Tim Hunt, the sexist pig, has has been retired from his honorary position at UCL.
UCL can confirm that Sir Tim Hunt FRS has today resigned from his position as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences, following comments he made about women in science at the World Conference of Science Journalists on 9 June.
UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality.
Note: this was an honorary position, he was not paid, he didn’t have any duties, but was just expected to show up for the dog-and-pony shows. This resignation represents no significant loss to scientific progress. His primary employment is at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, but he also has had appointments at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and the University of Cambridge. Don’t read too much into a resignation from one honorary position; he’s not hurting, except in his pride.
And also, this was a handy move to feed the narrative: political correctness gone mad! Tragic loss to science as Nobel prize winner is hounded into retirement!
That’s exactly the game one Libertarian rag, Spiked, is playing, claiming that this is how public shaming harms academia.
Hunt’s comments are as silly as they are outdated; his Nobel Prize clearly wasn’t awarded for political correctness. But this is precisely the point. Hunt is a scientist; his talents lie in biochemistry, particularly in cells and proteins, and not diplomacy. Due to the public humiliation of this 72-year-old man, British academia has now lost a talented scientist. The members of Hunt’s lab will no longer have access to his experience and knowledge. The work he had been pursuing will presumably now be abandoned.
Oh, boo hoo. We’ve lost Tim Hunt, or rather, Tim Hunt has lost a prestigious affiliation. Why aren’t we moaning about the scientific careers of young women that we’ve lost to the kind of sexist bullshit people like Hunt have been pushing for decades?
I suspect that the author has no clue what Hunt’s position was like, or what he’s been doing, but is simply blinded by the glare from that shiny Nobel prize. Did he even have a physical lab at UCL, or any students? Here’s a hint: the Nobel is awarded for notable past work; it is not a predictor that the awardee is currently doing cutting edge research or is going to get another Nobel. Respect the accomplishments of the person, but don’t assume that they are representative of the current state of science.
Older scientists are usually well past their research prime, and I say that as a fellow old geezer. That does not mean we should toss out everyone over 30, but that we ought to recognize that a healthy academic ecosystem would support diverse roles. In addition to the aggressive, active PIs, there is a place for teaching, leadership, writing, and mentoring, and us
ancient well-seasoned professors often excel at those tasks.
Although, in Hunt’s case, we can say that the “mentoring” bit is almost certainly not one of his strengths.