Sternberg vs. Smithsonian

Some of you may be wondering why none of us Thumbites have commented on David Klinghoffer’s op-ed about Richard Sternberg filing a complaint with U.S. Office of Special Counsel claiming discrimination at the Smithsonian. We have discussed it at length, but there is too little information to form an opinion about the complaint.

Is it possible that the Smithsonian over reacted to Sternberg’s abuse of his editorial power at PBSW? Sure. It is also possible that they didn’t. Although, Klinghoffer makes clear his opinion, he has failed to provide enough information in his op-ed to objectively determine and judge what has happened.

Because of the way the law typically works, it will probably be impossible to get the Smithsonian’s side of the story. Sternberg and his supporters can say virtually whatever they want to the media, and Smithsonian will have little ability to set the record straight. (The Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division will be of little help.)

However, it is interesting to note that Sternberg is a staff scientist for NCBI/NIH and is not employed by the Smithsonian. He is a research associate, which is an unpaid, “formal scholarly affiliation” with the Smithsonian. Since he is not an employee, he might not even be protected by the OSC.

Who can be protected by the OSC from prohibited personnel practices?

General. OSC has jurisdiction over prohibited personnel practices committed against most employees or applicants for employment in Executive Branch agencies and the Government Printing Office.