Internet is changing some aspects of the world we live in. Faster and easier verbal communication between individuals with more dialogues appearing intentionally in the public domain. In separate conversations, I engaged today with Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics in the Department of Law at Queen Mary University of London and with Anne Marie Cunningham, General Practicioner and Clinical Lecturer in Cardiff University, Wales, UK, neither of whom have I met in person. My “good friend and colleague” also blogged over the use of words in misuse of power, in reply to last night’s tweet from Mexico City! The conversations follow below and can be independently accessed via our respective twitter accounts; I have assumed twitter users don’t mind the reproduction.
1st conversation brings up Medawar and Orwell in the context of John Allen’s dismissal
Fanis: … “words are the only thing we have to communicate in an otherwise lonely universe” … words fail me.
Prof John Allen: “No-one who sincerely believes he has something important to say will knowingly run the risk of being misunderstood” -Medawar.
Fanis: Does Medawar’s crisp quote stand independently of actor’s honesty? Scientists-at-heart forget truth can be knowingly twisted.
Prof John Allen: Point of View – BBC Radio 4 http://bbc.in/1v8g0RC Attack on Orwell, OK; not OK on need for understanding & being understood.
Fanis: precisely! Use of words in misuse of power | John F. Allen’s Blog
David Drew: The academic parallel to what happens to excellent NHS clinician ‘misfits’.
PDara: Scientific Cabal?
Alan Simpson: Concerning
Lewis Haddow: Depressing if true
Brita Roy: Shocking and shameful
Brian Hodges: Hard hitting keynote by Richard Horton
#amee2014 “We have created a university culture which is intolerant of dissent”
[aha! so this may provide an explanation of renewed interest in our case – I am indebted to the editor of The Lancet for reporting]
Anne Marie C: hoping to verify this with
Fanis: Dear Anne Marie, thank you for asking for recent events see http://fanismissirlis.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/johnallenqmul/
Anne Marie C: thanks ++ – was wondering if I might have misquoted
@richardhorton1 and was uncertain about libel etc
Fanis: we in Lancet: “Yet the Dean managed to pick out others—for oblivion, not just criticism.” However, see: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/former-queen-mary-lecturers-unfair-dismissal-claim-rejected/2012219.article
This one took me even more by surprise, although David Colquhoun has been a staunch supporter and defender of academic values and thankfully he is not letting the issue go away. What was remarkable was a renewed public engagement of a senior QMUL academic, whom I thank for the contribution. It all started with a question from someone writing under the pseudonym…
The Golden Meerkat:
@david_colquhoun just read your piece on Queen Marys new staff evaluation policy from 2012. wonder how it turned out?
DC: disastrous. For both
@qmulbioethics and academia as a whole
The Golden Meerkat: did they really went through with their cuts based on these dubious criteria?
DC: Yes, they did.
@QMUL has no idea how to assess people, and less idea bout how to keep high morale. Bad management
The Golden Meerkat: the implication is, it did harm others. how many of your colleauges were affected by the policy? and what has the
@QMUL gained from the shift in policy till now? positive outcomes?
DC: ask that 10 years from now
RA: you are asking me to comment on my employer’s HR policy from my “official” twitter a/c, and I am not going to.
DC: that strikes me as deeply unethical! Why not? I have done so http://www.dcscience.net/?p=226 Has the firing of John Allen intimidated you into silence?
RA: no. I am bit intimidated at all. I have worked at 4 British universities, and QM is by far the best I’ve found. I don’t know the facts in the case; so commenting on it would be unethical precisely because I am an employee and would be assumed to have more information than I am letting on – which I don’t. I will say that QM’s policies are pretty mild compared with what I have found are standard practices elsewhere.
DC: so you approve of the D^3 document? http://www.dcscience.net/?p=5388
RA: no, and QM did not follow through on this proposal. I was REF lead for my school, and this much I do know.
DC: it was certainly followed through for some people -look at the warngel about Evans’ publications! How many people were fired by Evans et al, in basis of D^3 -like assessements?
RA: you are asking me questions I cannot answer because I don’t have the information.
DC: That’s a pity. Surely as REF lead and ethics person, you should have the information.
RA: REF lead for one school. Not on the Faculty panel. And I am in Humanities. So, not au fait with other Faculties.
DC: well the big purge was in medical sciences, but you can hardly be unaware of it
RA: I am aware of it, but not the detail, and certainly not individual cases. I get my news from the Times Higher.
DC: I wrote the Thunderer comumn in the Times about it too (no paywall at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=5481
Stephen John Stenn: Would have liked this better if you hadn’t referred to REF which (like RAE) is also boneheaded.
RA: look, I am only saying I don’t know all the facts. What do you want me to do, lie? Invent? so far as use of metrics goes I do know they aren’t in use in my Faculty. That’s all.
DC: Of course not, but there is quite enough in THE to alert anyone with an interest in ethics
RA: I am not disagreeing with you that there is much to discuss.
DC: Good. I look forward to hearing your views.
and there was one last interjection into the conversation; on twitter it is easier to go back to a statement and restart from there, in this case “I will say that QM’s policies are pretty mild compared with what I have found are standard practices elsewhere.“
Fanis: QM’s policies are pretty mild… precisely why there is reason in revolt. http://fanismissirlis.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/ukacademy/
RA: ok, now here we approach agreement…