Grab your ethics, the press are coming
Our vice-chancellor has lavished praise upon University College London for the decisive manner in which it responded to the news that one of its honorary professors had said something very stupid about women at an overseas conference.
He reminded our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), that as soon as news of the remarks had become widespread, the university contacted Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel laureate professor, and told him that he must resign immediately or be sacked. And UCL had then “further displayed its ethical commitment to gender equality” by announcing the resignation on its website and drawing attention to its robust stance on Twitter.
Ponting wondered if our vice-chancellor felt that a similar speed of action and ethical commitment to gender equality might also have been appropriate in the case of Gennadij Raivich, the neuroscientist employed by UCL who last year was convicted of sexually assaulting one of his female patients. Ponting reminded our vice-chancellor that in this case UCL had refused to say whether or not it intended to suspend Raivich after his conviction but prior to his sentencing. It also refused to confirm or deny whether he was still publishing papers with his UCL colleagues. Raivich eventually resigned.
Our vice-chancellor promptly dismissed this comparison as “misleading”. While it was true that a court conviction for sexually assaulting a female patient was “on the face of it” slightly more indicative of the need for prompt public action than the case of an honorary professor making stupid remarks at an overseas conference, the present UCL action showed the university’s exemplary commitment to the classic PR dictum: “It is only in the broad light of massive media attention that one properly discovers one’s long-standing commitment to ethical principles.”
Lies, damned lies and impact
As Poppletonian readers will remember, our Head of Research Impact, Gerald Thudd, was widely praised earlier this year for the manner in which he was able to raise the impact of a large number of REF submissions which before his input had lacked any relevance whatsoever.
Thudd’s commitment to raising impact has now been underlined by his support for the recent assertion by Julie Bayley, impact officer and senior researcher in health psychology at Coventry University, that academics should endeavour to think of the impact of their research right from the start rather than “trying to create impact” after their work was completed.
If Poppleton academics had followed this advice, said Thudd, it would not only have saved a great deal of the money spent on hiring professional writers to “juice up” our REF submissions but would also have spared us the “unsavoury sight” of our philosophy professor desperately attempting to add last minute impact to his paper on Phenomenal Concepts and the Private Language Argument by broadcasting it through a loudspeaker attached to the summit of the university cooling tower.
(Professional note: Thudd was appointed to his post on the basis of his track record in institutional confabulation. He was previously employed making out airline schedules.)
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
In the wake of serious concerns that academics may be following in the steps of barristers and using cocaine to help them through their extensive paperwork, we are setting up a special Help Clinic this Thursday evening. Apply in the usual manner, marking your application “Reading Between the Lines”.