Just when you thought that perfect storm of social media outrage and backstabbing academic politics, the Tim Hunt saga, was fading away, it’s all flared up again with Colin Blakemore’s resignation as honorary president of the Association of British Science Writers.
Their reporting of his departure is awful example of weasel-worded dishonesty.
We have accepted with regret Sir Colin Blakemore’s resignation as honorary president of the ABSW, with thanks for his support and assistance over the years. He has made it clear that he disagrees irreconcilably with the statement we issued in June about media attacks on our former president, Connie St Louis.
As anyone looking at this web site knows already, this relates to her reporting of remarks to the Korea Federation of Women’s Science and Technology Associations by Sir Tim Hunt at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul on June 8. Sir Tim has not disputed the accuracy of St Louis’s reporting and has apologised to the Federation for his comments. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, is on record as saying that Sir Tim’s comments were unacceptable.
Sir Paul Nurse withdrew his initial comments and has since completely exonerated Sir Tim. But their statement completely fails to mention this.
What’s also telling is the way it uses Sir Tim Hunt’s apology as an admission of guilt, in the manner of a Soviet show trial or medieval witch hunt. It’s a natural human response to apologise when you’ve inadvertently caused offence, something we’re taught to do as a means of de-escalating conflict. But it relies on the other party playing by same rules of of etiquette, and that does not seem to be the case here. It looks far more like dealing with an aggressive bully, to whom a forced apology just gives them power.
The story is no longer about Tim Hunt himself, but about the misreporting both by Connie St. Louis and other parts of the media. This does make the stories of her inflating and exaggerating her qualifications and experience on her CV published online at City University entirely relevant.
St. Louis is a director of The Association of British Science Writers. While it’s human nature to close ranks and circle the wagons, they’re starting to look as credible FIFA under Sepp Blatter.