracruz. She published a 2021 paper in the American Journal of Human Biology arguing that reflecting on one’s positionality can pay off in future work, helping researchers address inequities such as “parachute research,” unchecked power dynamics, and gaps in inclusivity. If you’re an astronomer, for example, think about where your telescope is, she says. “Are you part of that community? Is that telescope put there with knowledge of the people who call that place their land?”

To that I’d say, “okay, fine: keep it to yourself and, if you need to say it, publish it elsewhere”. This isn’t anywhere near Satel’s exception above, as your positionality doesn’t affect your astronomical results.


Positionality statements also benefit readers, supporters say, peeling back the curtain on researchers’ decisions that would otherwise remain invisible—from what questions they pursue to how they interpret their data. “It’s not just that we want to know about people’s socially constructed identities. That’s not the point,” says Julie Martin, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineeringwhich has required positionality statements since July 2020. “The point is how do those and your worldview affect the decisions you make in the research?”

Again, this has nothing to do with the published research itself, which reflects what’s done after the author has winnowed down the questions. And really, is the author the person to judge this question? Doesn’t a therapist need to help with this? At any rate, let those authors ponder it on their own, for this is a subjective reflection on behavior, not science.

Please, sir, can I have one more?:

As for [Genevieve] Wojcik, she says reflecting on her positionality has helped her realize her identity is inextricably linked with her work, enriching it and shaping the directions it takes—including, for example, her work to design genetics studies to be more inclusive of multiracial individuals. “I’ve sort of come into the notion that who I am can actually make my work better and lead me to question things that hadn’t been questioned before.”

Here’s Wojcik’s positionality statement:

Genevieve L. Wojcik (she/her): I am unsure as to how I identify, as my experience as a biracial individual in the USA has largely been defined by what I am not, instead of what I am. My mother immigrated here from Taiwan and my father’s parents from France and Poland. My research interests in genetic epidemiology for diverse, and specifically admixed, populations have been partially motivated by my background to ensure that discoveries will also benefit my loved ones, whether family or friends, with increased urgency for my multiracial children.

This is again a statement about motivation that, while perhaps Wojcik was insufficiently reflective to know this stuff before she wrote it out, has no bearing on the paper.

And the cons:

But others question the statements’ value. “I find it amazing that [publishing positionality statements] is becoming so widespread without any evidence that it actually achieves what it sets out to achieve,” says Patricia Nayna Schwerdtle, who studies global public health at Heidelberg University and coauthored a February critique of the practice in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Indeed. And it might even be counterproductive, as Satel notes above. One of the worst effects of this tsunami of wokeness is that it encourages one to judge science by immutable characteristics of people or their irrelevant views on politics or ideology. Below you can see a study in progress that’s designed to find out whether positionality statement achieve what they’re designed to do, which is almost invariably to increase the diversity of scientists or encourage new ideas. But that study seems to have serious problems.

From my friend Anna, quoting a paper on which there were many coauthors, including me:

But some researchers think airing this information in the literature violates a central tenet of science: that a researcher’s work should be judged independently of who they are. Spotlighting a scientist’s identity represents a “bizarre turn back to [the] Dark Ages,” says Anna Krylov, a chemist at the University of Southern California who wrote an April critique alongside 28 co-authors in the Journal of Controversial Ideas. “It was not a good time when people were treated by their attributes and not by their achievements, not by their merit,” Krylov adds.

Some of the many authors of our paper have discussed positionality statements via email, and I have to say that there was no sentiment in favor of them. But what do you expect from a group of authors making the case that science should be judged by its merit alone?  Some of us amused ourselves by confecting positionality statements that we would have appended to our own JCI paper. Here’s mine:

“Jerry A. Coyne is a lugubrious old white Jewish male, descended from Ashkenazi ancestors, who doesn’t think this paper has a chance of being published.”

Positionality statements encourage readers to judge papers not by their merit alone, but by characteristics that distort your judgements about the merit of the research, and that merit is really the way science should be judged.  Even if your astronomical results come from using a telescope that indigenous people claim sits on their land, this affects the scienfitic results not one whit. Issues like politics, indigenous rights, and so on, can be argued out in other places, but shouldn’t pollute the scientific literature, since they’re ideological and political questions.

Another “con”:

Another concern is that positionality statements serve only as virtue signaling and gloss over deeper issues, such as the reproducibility crisis in science. They seem like a “last ditch effort before you publish your paper,” Nayna Schwerdtle says. Instead, researchers should strengthen upstream solutions, such as open science and participatory research, she argues.

Well, the reproducibility crisis is not something that needs addressing in a given paper, since whether or not a paper’s results are reproducible depends on other papers yet to be published, or on a literature review.

One of the biggest arguments against positionality statements is that there’s no evidence that they accomplish anything save for the authors’ statement that it made them reflect their motivations, something I largely doubt. Here’s what the new article says:

At least one team of researchers is studying whether these statements have their intended effect. Rose Oronje, a researcher at the African Institute for Development Policy, and her colleagues at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are evaluating the results of publishing reflexivity statements—a similar practice that encourages researchers engaged in global collaborations to consider how their work acknowledges the communities involved.

The team is reviewing published statements in global health journals and interviewing authors and journal editors to gauge whether this measure at the time of publication has the power to shift researchers’ mindsets and lead to more equitable practices. Publication guidelines can provide powerful incentives for scientists to effect systemic change, Oronje says. “When you start there, it becomes very easy for us to want to do it, because we want to publish.”

Now tell me, given that this involves self-report about whether one’s mindset shifts in result to woke and subjective statements, whether there can be any result other than “yes, these statements work!”? Given the history of research that goes against what “progressives” want, like the retraction of a Nature Communications paper showing that female-female mentorships may actually hurt women’s scientific careers, I’m not optimistic.  And how can you judge whether positionality statements create more equitable practices given that the Zeitgeist itself is pushing “more equitable practices”.  There’s a correlation/causation issue here that will be almost impossible to resolve. How do you separate the temporally increasing trend towards practices that progressives consider “equitable” from the effect of  positionality statements? I don’t see how.

In the end, science should be judged by merit alone, not by race, gender, politics, ancestry, sexuality, or family history of the scientist. In a few cases, which fall under the Satel Exception, as when you’re doing work that could be thought exploitative, as in anthropology or collecting organisms in other countries, it may be useful (and sometimes required) to show how you complied with required or recommended practices. And maybe—just maybe—you can mention inadvertent biases or problems with the research.  But those are very restricted, much less subjective, and often aren’t even positionality statements!

Positionality statements are likely to be biased and self-serving. I have to say that if they’re of any value to me in science, it’s that when I see them I tend to avoid reading the paper. If you want to indulge in narcissism or self-flagellation, leave it out of your paper, and do it on your own time!

But kudos to Science for publishing a pretty objective article on this issue.

32 thoughts on “The journal Science discusses positionality statements

  1. Today I was shocked to find that Elsevier is now asking its invited reviewers to fill out what they called an obligatory “DEI questionnaire” about the reviewer’s race, gender, etc after accepting the review invitation but before giving access to the manuscript. They do give an option “I do not wish to disclose” for each question. But I found this extremely offensive, and also patronizing to minorities. It means they are (or will be) paying attention to a reviewer’s color or sexual preference when deciding on reviewers. They might as well ask what shirt pattern I prefer. The paper I was asked to review was about a purely mathematical issue. The article peer review process should be color-blind, blind to sexual preference, and blind to my preference for either plain or Hawaiian shirt patterns. Paying attention to these factors is patronizing and suggests deep racism on their part, as if they believed minority reviewers could not make it on their own merits.

    I wrote them a protest letter and retracted my agreement to review the paper.

      1. It only comes up in the review pages, but I’ll see if I can get it. Each question is on its own page and I did not continue past the first question.

    1. “I wrote them a protest letter”

      I missed this important part at first – well done. Very risky.

      My approach – not that it matters – focus on the epistemology – sort of refute it as emotion-based, lived experience / identity based – isolated from empiricism / Nullius In Verba.

      The gnostic wizard in power will love to read that – as will the untenured thesis advisor.

    2. I see now that I was overly harsh.They will not actually use the individual’s responses when choosing reviewers, but have a more generalized goal of “equity”. This still implies that they have goals that are not based on merit or content. Here is the text on the first page that appears after accepting a review assignment:

      Required Questions
      Please respond to any questions below and click Continue:
      Please click on the question below and Continue:

      * I accept the Publisher’s Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy and the Aries Privacy Policy.

      Diversity & Inclusion

      Help us establish evidence-based action plans and measure progress on diversity & inclusion goals toward greater equity in publishing and research. This data will directly inform our efforts across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate. For more information, see our FAQs.

      While these questions cannot be skipped, you may opt to answer “I prefer not to disclose”. Individual responses will not be visible or used when evaluating journal submissions.
      Click the link below before proceeding to the journal main menu:

      * Self-report your data to improve equity in research

      1. First question (Note that now they seem to be hedging a bit more on anonymizing the data):

        Elsevier is deeply committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive scientific community.
        Your responses to these 3 questions will help us establish action plans and measure progress towards greater diversity, inclusion and equity. This data may be used to improve diversity across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate. Your responses will not be visible or used when evaluating journal submissions. For more information, see our FAQs.
        With which gender do you identify most?
        Choose one option.

        Non-binary or gender diverse
        I prefer not to disclose

        1. “With which gender do you identify most?”

          Ooo – the “s” word must be provoking the writer’s uncontrollable eroticism, so they force the respondent’s thought upon a word from an occult doctrine from 1908.

          Makes sense.

      2. Second question:

        Elsevier is deeply committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive scientific community.
        Your responses to these 3 questions will help us establish action plans and measure progress towards greater diversity, inclusion and equity. This data may be used to improve diversity across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate. Your responses will not be visible or used when evaluating journal submissions. For more information, see our FAQs.
        What are your ethnic origins or ancestry?
        Select all geographic areas from which your ancestors first originated.

        Western Europe (e.g., Greece, Sweden, United Kingdom)
        Eastern Europe (e.g., Hungary, Poland, Russia)
        North Africa (e.g., Egypt, Morocco, Sudan)
        Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa)
        West Asia / Middle East (e.g., Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia)
        South and Southeast Asia (e.g., India, Indonesia, Singapore)
        East and Central Asia (e.g., China, Japan, Uzbekistan)
        Pacific / Oceania (e.g., Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea)
        North America (Canada, United States)
        Central America and Caribbean (e.g., Jamaica, Mexico, Panama)
        South America (e.g., Brazil, Chile, Colombia)
        Self describe
        I prefer not to disclose

          1. It’s actually not front matter, they chant that before each question. And note that the chant is slightly but subtly different from the opening statement.

            The opening statement is:
            “This data will directly inform our efforts across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate.”

            The repeated version says:
            “This data may be used to improve diversity across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate. ”

            In other words, it is not just for anonymous monitoring but also possibly for taking actions that favor members of one group over another.

        1. I have seen this too and find the ancestry question particularly bizarre. First, I am tempted to write “Africa” because all humans have African ancestry. Second and more personally, my parents were from eastern Europe but if I put that down, it seems as if Nature is getting more reviewers from that part of the world, which is equally inaccurate. Sigh.

      3. Third question:

        Elsevier is deeply committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive scientific community.
        Your responses to these 3 questions will help us establish action plans and measure progress towards greater diversity, inclusion and equity. This data may be used to improve diversity across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate. Your responses will not be visible or used when evaluating journal submissions. For more information, see our FAQs.
        How would you identify yourself in terms of race?
        Select all groups that apply to you.

        Asian or Pacific Islander
        Hispanic or Latino/a/x
        Indigenous (e.g., North American Indian Navajo, South American Indian Quechua, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander)
        Middle Eastern or North African
        Self describe
        I prefer not to disclose

      4. Elsevier (bold added):

        “Help us establish evidence-based action plans and measure progress on diversity & inclusion goals toward greater equity in publishing and research. This data will directly inform our efforts across editorial processes but is otherwise analyzed and reported in aggregate.”

        The terms “our” and “us” really need accurate definition – we assume it is Elsevier. But the two pronouns (see?) strike me as red flags, especially buried in language of a council. Who really knows what is using this data or how.

    3. Lou, you should be careful about revealing your preference for Hawaiian shirts. Another reader here once described his painful experience as an aloha-wearing white guy at the SSE annual meeting where he was constantly followed by “evo allies” who identified him by his clothes as someone up to no good.

    4. Here is Elsevier’s automated non-reply to my protest letter. It completely misses the point of my objection.:

      Reviewer Support (ELS)
      To: me
      Thu, Nov 16 at 2:57 PM

      Dear Dr Jost,

      Thank you for reaching out to us via e-mail and allow me to extend my apologies for the delay and inconvenience this might have caused you.

      I understand that you have been invited to review the manuscript BIOSYS-D-__-____ and you are unable to answer the detailed personal questionnaire. Upon checking the system, I can confirm that your invited email address is _______.

      With this, kindly click the “Self-report your data to improve equity in research” and a window will pop up containing the questionnaires that needs to be answered.

      If you do not want to provide your answers to the questionnaires, you may choose the “I prefer not to disclose”.

      Once done, the “Continue” button will be available to click and to proceed on your account. Please see the screenshot below for your reference:

      Meanwhile, you may find this link useful:

      Why am I being asked to self-report my gender identity and race & ethnicity data in Editorial Manager? – Journal Article Publishing Support Center

      In line to this matter, Elsevier takes its role and responsibility in this regard extremely seriously. Working in partnership with the community, we strive to ensure researchers of all backgrounds can excel and advance. This, in turn, ensures that the research we publish is equitable, impactful and of the highest quality.

      By collecting gender identity, and race & ethnicity (GRE) data, we can take an evidence-based approach and hold ourselves accountable: we can measure the current situation, obtain data to drive a coordinated set of actions and initiatives, and monitor the effect of our actions.

      It is mandatory to provide a response to each question in order to proceed, however, you can choose “I prefer not to disclose” to effectively opt out of answering any of the question(s). Also, you are in full control of your data and can change your response at any time. Simply visit the “update my information” page in EM. There you can change your response; choosing “I prefer not to disclose” effectively removes your response.

      Security of users’ personal data is a primary consideration in this project. The Elsevier/Aries technical team – in consultation with architecture experts – developed a publisher-neutral solution that meets legal requirements (GDPR, CCPA, etc.) and that is secure.

      If in case you encounter this trouble again, please let me know and I would be happy to accept it on your behalf for your convenience. Please, let us know for further actions.

      We hope for your kind understanding.

      If there is anything that we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us again.

      Kind regards,

      Mariel Marile
      Researcher Support

  2. I related this anecdote a while back, but think it is worth restating.

    When I was a graduate student, the Journal of Paleontology ended their practice of printing photographs of authors along with their papers. One of our professors objected to this change, opining that (quotation approximate) “one can learn a lot about the author from his photograph.” As this professor was not known to be enlightened in the areas of racism, ageism (too young or too old), sexism, or all the other “isms,” we graduate students knew exactly what he meant.

    The point is that these heartfelt declarations of privilege, of virtue, of prior marginalization, of sexual orientation, or of the condition of one’s genitals can harm as much as they help.

    Finally, while all scientists are embedded in culture, science (the institution and pursuit) is about seeking truth as best we can irrespective of cultural bias. Injecting social considerations into the scientific mix does not serve that objective.

    1. On Tw*tter/X I’ve seen a few managers say that any employment application which says the job hunter is “non-binary” automatically gets thrown in the trash. The assumption is that they’d be dealing with a precious, self-absorbed snowflake intent on correcting unintentional misgenderings and collecting petty grievances against fellow employees and the company, thus harming morale. Though it’s a stereotype, can’t say that’s unlikely.

      I would think a particularly florid, lengthy, or obsequious Position Statement on a scientific paper might make the authors look like their judgment is not particularly reliable — similar to including their astrology sign — if the reader is biased in that direction.

      1. “A precious, self-absorbed snowflake intent on correcting unintentional misgenderings and collecting petty grievances against fellow employees and the company.”

        My experience is similar, but the enby’s direct supervisor is the person most attuned to misgendering, corrections, and grievances. Stockholm syndrome I guess.

        [edit: sorry for overcommenting, super interesting post]

      2. “snowflake”

        If I can overcomment a tad as well :

        This is the “facts don’t care about your feelings” thing – in this case, the epistemology is woven with any empirical/falsification epistemology – which is like mixing oil and water.

        We all have feelings of course – it’s just necessary to set those aside when finding out what is true, or at least false.

        The “snowflake” as it were has to hermetically Transform itself a different way – to water, I’d say – it’s ok, none of us know absolute truth! We all melt with you (like the song) – but we can keep emotion in check.

  3. I had never thought about positionality statements for ethnographers. That makes sense: a statement about how much to trust the interpretation & analysis of the person who wrote the ethnographic report based on her relevant past experiences.

    Something similar could be useful for lots of other scientists: How much should the reader trust the data and analyses and interpretations in the published work, given the author’s previous track record in research? But because “positionality statements are likely to be biased and self-serving,” this one should be written by the reviewers not by the authors (and after the article is accepted for publication):

    “Dr. Xxxx is a senior researcher who has published ## previous articles in [the area of research, say astronomy] but was originally trained in [whatever PhD or postdoc, say theoretical cosmology]. In one of those previous articles, the statistical methods were shown by later research to have been misinterpreted. Another article in [some other area, say string theory] was subject to an editorial expression of concern and later corrected by the authors. As part of the peer review of this article, reviewers identified an important error in interpreting and citing the relevant literature that was then corrected by Dr. Xxxx.”

    Imagine the “positionality statement” that could be written for papers by Ibram X. Kendi, or Rudi Tanzi, or the power pose psychologist.

    My own (if written by someone who knows my field of work) could include a published correction, a well-known and spectacularly bad choice of statistical methods that leads to false positive results, and a more subtle but devastating mistake in gene annotation and identification. I also once amplified and sequenced myself instead of one of my study organisms, and analyzed the DNA sequence, but figured out the error before it got into a journal article (yikes).

    But in most cases the positionality statement would be short & bland because the authors have no history of biases or mistakes, and are just doing their damned jobs.

  4. “At least one team of researchers is studying whether these statements have their intended effect.” One cannot help wondering whether researchers in this essential field present their own positionality statements in their reports on the effect of positionality statements. I foresee a whole new academic discipline, Positionality Statement Studies, no doubt with its own journals and international meetings. These new departments will of course need DEI Committees, to advise their scholars about the correct language (“intersectionally minoritized”, etc.) to employ.

    1. …and the study of positionality statements, and the study of the study, etc. would spiral down endlessly.
      Positionality statements and virtue-signaling in general always makes me think of 4 things: 1950’s loyalty oaths, the Red Guard, Young Communist League, Hitler Youth. But virtue signaling I’m sure has been part of human interaction since the beginning, one facet of tribalism.
      Can scholars throw a monkey wrench into this process? Write Positionality Statements lengthier than the papers themselves and demand en masse they be published in the journals? ChatGPT can probably crank them out “in the style of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo.”

  5. Positionality statements tell us virtually nothing about the authors (they all sound like Chat GPT products- and likely many are), but everything about this cringeworthy navel gazing moment western academia is in. The academy is completely in thrall to the absolute subjectivity and “standpoint epistemology” dictated by Critical Theory.

    I completely agree with you-these “statements” are not only useless, but inimical to the scientific project and to the notion of objective scholarship. It’s almost as if we have run out of things to say about the world, so are falling back on saying things about ourselves. That might make for good literature and film, but it doesn’t make for good science or good scholarship.

  6. Translation of a positionality statement: “Dear referees and editors, I’m black and/or indigenous and/or queer, if you find fault with this manuscript or do anything but praise it then you’re racist and phobic”.

  7. I like Mike’s suggestion (#4) that positionality statements should focus on the author’s scholarly history. In my own case, such a statement would reveal that one of my early graduate students did a thesis that completely refuted a pet theory of mine, and was subsequently sent to Massey U. in New Zealand (from which it took him years to escape). A couple of others of my grad students went on, during a period of academic anxiety, to medical school and became MDs. Finally, some of my publications relate partly to correspondence with the late Lajos Alföldi of Szeged University, and may reflect unconscious Hungarian tendencies.

  8. Positionality statements are very important for the Woke Left, because they accept Marx’ famous dictum (in his Critique of Political Economy, 1859): “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
    Following Marx, Karl Mannheim (1893-1947), one of the fathers of Wissenssoziologie (sociology of knowledge), speaks of the Seinsgebundenheit or Standortsgebundenheit des Denkens (existential dependence or standpoint-dependence of thought). He writes (in his Ideology and Utopia, 1929) that “human thought doesn’t constitute itself free-floatingly in socially free space, but, on the contrary, is always rooted in a certain place therein.”

    So, from the Woke Left’s anti-universalist perspective, authors of scientific texts must give us personal information about their “identities”, i.e. about who, what, and where they are in social space, because claims to authority, validity, truth, or knowledge are always relative to and contingent on their particular social context and origin. From that ideological perspective it is highly relevant in judging science where the author is coming from.

  9. These positional statements are filtering out those worthy of accolades, praise, awards, acclaim should the individuals hit the “big time” with their research… in the bright lights they are ideologically clean. No more moving boulders around, statues, names on building, renaming species.
    We won’t be caught out again, squeaky clean first, stinky little facts, ok, if we must…

  10. Here is a recent commentary on the Science paper, by Debra Soh:

    She writes: “When reading scientists’ positionality statements, I can’t help but feel extremely uncomfortable, as though I’m reading a hostage statement. It comes across as out-of-place and invasive to read detailed descriptions about a researcher’s racial background, age, socioeconomic status, where they grew up, and other erroneous tidbits about their life, while simultaneously knowing they likely had to declare this information to have their findings published or to graduate. “

  11. I had to look up both ‘cis white queer woman’ and ‘non-binary trans person’.

    It seems as a non-binary trans person you can NOT medically transition – you do not feel like the sex you were ‘assigned’ at birth, and yet you do not feel you fit into either male or female gender categories.

    So you cannot have surgery to transition to ‘non-binary’ (or if you can, you can have a full set of both installed) – it is necessarily ONLY identification and self-declaration.
    I guess you are TRANS-itioning from the assigned sex to a fuzzy logic intermediate – hence the trans?

    I am truly trying to understand, but the sheer number of logical fallacies and contradictions and word-creep is, I assume, designed to keep institutionally unconsciously transphobic WASPs like me off balance, and any attempt on my part is merely further evidence of my hatred and desire for erasure.

    Proof I am trying:

  12. Is it anything more than an opportunity for the authors to talk about themselves? If necessary, put it in sn appendix for those interested

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