ABSW News

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:
 
Professional Conduct
 
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.
 
The ABSW would like to clarify that it is a Company Limited by Guarantee. This means that it has no share capital and pays no dividends. This is a standard form of organisation for UK bodies which exist for the public good rather than for profit. It pays no fees to its directors.
 
Our Standing Orders state:
 
Executive Board 3. The ABSW shall be managed by an Executive Board comprising a President , Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, who shall all be directors of the company, and a European Representative (who may be the President), plus up to seven other members elected at the AGM, and up to four co-opted members appointed under Standing Order 8.
 
Furthermore our Articles state:
 
Methods of appointing directors 17. – (1) Any member of the Association, who is willing to act as a director, and is permitted by law to do so, may be appointed to be a director– (a) by ordinary resolution at a General Meeting, or (b) by a decision of the directors both to fill a casual vacancy and to provide expertise not otherwise available
 
As is required by Companies House, we make an annual return listing our Directors.   We also update Companies House when Directors cease to serve or are appointed.   All these details are freely available through our listing with Companies House.
 
Our current Directors are:
 
Martin Ince (President)
Mico Tatalovic (Vice-President)
Victoria Parsons (Treasurer)
Wendy Grossman (Board member)
Connie St Louis (European Representative)

As stated in our previous post we have accepted with regret Sir Colin Blakemore’s resignation as honorary president of the ABSW, with thanks for his support and assistance over the years.  

A statement from the honorary president was requested by the ABSW board.

In the light of the Observer article of October 11, the board of the ABSW wishes to point out that the Association’s Standing Order 16 (published on this web site under About Us, Memorandum, Articles and Standing Orders) sets out the procedure for making a complaint about a member of the ABSW. It has not received the notification needed to start a case under this process, which involves a formal complaint in writing, but will of course act upon any such complaint it may receive.

 

We have accepted with regret Sir Colin Blakemore’s resignation as honorary president of the ABSW, with thanks for his support and assistance over the years.  He has made it clear that he disagrees irreconcilably with the statement we issued in June about media attacks on our former president, Connie St Louis.

As anyone looking at this web site knows already, this relates to her reporting of remarks to the Korea Federation of Women’s Science and Technology Associations by Sir Tim Hunt at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul on June 8. Sir Tim has not disputed the accuracy of St Louis’s reporting and has apologised to the Federation for his comments. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, is on record as saying that Sir Tim’s comments were unacceptable.

The World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) of which the ABSW is a member has published their September Newsletter.

Download the Newsletter for all the latest news or access the newsletter via their website.

The WFSJ website has recently undergone a complete re-vamp so drop by to see all the resources and news available.

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