She hosted the press conferences for Oxburgh and Muir Russell. Board members for the Science Media Center include Bob Ward, known to CA readers and Mike Granatt,
Partner, Luther Pendragon, who was actively involved at all stages of the Muir Russell report.
She is in the news because of the decision of UK tribunal awarding UKP 35,000 to a former employee of Labour MP Jimmy Devine. The story:
The Edinburgh tribunal heard Devine told a pal to phone Marion [Kinley] pretending to be a journalist investigating office expenses. Miss Kinley alerted Devine to the message, but he insisted a newspaper was set to print an article about her wages – and claim they were having an AFFAIR.
Horrified Marion told the hearing: “He told me ‘they are going to say I’m paying you that much because you and I are having an affair’. “I said to him, ‘no amount of money would entice me to have an affair with you’.”
The story goes on to say that the next day she saw a message for Devine from Fiona Fox described as follows:
There was one marked urgent from Fiona Fox, Director at the Science Media Centre in London. There was a PS saying, ‘
I phoned that poor woman in your office and left the message. Hope you’ve put her out of her misery. Remind me never to work for you’
In a statement reported by the Guardian, Fox implausibly said that she thought that the phone call was merely an office “prank”.
I am pleased Miss Kinley has won her case and deeply regret being unwittingly drawn into this unpleasant saga. In a very, very small way I too was duped by this man. He had assured me that this kind of prank was part and parcel of the humour in his team and that his colleagues gave as good as they got. At that time I had no reason to doubt the integrity of a Member of Parliament who I got to know because of his public support for stem cell research during the Human Fertility and Embryology Bill in 2008
Fiona Fox corresponded with Oxburgh last year. On April 14, after the report of the Oxburgh “inquiry”, she wrote Oxburgh and David Hand as follows:
Subject: FW: Oxburgh/UEA coverage so far
Dear Lord Oxburgh and David,
Just a quick note to show you some of the coverage we have picked up so far this afternoon. The Telegraph headline is perverse – but I must admit all the rest of the coverage looks good to me – even the Daily Mail!!l I wanted to say what a pleasure it was to have you two in the Science Media Centre today. Your whole approach and style was brilliant and you clearly endeared the journalists to yourselves through being so open and clear and compelling and robust. We’ve run many briefings on this subject now and this was by farthe most relaxed and enjoyable.
Hope it was a positive experience for you too – I loved the fact that you managed to squeeze in quite a few messages about the way science works and an ‘idiots guide to statistics’ while you were at it!
There’s another interesting exchange in late April. On April 23, she wrote to a number of parties:
subject: Newswatch on science in BBC news
… for those of you who get up at stupid O’Clock on Saturday mornings (those with small kids perhaps or insomnia?) Newswatch this week is on science news at the Beeb. There is an angry guy attacking science at beeb, Pallab defending it and me in the middle (well that’s if they use the nice things I said as well as the ‘what could be better’ ones – and if they don’t I’ll be lodging my own complaints!!) Enjoy the sunny weekend
On April 26, Tom Heap replied to her email as follows:
Subject: Re: Newswatch on science in BBC news
Thanks for the tip. Got trapped in US by cloud so couldn’t do lomborg and watson at RI this week. Hoping to reschedule. By the way, Mann said Hand got his criticism of the stats all wrong and would be issuing a clarification/apology. True?
Later that day (Apr 26), in an email entitled “aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”, she passed Heap’s inquiry on to David Hand (cc – Oxburgh):
Hi Folks – assuming (praying) this is not true? If it – or any version of it – is true – can we chat about it and how the SMC might help? If it’s rubbish someone might want to suggest to Michael Mann that he decease from suggesting it to BBC reporters.
By the way [Tom Heap] who wrote this, is my good friend (long term BBC science reporter)- he’s making a Panorama on Climate generally a very responsible reporter – so if you can give me a message to pass to him that would also be useful
See here for Heap’s interview with Mann.
On Apr 27, Hand replied to her (cc Oxburgh) as follows:
Subject: RE: aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
There has been some misrepresentation of my views, which have not changed and which are the following. Mann et al (1998) used a non-standard statistical method, but the papers and reports I have examined which explore the impact of this suggest to me that it is unlikely that the qualitative conclusion will be affected by a more appropriate analysis, though clearly the precise impact depends on which series are included and any assumptions underlying the analysis.
Hope that clarifies things.
Later that day, Oxburgh sent condolences to Hand:
Subject: RE: aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
I am sorry that your participation in our UEA study seems to have involved you further than we might have anticipated! If I can be of any help even remotely, please let me know.
I met her at the Guardian’s reception after their Muir Russell symposium, I tried to arrange a meeting with her during the couple of days that I was in London, but was unsuccessful. It turns out that she has a colorful personal history, including, according to Wikipedia, formerly being a “leading member of the Revolutionary Communist Party”. In 1995, under a pseudonym (Fiona Foster), she wrote a controversial article for Living Marxism entitled “Massacring the truth in Rwanda“, which is reported here and elsewhere as denying Rwandan genocide.
She and her sister Clare Fox, another activist, are profiled by The Times here, where she is reported to have cystic fibrosis, a very serious lifetime disease, the life expectancy for which is much less than Fiona’s 46 years – a point that readers should keep in mind.