Thursday, July 16, 2015


[Updated 15/11/2015: This is just for the record. On July 14, I sent the email below to the World Federation of Science Journalists. The next day, I mailed them asking them to acknowledge its receipt and, if possible, to let me know how long I can expect to wait for a response. I reminded them again on July 20, September 7, and November 14 (see below.) I've also notified them of my criticism through Twitter. As of November 15, I have not heard from either the WFSJ or any of the copied persons. Nor have any of them addressed the conflict of interest I suggest. Nor, in fact, has either WFSJ or WCSJ made any public statement about the Tim Hunt affair. I note that Ed Yong was rightly puzzled at the outset for Connie St Louis' focus on the Royal Society and silence about WCSJ.*]

from: Thomas Basboll
cc: Deborah Blum, Ivan Oransky, Curtis Brainard, Richard Stone
date: Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 2:32 PM
subject: Request for Comment on Role of WFSJ in Tim Hunt Scandal

Dear World Federation of Science Journalists,

It recently came to my attention that the three journalists who broke the story about Tim Hunt's remarks at WCSJ 2015, were all closely associated with the organization of the conference. Ivan Oransky was co-chair of the program committee and Deborah Blum served on it as well, while Connie St Louis was a keynote speaker and now serves on the executive board.

As I have noted on my blog, I find it shocking that Tim Hunt, a guest at your conference, found himself humiliated by the deliberate and coordinated actions of its program committee and a member of its (incoming) executive board. I'm very curious to hear what the WFSJ's official position in this matter is.

My thoughts can be read here.

I will of course gladly append any statement from WFSJ or any of the involved parties to the post as clarification. (Please note I would have liked to cc Connie St Louis but was unable to find her email address at City University London's website. I would also appreciate your forwarding this mail to Jae-eok Shim, the conference chair.)

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to ask.

Thomas Basbøll

Research as a Second Language


Update 15/11/2015:

The following reminders have been sent to WFSJ at the same address as above. Except for a couple of a couple of typos that I've corrected, they appear here exactly as sent:


Dear WFSJ,

Did you get my mail (see below)? I understand that you might want to think it over, but I would appreciate an acknowledgement of the receipt of my mail. My thinking on this issue is, of course, evolving and it is important to me to get WFSJ on record going forward. The ABSW's statement in support of Connie St Louis was exemplary in this regard.

I will be posting some more on this subject in the days to come. So it will be useful to me to have some sense of when the WFSJ might have its position worked out.

Thomas Basbøll



Just a quick note to say I'm still waiting for a response to this request. I have a post going up tomorrow that focuses on the responsibilities of WFSJ and KOFWST for the way the way the controversy unfolded. A comment would be most appreciated.

Thomas Basbøll



Despite several reminders, I've now waited almost two months for a reply to my queries (see below) about the formal roles of Connie St Louis, Deborah Blum and Ivan Oransky at WCSJ2015, where they decided to scandalise one of the invited speakers, Tim Hunt, for his informal remarks made a conference luncheon.

I'm rather puzzled that a professional organisation of journalists would stonewall so blatantly. As I recently noted on my blog, I'm increasingly comfortable judging the professionalism of science writers by how this affair was handled.

Thomas Basbøll



Back in July, I began to take a serious interest in the internet shaming of Tim Hunt as a result of remarks he made at WCSJ2015. I reached out for comment at the time (see below) but have still not heard anything from you.

I remain curious about why WFSJ did not protect such a prestigious guest from the ill effects of what turned out to be rather misleading reports of his remarks. More to the point, I remain baffled at the behavior of the board in this case, with Connie St Louis, a board member, writing the original tweet, and Mohammed Yahia, the vice president, fanning the flames.

Is this really the sort of treatment one can expect as a guest at one of your events? I can't imagine the leadership of my own professional organisation subjecting a conference guest to similar treatment, even if the remarks had been as wrong-headed as originally reported.

I'm writing about this subject occasionally online, and have taken it up as a bit of a research project as well, so any comment from your end would really be much appreciated. The utter silence of WFSJ about the one thing that WCSJ2015 seems destined to be remembered for already says something, of course.

But you're not going to leave it there, are you?

Thomas Basbøll

*Though I didn't notice it at the time, I should acknowledge that Ed Yong appears to have been the first to notice that the conference organizers were missing from the story. Interestingly, Deborah Blum responds to his concern, not by explaining her role on the program committee, but by deflecting attention to the European Research Council. Here's a screen shot of the tweets:

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