On June 30, 2015 the Board of the Association of British Science Writers issued a statement
concerning Connie St Louis, a member of the ABSW and its Board. The statement was published in response to personal attacks on Ms St Louis, including an article in the ‘Daily Mail’ on 27 June and associated online comments. Ms St Louis has been the subject of personal attacks, bigoted insults and abuse as a result of her reporting of remarks by Sir Tim Hunt at a lunch event on ‘Women in Science’ at the World Conference of Science Journalists on 8 June in Seoul.
As its timing suggests, the Board’s statement was intended to convey its support for Connie St Louis against the abuse she has received and against attempts to discredit her professionally. Our statement was not a specific endorsement of Ms St Louis’s reporting of Sir Tim’s comments. However, this clarification should not be wrongly interpreted as an indication that the Board has any specific concerns about Ms St Louis’s reporting or professional conduct. All of our members are assumed to comply with the Standing Orders of the ABSW
, including Standing Order 16 on professional conduct.
Sir Colin Blakemore, the former Honorary President of the ABSW, has asked the Board to make clear that he condemns the abuse to which Connie St Louis has been subjected, and that the ABSW Board’s previous statement regarding his resignation
should not be misinterpreted as indicating otherwise. The Board is happy to do so with this statement.
There have been claims that the ABSW Board has refused to investigate complaints about the professional conduct of Ms St Louis. These allegations are incorrect. The ABSW Board has a legal duty to uphold the Standing Orders of ABSW Ltd. However, as of 21 October 2015, the Board has not received any formal complaints against Ms St Louis. The Board is unable to initiate action under Standing Order 16 unless it receives a formal complaint.
Standing Order 16 states:
16. Members of the Association are expected to observe the highest professional standards. Wilful or frequent misrepresentation or inaccuracy, wilful breach of confidence, or behaviour in any way prejudicial to the interest of the public in accurate scientific reporting, or of the professional interests of the membership of the Association, shall be considered in breach of these standards.
A member against whom a formal complaint of infringement of this rule is laid shall be invited to meet the Executive Board, which will meet with at least five members present. A copy of the written complaint shall be communicated to the respondent at least three weeks before the hearing. An adequate record shall be kept of the hearing. The Executive Board has the power to warn, suspend or expel the member complained against. A written statement of the reasons for any suspension or expulsion shall be made to members of the Association at or before the next AGM of the Association.
A formal complaint must be in writing and duly signed by the complainant. If the complaint originates from within the Association, it shall be signed by not fewer than three members.