What is wrong with Chris Hartgerink and why his case needs to be public

Wanted to highlight my recent Twitter post on Chris Hartgerink’s (CEO of Liberate Science, Berlin) behaviour (@chjh will tag him here in case he wants to respond on this forum).

Recently, Wojciech Francuzik, one of volunteer collaborators for Liberate Science’s Hypergraph software development was warned for using the word “inferior” in the context of a software. Here is the email he got from Chris:

Dear Wojciech Francuzik, The liberate science code of conduct committee received a report regarding your behavior in our community. After considering this matter, the committee regards your behavior as a violation of our code of conduct. Specifically, it regards the categorization of different perspectives as inferior in this GitHub discussion. It was highlighted as shutting down discussion, hence, not in line with the CoC, yet you continued the use of this terminology, without acknowledging its impact. No action is taken against you at this moment beyond noting this incident for future reference. You are allowed to continue participating in our community in good faith. In case you’d like to, we would appreciate and take note of a comment in the GitHub discussion where you indicate you chose your words poorly and will be more considerate in how your words impact others in the future. In case you are interested in understanding the impact of this, you can find more information below. “Inferior” is a word that has been historically used to legitimize various systems of oppression. Deeming a different perspective in the community as inferior does not invite the option for discussion, and may prove off-putting or triggering for people who have been marginalized under these systems of oppression. We will not correspond further about this incident report and consider this matter closed. Kind regards, Chris Hartgerink Chair of liberate science code of conduct committee

The whole conversation on this issue is available here but currently closed. Wojciech publicly refused to excuse for the usage of this word and resigned from being contributors to Hypergraph. After this happen, two other ex-Liberate Science employees did the same - Lisa Hehnke and Julian Gruber. According to LinkedIn, both of them left the company in October 2020. They could not provide more details about what happened exactly, as I guess they can both have legal troubles linked to the fact Liberate Science is a commercial entity.

Another “fun” fact about this story is that Jo Havemann publicly asked Chris to provide comments on Wojciech’s case (17/03/2021). Chris decided to respond (19/03/2021) in a very interesting way I can call “corruption”: sending 600€ donation to one projects Jo is running.

When I was expelled from JROST2020 conference in December 2020, he wrote me this email forbidding me to use footages from our interview for Open Science TV:

Hi Stefaniia, Given your recent heckling behavior in the JROST community and public response to the actions taken, I hereby rescind my permission to use the previously recorded footage of me for your Open Science TV series. I wish you all the best. Kind regards, Chris

From my side, I see a person with toxic behaviour which has a certain pattern. A person which advocates for openness, inclusivity, diversity, antiracism and feminism but is not even responsible for his own actions. A week ago I addressed my concerns to the Shuttleworth Foundation which funds Chris’ startup, did not get any answer from them yet.

I think it is important to make such cases public involving people that are openly and publicly showing position about their experience with certain person. I do not know what happened to Lisa and Julian, but I assume Chris was doing the same thing as he had done to me and Wojciech. This case is also important as it shows real faces of people participating in Open Science movement and warning others joining it that this kind of a behaviour will not be tolerated.

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Hi @sivashchenko and thank you for this.

Has Shuttleworth Foundation come back to you in the meantime?

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No, they did not. I will update this topic in case I will have details but seems that both Chris and the SF adopted a strategy not to respond on this kind of public questions.

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I don’t feel well informed about this matter to be comfortable commenting on most of it. But I was somewhat surprised to see that the donation to AfricaXriv was made by Liberate Science, not Chris personally. Liberate Science may have other sources of revenue, but if not, I’d be surprised if the Shuttleworth Foundation considered donations to other non-profits to be an appropriate use of its grant funds.

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I do not know internal details about how the Liberate Science budget is organized but the timing for this donation was very bad - two days after the AfricArXiv co-founder was asking public explanations. This tweet appeared the next day after mine:

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Didn’t see this thread until just now. My spontanous reaction when reading your post, @sivashchenko, was :exploding_head:. @wolass, thank you for not apologising for calling a software inferior. :pray: I think this is all I can say for now because I’m in a bit of a shock over the fact that calling a software inferior can be considered a CoC breach (unless the software you referred to was Microsoft Teams… :smirk:).

Ping @dbernt who is a developer.

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Yes… Well, I still can’t figure out how we as commuity can accept codes of conduct with their committees lead by the company’s CEOs. This creates room for malicious actions and ther sole presence of a CoC Committee creates a fake notion that there actually is someone overseeing the company’s actions. It is highly resembling the OpenCon Saga. The only action one can take is to leave the community. How is this protective?

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The story continues. And here I do not know what to say. Chris deleted >5000 tweets a few days ago, as well as the tweet where he endorsed Open Con statement regarding Jon Tennant and the tweet about toxic publishers (which I have on my screenshots). Jon’s sister, Rebecca said that it could be linked to the fact that her lawyers contacted him recently. And she also found that the portion of Jon’s tweets also disappeared which means there were conversations between them Chris deleted as well. I wonder what is going on?

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