Nature subscription cancellation for #womanspace: No refund for you!

In response to this misogynistic nonsense by Ed Rybicki published in Nature in September, I chose to cancel my personal subscription to the journal in protest. Ed wrote it and he’s been castigated extensively in the blogosphere (awesome Janet Stemwedel, for example) and in letters to Nature. But my objection is directed more to the lapse in editorial judgment that led to publication of this essay in Nature. Yes, this Nature.

I kept my letter brief so that it would actually be read:

Dear Subscription Representative:

Please cancel my subscription to Nature effective immediately. My subscription label is #BXNNXPZ.

My reason for canceling is to protest the inclusion of the highly offensive article, “Womanspace,” by Ed Rybicki in the 28 September issue. There is no place for such sexist views in any scholarly discourse, much less a legendary journal such as Nature. For an editor to have let this article pass onto the pages of the journal and then to bait readers in the comment thread is unconscionable for any publication.

Thank you for processing my subscription cancellation.

All the best,

The response was polite but had no acknowledgement of or response to my reason for cancellation. Moreover, the suggestion was made that I keep the subscription for its remaining duration since the policy of Nature is not to offer a refund:

Dear David J Kroll,

We apologies for the inconvenience caused to you.

We acknowledge the receipt of your communication regarding cancellation the subscription to the title “Nature”.

Please note as per our company policy we can not process refund once the subscription has been commenced. So, this is advisable to continue with the subscription till expiration. We have cancelled the renewal option, you will not receive any renewal communication from Nature Publishing Group.

Your subscription to the above mentioned title started on July 14, 2011 with VOL 475 ISS 2 and expires on July 5, 2012 with VOL 487 ISS 1 and online part expires on July 13, 2012.

All the issues (print part) are being or schedule to dispatch at below mentioned address:

David J Kroll
1801 Fayetteville St. 2013
Durham, NC
277007 USA

Kindly confirm if you still wish to cancel the subscription to the above mentioned title. We shall do the needful.

Thanks & Regards,
Divya Wadhwa
Customer Services

We cannot issue a refund once a subscription has commenced?? Surely there could be a refund for unsent issues.

At the very least, you’d think I could get a couple of coupons for their $32 articles.

Keepin’ it classy, Nature.

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14 Responses to Nature subscription cancellation for #womanspace: No refund for you!

  1. fred lapides says:

    You over reacted! The guy chatting in a rather light tone and having fun, a spoof, and you get darn serious.

    Ever spend hours in gift stores with your wife or girlfriend? I am now married some 28 years, and yes, there is a huge difference between the way and the whys of how men and women differ in shopping. and yes, this is a part of the fun of being married!
    So. Calm. Deep breaths. Enjoy the fun world while it lasts.

  2. Unstable Isotope says:

    Thank you for doing this. Women in science need all the support they can get. You can see what we’re up against!

    Also, you have attracted a troll. How adorable. I wonder if he’ll call you hysterical.

  3. David Kroll says:

    I’ve just been mansplained by someone who posts pictures of naked women on his blog.

  4. DrugMonkey says:

    is this really the first time your blog has been pR0n-spammed?

  5. Old Geezer says:

    You were really subscribed to a periodical that used the phrase, “…We shall do the needful” in its correspondence?

  6. Cindy Salo says:

    The new misogyny?


    Thanks for taking one for the team. The team needs you now more than ever.

    I read the piece you refer to, but haven’t trusted myself to respond to it. I seem to be seeing more “misogynistic nonsense” recently: the Nature piece, some recent email “jokes,” a few news spots, an ad or two that I wondered about. Fear and insults seem to be on the rise.

    I wonder if it’s because resources are getting short (and more poorly distributed) and people are having a tough time keeping up their standard of living. It’s a scary time and no one wants to share when they’ve already lost ground.

    It seems that the easy times are over and that competition over increasingly scare jobs, money, food, and resources will only increase. Although our material lives may be more difficult in the future, we can still care for each other and do the right thing.

    Thanks for caring for the team and stepping up to do the right thing.


  7. A person says:

    So you were disappointed by one page of Nature. The fiction one. And because of this, you gave up 144 pages per week of amazing science. I assume you subscribed to Nature because of the science, right?
    Well, it sounds like you overreacted and are now missing out on a brilliant publication, while trying to damage the image of a company which employs many women at all levels and which is normally extremely non discriminatory.

    I am a woman and I think you should chill out.

  8. Golly, it’d be one thing if this were only about “one page of Nature.” But it’s not. It’s about Nature’s lack of response and action, about closing comments (and opening them again), about the editor involved and his history. Nature damaged its own image. The argument that they employ a lot of women and are “normally” non-discriminatory doesn’t change that. That’s very like the “some of my best friends are women, so I can’t be sexist” argument. It’s not a zero sum game wherein positive behavior on the one hand somehow negates or masks negative behavior on the other. Also, as Nature is available online with freely accessible abstracts and paper titles, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would be missing out on “144 pages of amazing science” just by canceling their subscription. There are many other ways to access any amazing science of interest.

  9. KateClancy says:

    +1 to Emily’s response to the call to “chill out.” Chill out? Really?

  10. David Kroll says:

    I appreciate your assumption that I overreacted and need to chill out but I stand by my decision to stop taking Nature. I took it not so much because I wanted the science (I can access it online) but rather because I keep the hardcopy in the sitting area of my department office. The copy has my name and address and I didn’t want my students to think that I condoned the nonsense that was allowed to sneak onto these pages.

    To be honest, I’m sorely disappointed by what allowing this page to slip through means about the general attitude of some editors toward women, women scientists, and, yes, women co-workers.

    Little old me can’t do anything to damage the image of Nature – it was already done by whoever solicited that piece and allowed its publication. I’m very much impressed by their other offerings: Nature Medicine, Nature Chemistry, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Nature Reviews Cancer. But to allow this misogyny to slip into the flagship of the brand, a legendary publication, and then to taunt readers because lively comments were not received initially – that’s just foolish, exclusionary behavior.

    Nature holds scientists to one of the highest standards in the world. Fiction or not, I choose to hold Nature to my highest standards. On that point, they failed.

  11. neuromusic says:

    +1 to David, Emily and Kate

    Nature is a for-profit corporation, afterall, so nevagitvely influencing their revenue stream (e.g., through a subscription cancellation) is most effective way to influence the content that they produce.

    I would guess that the Womanspace article was actually one of their most profitable (this year? ever?) as its high pageviews (even from critics) likely resulted in some substantial traffic for their advertisers.

  12. The respect with which women are treated within the confines of the NPG isn’t relevant to this action. The point is that they apparently don’t think there’s a problem with their brand being associated with pathetic, old-fashioned stereotypes. David is just trying to tell them that actually, there is a problem.

  13. just an engineer says:

    > Nature holds scientists to one of the highest standards in the world. Fiction or not, I choose to hold Nature to my highest standards. On that point, they failed. <

    this .
    may i simply thank you for calling "black" black and "blue" blue (or whatever colour).
    and imho "united we stand/-take a stand" is the only approach in this soc. #womanspace;
    no matter sex/gender/body.
    (oy, can't believe this actually takes place in 2011)

  14. Cindy Salo says:


    I commented above on what seems to me to be an increase in fear and insults aimed at women. Two recent stories in the Guardian describe the verbal attacks and threats of violence aimed at women writers. I had no idea that misogyny was so widespread and so violent.

    “Crude insults, aggressive threats and unstinting ridicule: it’s business as usual in the world of website news commentary – at least for the women who regularly contribute to the national debate.”

    “In a rusting filing cabinet I have thousands of letters. I don’t know why I keep them. Some are lovely, some funny, but most are hate mail. A letter addressed to “Suzzanne [sic] Moore, Stupid Woman Columnist” can still reach me. I have had death threats and calls to my home number and have had to involve the police.”