Sir Colin Blakemore, the distinguished scientist, has been the President of the Association of British Science Writers, or ABSW, for eleven years. Earlier this month he resigned, dramatically, as the Association’s President over both its Board’s June statement of support for Connie St. Louis, and its refusal to investigate his complaint against her. Earlier, I published my complaint against Connie St. Louis which the Association has acknowledged. Now however I write up my formal complaints against Martin Ince, Bob Ward and the rest of the Board.
Part One: Formal complaint against President of ABSW, Martin Ince
Martin Ince, the President of the Association, announced Sir Colin Blakemore’s resignation in a short statement on the website. That statement is itself a piece of misreporting against Sir Tim Hunt. It is utterly without foundation to say Sir Tim has not disputed Connie St. Louis’ reporting. He has; and he does. The ABSW President has no right to misrepresent Sir Tim in this way. Further, I complain that his statement – short though it is – contains other errors of fact, and that he has assisted in falsely attacking the work of a fellow journalist, Guy Adams, in the name of the Association.
Mr. Ince’s misreporting of Sir Tim Hunt
As ABSW members will know 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.
As a matter of fact, Sir Tim Hunt never addressed “the Korea [sic] Federation….”. He addressed a lunch for journalists that was merely sponsored by the Federation, of whom barely a handful attended. The lunch was in honour of female scientists but was for journalists and the heads of journalism associations. Every WCSJ journalist in receipt of a travel grant received an invite and others present were heads of journalism associations. This repeats the canard that Sir Tim said something offensive to a roomful of women scientists. Basic journalism should have the President of a Journalists’ Association check his facts.
It also inaccurate to say Sir Tim “apologised for his comments.” He never used the word comments. His apology for his remarks was very clear in that he stated that he was sorry for making a self-deprecating joke that had been misunderstood. “Apologised for his joke” would be accurate. Sir Tim gave a toast of between 2-3 minutes and insisted it was a joke, something St. Louis denied, and which his apology to KOFWST reinforces:
I accept that my attempts at a self-deprecating joke were ill-judged and not in the least bit funny.
Now to Mr. Ince’s more serious piece of misreporting, which carries great weight as it is an ABSW statement on the Association’s website:
Sir Tim has not disputed the accuracy of St Louis’s reporting
This was false. Sir Tim Hunt always disputed the reporting of Connie St. Louis. Sir Tim Hunt said ‘What I said was quite accurately reported,’ on the Today Show on Radio 4, which is a reference to the 39 words that Ms. St. Louis claimed he said. Mr. Ince, and the ABSW, must be relying on this phrase as support for St. Louis reporting as a whole, but they cannot do so.
For Sir Tim also disputes her reporting, rather than her partial quotes, throughout that exact same broadcast and the ABSW President cannot cherry pick. Here I highlight the dispute in different colours so even the ABSW Board can’t miss it:
On the Today Show, Sir Tim says he was joking , and that he was being ironic. He says he did not thank the women for lunch, St. Louis claims it was Tim Hunt thanked the women for making his lunch. Incidentally she wrongly reported this based on a tweet she misunderstood then stuck to her false story:
St. Louis said the lunch was “utterly ruined” in her tweet. Sir Tim, in the Observer, denied that report saying nobody seemed upset. St. Louis on the Today Show said that after Sir Tim Hunt was finished, “there was this deathly, deathly silence.” Tim Hunt in the Observer said he finished to “polite applause”.
Therefore, and as a simple matter of fact, Sir Tim Hunt disputed aspects of St. Louis reporting in the same show where she made them, the show from which Mr. Ince cherry-picks a phrase – while ignoring all the other disputes of St. Louis’ reporting Sir Tim has made.
Sir Tim disputed her reporting to the Guardian on the same day, stating
I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather be honest about my own shortcomings.
Crucially, Hunt said, he then added the words, “now seriously” before going on to praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. “The words ‘now seriously’ make it very clear that I was making a joke, albeit a very bad one, but they were not mentioned in the first reports and I was deluged with hate mail,” Hunt said.
Those ‘first reports’ include that of Connie St. Louis.
And the ABSW mis-statement is the more serious yet since Connie St Louis herself acknowledges in her heavily edited Guardian article that Sir Tim Hunt is disputing her reporting.
Hunt now claims he added the words “now seriously” before going on to praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. “The words ‘now seriously’ make it very clear that I was making a joke, albeit a very bad one, but they were not mentioned in the first reports and I was deluged with hate mail,” Hunt said. He did not say this, nor did he praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. I wish he had; things would have been so much better.
So we see here that using the same quote I have pulled out for you from the Observer, referring to ‘now seriously,’ Mrs. St. Louis herself agrees that this disputes her reporting and she writes a whole article to fight back again.
When this ABSW statement appeared I asked if Professor Collins, Sir Tim Hunt’s wife, would correct Mr. Ince. She did so and repeatedly stated that the reporting of Connie St. Louis is disputed. She publicly asked St. Louis for an apology. But the ABSW has, nonetheless, not removed its false statement.
I complain that this is simple dereliction by the entire Board of the Association. They attribute something wrong to Sir Tim Hunt and they have not corrected it even when it is pointed out to them that they are wrong. Defending St. Louis is the subject of my other complaint. But when an Association of Science Writers complain that a leading scientist does not dispute the reporting of one of its leading members, and that scientist does dispute her reporting, to remain credible the Association must correct that false statement against Sir Tim, which is not that of Connie St. Louis, but the Association’s own.
Part Two: Complaint against Mr. Bob Ward.
The second ABSW Board Member I complain formally against is Mr. Bob Ward. He solicited my complaints against St. Louis be sent to him. Why should he do so when a complaint is to the Association and he has displayed a long-standing public bias in the matter?
Mr. Ward has displayed public bias and has no right to pre-judge any complaint that is to the Association as a whole.
He, replying to me, falsely accused the leading woman scientist in the United Kingdom, Professor Dame Athene Donald FRS, President of the British Science Association, Master of Churchill College Cambridge, of “explicitly refus[ing] to submit a formal complaint” merely because she had not yet done so.
Even when Prof. Dame Athene corrected Ward several times, he refused either to retract or to alter his tweet.
Stop misrepresenting me, @ret_ward @ABSW. I said I’m not complaining AT THIS POINT as my email made clear – and why
@ret_ward It would be helpful if you would respond to my email rather than put out inaccurate and misleading tweets
This is false reporting of Dame Athene’s position in an important matter, and it is also bias in the matter of Connie St. Louis. We can have no confidence in the legal requirement for ABSW to observe its standing orders if Mr. Ward is involved. I complain of serial misreporting, serial inaccuracy and wrongful attacks on the whistle-blowing work of the journalist Guy Adams:
Video shows last few seconds: Tim Hunt and some in audience think it is funny to be a self-confessed “chauvinistic monster”.
There is no video and the words used as quotes by Ward are not only nowhere in the audio recording, but nowhere in any of the reports as a quote
Tim Hunt does not deny his remarks or his male chauvinism, so why are you attacking the female journalist?
Sir Tim Hunt has denied St. Louis report of his remarks as partial and has never said in earnest that he is “chauvinist”, always insisting that he was being ironic:
you are applauding a hatchet job by a male journalist on a female journalist who reported sexist comments?
This tweet refers to Guy Adams’ entirely correct work on Connie St. Louis falsely and it implies Mr. Adams is a sexist:
In fact Mr. Adams had searched databases and pulled press clippings going back decades. Mr. Ward cannot adduce any evidence whatsoever against Mr. Adams reporting on her CV. Ms. St. Louis did indeed ‘hound Sir Tim Hunt out of his job’ demanding the Royal Society, who had already put out a statement, go further and take action against him.
Connie St. Louis was utterly explicit in her article for scientific American blogs that she intended to force the Royal Society to take action against Sir Tim:
I didn’t just call out Hunt in that first tweet, however, but also the Royal Society, the U.K.’s national academy of science, where he is a fellow. Sexual inequality in the STEM fields continues in part because the Society continues to take very little action. The British government has tasked the Society with addressing the enormous inequality experienced by women in science, and it receives vast amounts of taxpayer money to do this and other key science tasks. So a comment from the organization was needed. Yet the morning after my first tweet, the Society merely flagged its diversity initiatives but said nothing of Hunt’s comment. It was clearly inadequate, and I said so
Further, St. Louis retweeted comments attacking the Royal Society for keeping Hunt as a Fellow (!) and calling for complaints against him to the ERC where he held a post:
Mr. Adams was therefore entirely correct to say St. Louis hounded Hunt and he was also correct on her false CV on which she stood for election to the WFSJ, thereby cheating another candidate of a place on the Board in a fair election.
Mr. Ince and Mr. Ward should have no part in judging complaints against Ms. St. Louis. Indeed, the entire ABSW Board looks to have a conflict of interest given that they were all party to the statement in June, and I request that they seek a independent journalists from among their ranks who have no friendship or acquaintance with St. Louis and who has not made any public statement – blog comment, tweet, Facebook post or otherwise – against Sir Tim Hunt.
I further request an apology to Sir Tim Hunt over the false statement that he has not disputed the reporting of Connie St. Louis and a correction of this false statement on the ABSW’s website.