„The Klaus thing“

Der Blog-Titel gibt die Betreff-Zeile einer Email wieder, in der ich um Unterstützung eines Schreibens gebeten wurde, das unseren Seniorprofessor Klaus Fiedler vom Vorwurf des Rassismus freisprechen soll. Uff! Worum geht es?

Seit Januar 2022 ist Klaus Fiedler der leitende Herausgeber des Flaggschiff-Journals „Perspectives on Psychological Science“ (kurz: PoPS), ich hatte darüber berichtet. In einem offenen Brief an die APS-Leitung fordern nun Anfang Dezember > 1000 Personen (die meisten davon sind mir unbekannt) seinen Rücktritt als Editor:

December 2, 2022

Dear APS Leadership:

The racism, general editorial incompetence, and abuse of power enacted against one of our colleagues (detailed here) is atrocious and completely at odds with APS’s stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and ostensible commitment to “building an inclusive, connected, and meaningful global science.” We demand immediate, meaningful, systemic change from APS leadership that at minimum includes:

  1. The resignation of the current Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science.
  2. Conduct an audit of Dr. Fiedler’s editorial decisions and correspondence (given that other marginalized scholars may have met with similar racism, incompetence, and/or abuse of power at his hands). Make a report of this audit public.
  3. Empower and fund your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to recommend and enact meaningful policy changes to address racism and intersecting dimensions of exclusion throughout the entire society, including in decisions about future APS journal editors.
  4. Draw on the many available recommendations for disrupting racism in publication practices (e.g., Buchanan et al., 2021; considerable work already conducted by task forces at SPSP and APA) to improve representation, create accountability metrics, provide editor and reviewer guidelines to avoid common racist practices, develop feedback systems for when those guidelines fail, and practice and communicate inclusive journal values.
  5. Conduct remedial training for all editors on editorial ethics and anti-racism.
  6. Give Dr. Roberts the option to have his outstanding and important commentary published in PoPS, with the 4 other articles in question available only as supplementary online material for context, and grant him any additional reparative action he might deem necessary.

Was ist da passiert? Es geht vordergründig um ein Paper von Steven O. Roberts (Stanford Univ) „Dealing with Diversity in Psychology: Science and Ideology“ (hier zu finden), das KF in PoPS abdrucken wollte zusammen mit den zu Beiträgen ausgearbeiteten Reviews von Bernhard Hommel (siehe auch hier), Lee Jussim, Keith Stanovich und Wolfgang Stroebe. Die auf PsyArchiv liegende Version (Link siehe 3 Zeilen zuvor) beschreibt auf den ersten 9 Seiten den Ablauf der Geschichte. Nicht unbedingt die Standard-Prozedur einer Submission…

Inhaltlich geht es um das Thema „Diversität“, hier in Bezug auf Publikationen von „people of color“, deren Unter-Repräsentanz natürlich beklagenswert ist, aber sicher nicht kurzfristig durch Quoten o.ä. zu verändern sein dürfte. Ein schwieriges Thema, bei dem KF sich wohl immer für „scientific quality“ als dem ultimativen Kriterium ausgesprochen hat (hätte ich auch gemacht). Diese Qualität wird heute vorwiegend von (alten) weissen Männern beurteilt – sicher nicht frei von „biases“, das ist berechtigt… 

Nun ist Klaus Fiedler am 6.12.22 auf Bitten (Drängen?) des APS-Vorstands als „editor-in-chief“ zurückgetreten:

Die Diskussion ist damit nicht beendet. Mal sehen, wie es weitergeht! Ich kenne Klaus seit 1997 aus der Nähe – man kann viel an ihm kritisieren, aber eines sicherlich nicht behaupten: dass er „racist“ wäre… „The Klaus thing“: das ist dezidiert das Bestreben nach guter Wissenschaft! Und man kann einen sub-optimal gehandelten Fall (das unglückliche Manuskript-Handling) nicht durch einen anderen schlechten Prozess (die Entlassung des Herausgebers) heilen… Schade, dass die APS hier Ihren Editor nicht gestützt hat!

Nachtrag 8.12.22: Ich habe versäumt darauf hinzuweisen, dass neben der (überwiegend amerikanischen) Gruppe der „Rücktrittsforderer“ (s.o.) auch eine (überwiegend europäische) Gruppe derjenigen existiert, die von der APS einen guten Klärungsprozess fordert. Dort heisst es (von knapp 200 Personen unterzeichnet, von denen ich viele kenne):

An expression of grave concern regarding a letter demanding the resignation of Prof. Klaus Fiedler
Update (December 6, 2022): the APS has decided to terminate Klaus Fiedler’s position as an editor, solely based on the paper by Steven O. Roberts. He was not given an opportunity to reply to the accusations at any stage. We intend to send this letter nonetheless, as this decision highlights the disregard to the notion of due process, and the potential for “mob justice”.
To sign the present open letter, please fill out this form
The present open letter is an expression of concern that pertains to this letter (from December 2, 2022)
The present open letter will be sent to aps@psychologicalscience.org


December 5, 2022
Dear APS Leadership:
We we wish to express our concern about a letter signed by approximately one thousand members of our community that:
(i) call for the resignation of Prof. Klaus Fiedler; (ii) accuse him of racism; (iii) ask for an audit of his correspondence and editorial decisions.
We acknowledge that the motives behind this letter are benevolent: the signees express a genuine concern with inequality and racism, which we share.
However, we feel that the conclusions expressed in this letter might be premature, and that it does not promote justice or represent good judgment. Sometimes, an attempt to fight injustice can lead to injustice, and we should try to avoid that. As psychologists, we should be keenly aware of that possibility.
The letter in question was a response to a preprint written by Prof. Steven O. Roberts wherein he details his interaction with Prof. Fiedler concerning a series of critiques of his 2020 opinion paper, that was to be published in Perspective on Psychological Science.
This preprint was published on December 2nd, 2022. Immediately, a trial in absentia of the defendant was held on Twitter, and within hours, a verdict was issued: Prof. Fiedler was found guilty of racism and editorial misconduct. His punishment, which was endorsed by 1,000 members of his community:
“1. The resignation of the current Editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

  1. Conduct an audit of Dr. Fiedler’s editorial decisions and correspondence (given that other marginalized scholars may have met with similar racism, incompetence, and/or abuse of power at his hands). Make a report of this audit public.”

A few questions present themselves:
First and foremost, is whether the writers of the letter and its signees believe that a member of our community has the right to defend themselves before their reputation is tarnished by mob judgment?
Second, it is unclear what is the basis of the accusation, and whether the conclusion “Klaus Fiedler is a Racist” is indeed the most plausible interpretation of the evidence. The letter, with its ~1,000 signees, did not explicate what are the exact offenses for which Prof. Fiedler deserves such a harsh sentence. From the discussions on Twitter, and from the request to go through his emails, a few possibilities arise.

  1. Is Klaus Fiedler being accused of blatant racism?
    But what is the evidence for this? Did he ever express racist positions? Did he use racial slurs? Did his colleagues or students accuse him of systematic mistreatment of minorities? We have seen no evidence for this in his correspondence, as detailed in the preprint by Prof. Roberts. Are you certain that it is just to call a person “racist” in such conditions?
  2. Is Klaus Fiedler being accused of exhibiting extremely high levels of implicit anti-black bias?
    Again, we ask, what is the evidence for this? Are you certain that there are no other, more benign interpretations of Prof. Fiedler’s editorial decision-making? (e.g., in accepting an article critiquing the Roberts paper; in inviting the reviewers to publish their critiques of this paper; in inviting Roberts to join this group of reviewers). Could it be that his decision were guided by principled views on how to advance diversity in psychological science (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/fiedler-perspectives-journal), and a pluralistic conceptualization of the different types of diversity (e.g., the importance of voices from non-American universities)? Could it be that his correspondence reflects cultural differences between German/European and American academics? Are you certain that it is just to accuse him of unique levels of bias without giving him the chance to provide an account of his editorial decisions?
  3. Is Klaus Fiedler accused of making editorial decisions that reflect systematic institutional biases?
    For example, it could be argued that Prof. Fiedler was insufficiently sensitive to the importance of finding reviewers who are people of color, due to the fact that he is a member of a privileged group (i.e., a German white male). If this is the case, is it just to tarnish the reputation of a specific human being for an issue that plagues an entire field?
  4. Is Klaus Fiedler accused of acting, as an editor-in-chief, in a grossly unethical or unprofessional manner?
    The pre-print by Roberts highlights several complaints concerning the editorial process. We ask the signees to consider – is it possible that hearing just one side of the story is insufficient to pass judgment? Moreover, even if there were some faults in the editorial decisions of Prof. Fiedler, were they so egregious that they merit this response?
    Haven’t all of us made wrong professional decisions? Do we wish to live in an academic environment wherein mistakes are treated by such a swift, unequivocal repudiation of your character by a thousand members of your community? Is this the route to a more just, egalitarian society?
    Please sign if you agree. We also ask the signees of the letter from December 2nd, 2022 to reflect on these questions, and perhaps sign the present open letter as well.

To sign the present open letter, please fill out this form, and feel free to distribute via social media (e.g., Twitter) and e-mail.

This letter is signed by the following individuals: (list of supporters)

Und einen Nachtrag aus der amerikanischen Presselandschaft: Einen Artikel aus dem „Chronicle of Higher Education“ (Danke für die Zusendung!), hier als PDF.

Nachtrag 13.12.2022: Nun hat sich auch die „Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie“ in einem Statement (zurückhaltend, Verfahrensgerechtigkeit einfordernd) hinter Klaus Fiedler gestellt, während die APS noch einmal nachgelegt hat und nun explizit von „mistreatment“! Auf der APS-Webseite hier heisst es: „I [Robert Gropp, President of APS; J.F.| have spoken directly with Dr. Roberts. I apologized on behalf of APS for the treatment he experienced at Perspectives on Psychological Science. APS takes responsibility for this mistreatment, and we will work to improve our policies, practices, and procedures to prevent issues like these from happening in the future.“

Nachtrag 15.12.2022: Nun hat APS weitere Details bekanntgemacht, die hinter ihrer Rücktrittsforderung standen: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/news-release/2022-december-editorial-statement.html

Die besondere Empfindsamkeit der USA in bezug auf „people of color“ wird aus diesem Dokument ersichtlich (Danke, liebe L, für diesen Hinweis!): https://www.apa.org/about/apa/addressing-racism/historical-chronology

Nachtrag 31.12.2022: Ulrich Schimmack schreibt seine Sicht der Geschehnisse hier: https://replicationindex.com/2022/12/30/klaus-fiedler-is-a-victim-of-his-own-arrogance/

Nachtrag 14.1.2023: Erst jetzt habe ich Joachim Krueger’s Resignation Letters gesehen – bemerkenswert, wie da jemand den aufrechten Gang pflegt und Konsequenzen aus dem Skandal zieht! Respekt! Hier geht es zur Homepage Joachim Krueger.

2 Antworten

  1. Dear Ulrich Schimmack, thanks for your comment! You are right – I have nothing to say except one point: It is not fair to call Klaus a „racist“ just for making procedural errors. I do not want to doubt these errors at all or defend his actions! I do not know enough about the details to make a fair judgment. My point is only about the assumed motive of racism. Joachim Funke

  2. Why post something when you don’t have anything to say.

    The APS Board of directors explained why they forced Klaus Fiedler to resign.

    The editorial actions that raised concerns include the EIC’s decisions to:

    accept an article criticizing the original article based on three reviews that were also critical of the original article and did not reflect a representative range of views on the topic of the original article;

    invite the three reviewers who reviewed the critique favorably to themselves submit commentaries on the critique;

    accept those commentaries without submitting them to peer review; and,

    inform the author of the original article that his invited reply would also not be sent out for peer review. The EIC then sent that reply to be reviewed by the author of the critical article to solicit further comments.

    Together these behaviors represent a violation of proper editorial conduct and practices, which APS is committed to upholding regardless of the topic of the research.

    Can you defend these actions? Do you find them professional? How often have you been asked by an editor to submit your review as a commentary? If so, was your review critical or supportive of the ms. that you reviewed?

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