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.’
All very prestigious. Comforting, no doubt, for potential students considering whether to devote a year of their lives (and money) to completing an MA course under her stewardship. Except, that is for one small detail: almost all of these supposed ‘facts’ appear to be untrue.
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.
Her work for The Guardian appears to consist of two online articles: one published in 2013; the other, about the Sir Tim Hunt affair, went live (online) this week.
Curiously, that 1,000-word piece, in which St Louis recalled the scandal, was heavily edited after publication. Around 30 changes, some of them significant, were made to it. In an apparent contradiction of usual Guardian policy, the version now running online contains no disclaimer detailing this fact.
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.
Asked to explain these discrepancies — although details of the claims are carried, remember, on the internet page where she is supposed to present her credentials to students and fellow academics — St Louis said she had done interviews for the Daily Mail but conceded it was ‘possible’ that she had never written for the paper.
She said her by-lined articles in the Independent and Sunday Times may have been published more than two decades ago. Asked how she could, therefore, justify the claim on her CV that she ‘writes’ for the titles, she hung up.
In a subsequent email, St Louis appeared to backtrack and insist that she has written for all the newspapers cited on her CV, but said: ‘I don’t have time . . . to find all the articles on different old computers.’
She did not respond to a question asking what awards she had ever won for journalism, science, broadcasting or writing.
With regard to the £50,000 fellowship, she added: ‘I didn’t finish the Rowntree book I was writing because I had breast cancer and was extremely ill for a year.
‘Then, after that, I had to work to look after my family. It doesn [sic] take away the fact that I won it [the £50,000] and still hope to finish the book does it?’
Readers can, of course, draw their own conclusions.
In common with most academics, St Louis also uses her online CV to cite articles she has previously published in prestigious academic journals. It claims that she has published three. However, even this is misleading. Two of the three cited journal articles are the same: a piece for the British Medical Journal entitled: ‘Can Twitter predict disease outbreaks?’
Are such errors merely sloppy? Or were they designed to mislead? And what do they tell us about the attention to detail of a woman whose purported recollection of a short lunchtime toast has effectively ruined a Nobel laureate’s career?
Again, readers must draw their own conclusions.
In an email, one of the prominent scientists who have publicly supported Sir Tim Hunt tells me: ‘What you have discovered is very alarming. False claims about publications are taken very seriously by universities. Perhaps even more seriously than reports of dodgy, sexist speeches!’
Another, Dame Valerie Beral, who has worked with Sir Tim, added that if St Louis had made false claims on her CV, then her evidence about his speech ought to be discounted.
‘I think the institutions who have forced Tim to resign now need to look at the claims that this person has made in the past, and work out whether they can trust what she says regarding this incident.
‘If her previous claims turn out to be false, then I believe that Tim must be re-instated.’
City University, meanwhile, says it’s investigating the web page in question.
This is not, however, the only medium in which St Louis appears to make false, or at least misleading, statements.
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’.
Neither, as it happens, did she reply to a request to explain what academic qualifications she actually has.
The CV again is unclear. In a section outlining her education, she states: ‘BSc (Hons) Upper Second Class degree in Applied Biology.’ But it does not state where she gained it from, making it impossible to fact-check.
Doubtless, more facts will eventually emerge, perhaps once City University has finished investigating this matter.
In the meantime, those who have condemned the Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt may wish to re-examine some of her previous statements about the affair.
Take, by way of a final example, an interview with the BBC on June 10, in which St Louis recalled that toast in Seoul: ‘He just ploughed on for five to seven minutes, actually,’ she said. ‘It was really shocking. It was culturally insensitive and it was very sexist.’
Strangely, the passage from Sir Tim’s speech that St Louis has so far made public is exactly 37 words long. It would take, at most, 20 seconds to recount.
So did Sir Tim really ‘plough on’ for five to seven minutes? And, if so, what did he say?
Why did she selectively quote just one statement from his toast? And how did such a remark end the 50-year career of a Nobel laureate?
Once more, readers must draw their own conclusions.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3141158/A-flawed-accuser-Investigation-academic-hounded-Nobel-Prize-winning-scientist-job-reveals-troubling-questions-testimony.html#ixzz3eNjhq7sB
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