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BIOSCI/Bionet Terms of Use

Updated: September 2007
Contact: biosci-help@net.bio.net

Please see http://www.bio.net/docs/biosci.FAQ.html for details of Bionet's appropriate usage, mission, and history

BIOSCI/Bionet is a set of electronic communication forums - the bionet USENET newsgroups and parallel e-mail lists - used by biological scientists worldwide. No fees are charged for the service. BIOSCI promotes communication between professionals in the biological sciences. All postings to the newsgroups should be made in that spirit. While the general public may "listen in" to the discussions, these newsgroups are intended primarily for communications between researchers. There are other forums on Usenet such as sci.bio.misc for the asking and answering of biological questions from lay persons.

How does public Bionet impact personal privacy?

BIOSCI/Bionet reflects and facilitates the science community's passion for public discourse to arrive at truths in an open manner that all can see and review. You should use Bionet in this spirit, and be prepared to share your views, questions and answers in a publicly visible manner. While anonymous postings are not discarded out of hand, moderators and readers expect some knowledge of the author to understand the import of your message. As a question asker, you should be prepared to provide knowledge of who you are. This is in line with general Usenet established practice. One can learn more about Usenet accepted usage from related links.

Bionet news and discussion has been archived for public use since its inception in the 1980s, with archives available for rereading and searching via the Internet search engines, Yahoo, Google, and others. Bionet and other Usenet groups are archived at various placed around the 'Net, including Google. From the nature of Bionet, Usenet and public science discussions, personal privacy is at odds with use of these public discussion groups.

Public notice of this open nature and archiving has appeared regularly since 1992 at bionet.announce in the BIOSCI/bionet Frequently Asked Questions; see e.g. http://groups.google.com/group/bionet.announce/browse_frm/month/1993-01 The Bionet archives provide important references to science discussions and knowledge to many scientists and lay people.

If you are concerned with privacy using Bionet please read here:

"The fact that opinions shared in Usenet newsgroups are ... like little bylined editorials published in one of the most widely read newspapers on Earth, is not news." Your Thoughts: A Permanent Public Record, Wired, 1998
"... privacy discourages information sharing between individuals which in turn can lead to mistrust and intolerance amongst people and perpetuate false information. If information can be shared widely then facts can generally be verified through many different sources and there are less chances of inaccuracies." wikipedia/Privacy
* The major issue is that of credibility. The other readers will probably take you more seriously and it is easier to build a genuine reputation around a true identity. Anonymous postings are ignored more readily than overt ones.
* Asking for help and advice on the Usenet? You'll get it more readily if the readers know who is asking.
Anonymous Usenet posting, another view

As Google and the related search engines have become a common tool to discover the Internet presence of people, usually for various good uses, some of Bionet's contributors who did not fully understand these issues request editing and removal of posts from the public archives. Due to both the public policy that is an integral part of Bionet and Usenet, and limited resources to manage such requests, the Bionet staff will not remove archived postings unless maintaining the posting in the archive would violate the law. We hope that requestors will understand and accept that this public policy is a long standing part of science discourse and Bionet.

As noted in the first FAQ item, Bionet is for biology science discussion. Personal issues including requests for medical advice, legal advice, and such are not desired topics, and are among those where personal privacy is likely to become important to the requestor. Caveat emptor, you should be aware before you make use of Bionet groups whether your questions are suited to a public forum.

To those who ask for removal or edits of their postings, consider this analogy: one publishes a letter to the editor in the New York Times newspaper, then the writer later asks that all public libraries with the Times remove this letter. Differences between this case and Bionet postings are that one received the value of Bionet's public news distribution for free, and Google may not yet be searching newspaper archives (but it will be in the future).

The common practice in sciences when one wants to revisit and change older public views is to update them with new writings. Instead of removing old posts, please consider posting updated comments on earlier writings to resolve your changed views. Chances are good that Google will then display the updated postings along with or in preference to older postings.

There continue to be ethical issues and dilemmas for public Internet science discussion and their archives Bionet administration's role is one as as a librarian to learn and uphold the prevailing consensus. To that end, open discussion of this will be of value to many. You are invited to contribute your views on this at the bionet.general forum. Please see these and related Bionet messages:

This policy is common among archives of public letters and discussion lists:

W3C Archive Editing Policy
"While the W3C is sensitive to the need for protecting personal information from exploitation by spammers, we cannot engage in the revision of the archives for the purpose of decreasing one's vulnerability to Spam or Google exposure. Neither can we revise archival material for the purpose of updating personal contact information within posts: Archives are historical documents, not personal records. If a sender posts to a Public forum, it should be understood the information will be publicly available in perpetuity."

Debian Public List Policy
"Our mailing lists are public forums, and our mailing list archives are public. By sending an email to such a public forum, you agree to public distribution of your article. All mails sent to any of our mailing lists will be publicly distributed and archived in our mailing list archives. Any emails sent by any one person directly to the list, or replies by others to those emails sent to the list, are considered published, in accordance with the United States law. Obviously the author still owns the copyright to the content of these emails that they have written. However, that does not mean that the Debian Project is under obligation to remove them from a list archive once published. Several legal counsels have reviewed this stance and confirmed it is correct. "

Washington University Student Newspaper Policy
"Because all of these archives of our content exist independently of our own Web site, and because removing existent content could be termed censorship in some instances, it would be dishonest and futile for us to remove or alter data in our online archives."

Rewriting history: Should editors delete or alter online content?
By Elizabeth Zwerling, 2007-08-22, Online Journalism Review,
From college papers to The New York Times, sources clamor to "take it back," asking for old quotes and comments to be deleted from websites. Should they be?
" .. Craig Whitney, standards editor for the New York Times, who said the Times frequently fields requests to alter archives... Whitney said adding that the Times has never deleted anything from its online archives. "I doubt if we ever would. The question is, is there something else we can do that falls short of rewriting history?"

See these similar archive editing policies:

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