A member of the Royal Institution

Now for the Daily Mail article itself. It’s damning.

On the other hand it – of course – makes some mistakes of its own, such as the headline for instance:

A very flawed accuser: Investigation into the academic who hounded a Nobel Prize winning scientist out of his job reveals troubling questions about her testimony

Nobody hounded him out of his job. He didn’t have “a job”; he’s retired; he had honorary positions.

Then there’s this in the body of the article:

Then, early this week, the simmering dispute took a further, seismic twist.

It came courtesy of The Times newspaper, which revealed the contents of a leaked report into Sir Tim’s fall from grace compiled by an EU official who had accompanied him to the Seoul conference.

This individual, who has not been named, sat with him at the lunch and provided a transcript of what Sir Tim ‘really said’.

No. He didn’t provide a “transcript.” He provided an account from memory, just as the account by Deborah Blum and Ivan Oransky and Connie St Louis was from memory. There is no transcript (so far).

Supporters of Sir Tim felt he had been vindicated. Among them was Professor Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, who said the leaked memo’s contents showed Sir Tim to be ‘the reverse of a chauvinist monster’.

But Dawkins took a side on this issue years ago, and he clings to it as if it were a life raft in the Bering Sea.

However, Sir Tim’s critics remained unmoved and disputed the EU report’s contents. Importantly, given how the scandal had originally emerged, they were led by Connie St Louis.

She stood by her remarks and told the Mail that she explicitly denied that the scientist’s toast ever contained the words ‘now seriously’.

As a result, this explosive controversy now rests on a single, straightforward question: which of these two, first-hand versions of events is true? Either the anonymous EU official is telling the truth, in which case Sir Tim is a hapless victim, guilty of nothing more than telling a misjudged joke. Or Connie St Louis, the architect of the witch-hunt against him, is in the right. In that case, many will continue to argue that he got what he deserved.

No, it doesn’t. That’s ludicrous. The possibility that it was hamfisted “humor” was there all along, and changes nothing. Sexist “jokes” are still sexist. Racist “jokes” are still racist. Homophobic “humor” is still homophobic. Women are very very familiar with “jokes” that are really veiled aggression. So very familiar.

But we’ve been around this dance before; on to the substance about St Louis.

Perhaps, therefore, we should ask two other related questions: who exactly is Connie St Louis? And why, exactly, should we trust her word over that of a Nobel laureate?

A good place to start is the website of London’s City University, where St Louis has, for more than a decade, been employed to run a postgraduate course in science journalism.

Here, on a page outlining her CV, she is described as follows:

‘Connie St Louis . . . is an award-winning freelance broadcaster, journalist, writer and scientist.

‘She presents and produces a range of programmes for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service . . . She writes for numerous outlets, including The Independent, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, BBC On Air magazine and BBC Online.’

The reporter Guy Adams dug, and found that all those claims are exaggerated or worse.

For one thing, Connie St Louis does not ‘present and produce’ a range of programmes for Radio 4.

Her most recent work for the station, a documentary about pharmaceuticals called The Magic Bullet, was broadcast in October 2007.

For another, it’s demonstrably false to say she ‘writes’ for The Independent, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times.

Digital archives for all three newspapers, which stretch back at least 20 years, contain no by-lined articles that she has written for any of these titles, either in their print or online editions. The Mail’s accounts department has no record of ever paying her for a contribution.


Elsewhere on the City University web page, readers are led to believe that St Louis has either become, or is soon to become, a published author.

‘She is a recipient of the prestigious Joseph Rowntree Journalist Fellowship to write a book based on her acclaimed two-part Radio 4 documentary series, Raising Ham,’ it reads.

But that is not the full story. In 2005, St Louis did, indeed, receive the liberal organisation’s ‘fellowship’. She was given £50,000, which was supposed to support her while she wrote the book in question.

However, no book was ever published. Or, indeed, written. An entire decade later, the project remains a work in progress.


Earlier this year, she stood, successfully, in an election to become a board member of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ). As part of the election process, St Louis was required to present a detailed CV to voters.

This document, which stretches to six pages, is still on the WFSJ’s website. It contains several deeply questionable statements.

In an early passage, she for example writes: ‘I am a regular contributor to ABC News Worldview TV programme.’ Yet ABC News Worldview has not aired for roughly five years. Factiva, an online search engine which carried transcripts of it, suggests that the last recorded contribution by Connie St Louis to the show was on May 31, 2006.

In another early passage, St Louis writes that she has a second career working for quangos.

‘In November 2002, I was invited and subsequently appointed by the Minister responsible for media, sport and culture to be a board member of UK Sport (the former UK Sports Council) . . . My term of office ended last year but I continue to serve on the audit committee as an external member.’

UK Sport describes things differently. A spokesman says St Louis was appointed to the board in November 2002 but she left in 2005.

St Louis did not respond when asked by the Mail how she can, therefore, claim, in a CV published in 2015, to have been a board member of UK Sport until ‘last year’.


Elsewhere in the six-page CV is a section devoted to ‘Qualification and Training’. In it, St Louis trumpets the fact that she is ‘a member of the Royal Institution’.

Again, very prestigious. Or so it seems, until a spokesman for the Royal Institution told me: ‘Anyone can be a member. It’s simply a service you pay for which entitles you to free tickets to visit us and gives you a discount in our cafe.

‘It’s like having membership of your local cinema or gym.’

Why would someone include such a thing on their CV?

‘Actually, that’s a bit of a problem,’ the spokesman added. ‘We have heard of a few people using membership on their CV to imply that they have some sort of professional recognition or qualification. But it means nothing of the sort. It’s very, very odd to see this on a CV.’

St Louis did not respond when the Mail asked why she cited this membership as a ‘qualification’.

You know what that reminds me of? The Templeton Foundation, which likes to create “Institutions” and the like in places like Cambridge and Oxford so that the unwary will think Templeton’s creations are part of the universities. It also reminds me of the “Global Secular Council.” It’s funny, in a way, but it’s also disgusting.

Connie St Louis appears to be indefensible. Does it follow that Tim Hunt did not make sexist “jokes” at that lunch? No, it doesn’t.


  1. Al Dente says

    St Louis inflated her CV. Does that mean that Hunt’s “jokes” weren’t sexist? The Daily Heil neglects to connect the dots.

  2. Buggyanon says

    Not to disagree that if Daily Mail’s general description of her CV is accurate it’s pretty inflated/bullshitty, but my own department explicitly requests that we include professional society memberships (and from a quick Google it looks like ri pretty much falls under that header) on CVs submitted to them, even though say, an entsoc membership just means you payed up at the beginning of the year to make conference attendance cheaper/access travel grants/vote on things and no one ever actually checks to make sure you’re really an entomologist.

  3. says

    I don’t know…from my quick Google it looks more as if the RI is an organization open to everyone that promotes science. The “open to everyone” part makes it not a professional org, doesn’t it?

  4. Buggyanon says

    @ Ophelia – Reading through the website you’re definitely right on the Ri unless she was listing some form of outreach activity in addition to just membership.

    I’ve been trying to find the actual CV since I’ve found that departmental websites are usually updated maybe once when you first get the job and then never again however much you beg the staff even if there were errors in it initially, but reading through more of the article it does look like she definitely falsified what newspapers she’d written for, at bare minimum, rather than just doing a bad job of keeping things updated (the double paper thing does look like an “submitted epub available ahead of print, sent in/added final when it came out, screwed up the update” – I realize that I am attributing a lot to general disinterest and incompetence rather than malice but I think sometimes people who are very visible online overestimate the amount of care even reasonably engaged people put into their public profiles; also I once as an undergrad had to tell a German prof who’d worked at his current university for years that he *had* a department webpage).

    I do wish I could find the original CV since I’m only seeing this reported so far on Daily Mail and Breitbart, and both organizations have somewhat strained relationships with reality. Overall it definitely sounds like there’s a lot of falsification, but some of the specific critiques strike me as reaching, and more the result of someone who just occasionally adds a new things to the cv without correcting statements like “a year ago” to “five years ago” in older entries (dates, people, use dates). Anyway, agree absolutely with your overall reaction.

  5. David B. says

    Woah! Let’s back that load up a tad!

    [T]his explosive controversy now rests on a single, straightforward question: which of these two, first-hand versions of events is true? Either the anonymous EU official is telling the truth, […] Or Connie St Louis”

    Okay, so it’s between Connie’s account and Anonymous’, gotcha.

    Perhaps, therefore, we should ask two other related questions: who exactly is Connie St Louis? And why, exactly, should we trust her word over that of a Nobel laureate?

    So “Anonymous” is a Nobel laureate too? What are the chances?!

    Just standard Daily Mail then, set up the dichotomy, shift the goalposts, poison the well and f%*# the truth.

  6. says

    And the official isn’t anonymous – there was that Twitter conversation a couple of days ago in which someone asked him if he was that official and if there was a transcript, and he said yes he was and no there wasn’t.

  7. quixote says

    So, let’s see. On one side, a powerful man making ubiquitous attitudes obvious that hold back women, merit-based work, and, therefore, really, human progress. On the other side an inflated cv.

    It’s obvious which one is the real problem. Burn the witch.

  8. EigenSprocketUK says

    …Connie St Louis, the architect of the witch-hunt against him…

    The architect? Of a witch-hunt? Wow, that seems more than exaggerated. Perhaps that could go in the CV too, then it will make the whole thing implode.

  9. Arkady says

    It’s grimly amusing to me to see the Daily Heil go all-out in its defence of ‘academic freedom!’ to make controversial comments. A couple of years ago they got the colleague of a friend fired for comments he made on Facebook (not public, but FB is never all that private) about exam marking, in which no students were identified. They described him as ‘full name, senior lecturer’, rather than ‘shortened name, recent PhD grad doing some poorly paid teaching temp work’. He lost that work, and more importantly lost the job he had lined up at another university. Unlike Prof. Hunt, he had no other sources of income and was the sole breadwinner for his young family (wife wasn’t allowed to work as a non-eu citizen on a spousal visa I think). Thankfully another academic took pity on him and hired him as a research assistant, a job that pays just above minimum wage…

  10. Morgan says

    David B makes the point I was going to – suddenly it’s a he-said-she-said and it must be presumed the woman is lying to tear down the high-status man. Better to deny the events ever happened than to actually engage with the issues being raised. Never mind that even if you take the Daily Mail’s preferred version of events as given, the same problems are still right there.

  11. says

    … wow. Shocking… Who knew she was such a scarlet woman?

    Clearly, she somehow hypnotized Hunt, too, to make him say the stupid shit he did. Is there no level to which she will not stoop?

    (Much, presumably, as rape victims lead their attackers on. Should we also ask: what was she wearing during this speech?)

    Good thing that bastion of journalistic integrity caught onto her, I guess.

    … or, in other news, SOP. And a little message for anyone, anywhere, standing up against any abuse of established power: we will do the same to you. Got anything, anywhere in your life we can spin as looking a mite dodgy? Oh, we will do so, be assured. You will be inspected. Let us enforce the rule of the world: no honest deed will go unpunished.

    Comical, though, I guess. They’re pulling this crap, and still saying, evidently with a straight face, she’s the ‘architect of a witch hunt’.

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