Richard Sternberg Evolutionary Biologist
Smithsonian Controversy

Summary of Retaliation and Discrimination

My Account of the Controversy

Summary of Retaliation and Discrimination

To summarize what happened to me after the Meyer paper was published:

  • There were efforts to remove me as a Research Associate from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).
    After Smithsonian officials determined that there was no wrong-doing in the publication process for the Meyer paper and that they therefore had no grounds to remove me from my position directly, they tried to create an intolerable working environment so that I would be forced to resign. As the OSC investigation concluded, “[i]t is… clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.” In addition, it was made clear to me that my position at the Smithsonian would not be renewed despite my excellent record of research and publication.
  • My supervisor was replaced.
    I was transferred from the supervision of a friendly sponsor (supervisor) at the Museum to a hostile one.
  • I lost my office space.
    I was twice forced to move specimens from my office space on short notice for no good reason, my name plate was removed from my office door, and eventually I was deprived of all official office space and forced to use a shared work area as my work location in the Museum.
  • I faced onerous work requirements.
    I was subjected to an array of new reporting requirements not imposed on other Research Associates.
  • My access to specimens was limited.
    My access to the specimens needed for my research at the Museum was restricted. (My access to the Museum was also restricted. I was forced to give up my master key.)
  • I was ultimately demoted by the NMNH.
    Despite official assurances of fair treatment from the Smithsonian to congressional investigators, when I applied for renewal of my Research Associate position in 2006, my application was denied and I was offered the position of Research Collaborator—a demotion—without explanation.
  • Pressure was put on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (part of the National Institutes of Health) to fire me.
  • My political and religious beliefs were investigated.
    Smithsonian officials attempted to investigate my personal religious and political beliefs in gross violation of my privacy and my First Amendment rights.
  • I was smeared with false allegations.
    My professional reputation, private life, and ethics were repeatedly impugned and publicly smeared with false allegations by government employees working in tandem with a non-governmental political advocacy group, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).
  • I was pressured to reveal peer reviewers and to engage in improper peer review.
    I was repeatedly pressured to reveal the names of the peer-reviewers of the Meyer article, contrary to professional ethics. I was also told repeatedly that I should have found peer reviewers who would reject the article out-of-hand, in direct violation of professional ethics which require editors to find peer reviewers who are not prejudiced or hostile to a particular author or his/her ideas.


In sum, it is clear that I was targeted for retaliation and harassment explicitly because I allowed a scientific article to be published critical of neo-Darwinism, and that was considered an unpardonable heresy.  I failed in an unstated requirement in my role as editor of a scientific journal: I was supposed to be a gatekeeper turning away unpopular, controversial, or conceptually challenging explanations of puzzling natural phenomena.