The Tim Hunt affair, the fallout from his ill-judged remarks, and the bad feeling that has been engendered in the scientific community following the intervention of a number of variously selective and agenda-driven media players, is now being discussed as part of an inquiry by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The inquiry, on Science Communication, continues (you can read evidence submitted HERE).
Last week, written evidence was submitted to the Committee by journalist and author Dan Waddell (see HERE), who has followed the Hunt saga from the beginning and tried to present a reasoned view of events, free of the hyperbole and aggression that has characterised far too much of the press coverage. He leaves us in no doubt that there are questions for the Science Media Centre (SMC) to answer.
In response to Waddell’s evidence, and in particular his criticism of its chief executive Fiona Fox, the SMC has put out a terse and brief statement telling “The Trustees of the SMC dispute many of the details of Mr Waddell's account [see COM0118] of its role in the Tim Hunt affair. They do not agree with the assumptions he makes, and the conclusions he draws. In particular, they disagree with the suggestion that the scientific community was unaware of the involvement of the SMC”.
So far, so procedural, but anyone who has followed the Tim Hunt saga will know that one name is missing from those cited thus far. That name is (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who inserted herself in the Hunt narrative and made a number of creative and extremely aggressive declarations and accusations in the process.
Where, then, is Ms Mensch in the inquiry, given that those forming the Commons Science and Technology Committee include her former colleagues, all those MPs that served alongside her during her brief tenure as MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire? Zelo Street regulars will find the answer something to savour.
I can reveal exclusively that Louise Mensch was not asked to give evidence to the Committee, partly because she has no status in the world of science communication, or indeed science generally. A well placed source close to the inquiry, speaking on condition of anonymity, has told me “no-one has asked for her opinion on this matter at all [and] nor will they”.
Think about that. The Commons Science and Technology Committee, including MPs who served alongside Louise Mensch, is not interested in hearing evidence from her on one of the issues on which she expended considerable effort recently. It is unlikely that they forgot her presence; more likely she has nothing of any use to tell them. After all, throwing your weight around and calling “liar” on anyone who disagrees is not going to help with understanding the nuances of science communication.
That is why there will be no further Commons Menshn of Ms Mensch. Sad, really.