Supplementary file for Tim Hunt Timeline

Process for the conclusion about the overall content of Tim Hunt's remarks at the lunch in Seoul, 8 June 2015

As of 6pm on 26 July 2015 (Washington DC time), there were 3 reports from people present for Tim Hunt's remarks within the material included in this media analysis that addressed more than one aspect of the content. There was also 1 audiotaped fragment. Most other eye-witness reports only addressed reactions, interpretations of whether or not he was joking (and what kind of humor), and/or did not present a clear overall description of the contents that was corroborated by others. [Note: This is detailed below in an update on 19 October.]

1. Tim Hunt, BBC audiotape (10 June)

This was a lunch for women journalists and women - particularly women scientists and engineers, actually. And I was asked at short notice to say a few words afterwards, and I thought it was ironic that I came after three women who very nicely thanked the organizers for the lunch. And I said it was odd that they had asked a man to make any comments.

And I'm really sorry that I said what I said. It was a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists. And what was intended as a sort of light-hearted ironic comment apparently was interpreted deadly seriously by my audience. But what I said was quite accurately reported.

2. Deborah Blum, Daily Beast (16 June)

I talked about the ways that women make science smarter; Hunt began also by paying tribute to the capable female scientists that he knew.

Unfortunately, he decided that wasn’t enough. But “let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he said.

If you are a working woman, the word “girl” tends to be a signal flare, a red light warning of problems ahead. He continued. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry,” he said. Next he made a case that science might work better if we separated researchers into single-sex laboratories. Of course, Hunt emphasized, he didn’t want to “stand in the way” of women.

3. An unnamed European Commission staffer who had accompanied Tim Hunt, time of writing not reported, published by The Times (24 June) (Paywall) Also at The Independent, The London Evening Standard, and The Daily Mail.

4. The audiotaped fragment of his final remark was provided by Natalia Demina The Times (18 July). My own transcription:

Congratulations everybody, because I hope, I hope, I hope - I really hope - there is nothing holding you back, especially not monsters like me.

Account 1 does not raise the tribute to women scientists and does not refer to the congratulations included in the audiotaped fragment. It otherwise refers to the original reports. 

Account 2 reports the specific quotes corroborated shortly after Hunt's remarks with 2 other attendees. It is the basis of the reports Hunt refers to as "quite accurately reported". It is consistent with accounts 1 and 3, as well as the audiotaped fragment, although it quotes "stand in the way" rather than holding back.

Account 3 is consistent with account 1, with the addition of a specific phrasing of the single sex statement for which I did not find multiple corroborations. The ending conflicts significantly with the audiotaped fragment.


 In my opinion, the single most reliable source on the overall content in this material seemed to be that in account 2:

  • Hunt began by "paying tribute to the capable female scientists that he knew",
  • Then came the "trouble with girls" remarks,
  • He suggested single-sex labs might be a solution,
  • He ended with the hope that nothing stands in the way* for women scientists.


 * Quotation marks not used because of wording conflict with the audiotape.

Hilda Bastian, 28 July 2015

(Note: attempted to calibrate the words to the limitations of what there is to form any opinion on. It is a personal opinion only, disclosures and disclaimers on the main post.)

[Update 9 September] Original mistakenly referred to ERC rather than EC.


Detailed methods and all first-hand accounts considered above: 19 October 2015 update.

I expanded this supplement as there continue to be requests for further information in relation to the material considered here, and the method I used (and why I did it this way). 

I considered 3 options for a method before starting (a standardized approach to try to minimize bias):

  1. Constructing a pastiche of elements with multiple corroborations: decided against this because there was too little information, and not any more likely to be “true” than an eye-witness account;
  2. Make a determination based on the credibility of sources: decided against this because I had no reasonable way of assessing that, other than distance in time from the events; or
  3. Narrow first-hand accounts covering the structure and overall content down via triangulation (cross-verification of the multiple sources), identifying the areas with stronger corroboration. 

After choosing the 3rd option, I set the criteria outlined briefly above:

  • Text accounts (not Twitter strings only) that included more than 1 aspect of the content other than reactions and addressed the overall contents not just partial elements;
  • Multiple corroborations for individual elements.

That left me with 3 accounts plus the audiotaped fragment. The process of narrowing those down is described above and in the “Timeline” post.

Below, in alphabetical order by surname, are the eye-witness first-hand accounts reported I considered and triangulated. A categorization of their reports of the reactions/appropriateness of Hunt’s remarks, their own opinion, and their interpretation of the audience’s. 

The quotes below are excerpts and not necessarily complete: click on the links for full sources. As there have been many claims that the majority of first-hand accounts were entirely positive about Hunt’s remarks and the audience’s response, I have particularly included supporting quotes to my categorization of comments which were critical. Only 1 of the 13 eye witnesses reported no criticism of, or negativity towards, the remarks from themselves or others who were present. (There are 14 listed below: 13 eye-witness accounts first hand, and an additional account from someone I could not determine was present.)

This list is also not exhaustive in terms of tweets, as I relied primarily on the reports in the media and posts included in the data collection. In my opinion, it had reached saturation point when I came to the conclusions above.

[Updates] After my original posting, I have seen 8 further, generally negative/critical eyewitnesses:

  • @shubclimate noted that Federico Kukso was present and commented (positive and negative/critical). I identified this tweet. On 24 October, Louise Mensch included additional tweets from Kukso on Storify.
  • A further 8 additional  eye witness accounts were identified by Dan Waddell and Paula Higgins in their November post on Medium: Leigh Dayton, Ulla Järvi, Hyong-Ha Kim, Heisook Lee, Milica Momcilovic, Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, Valeria Román, and Renata Sanchez. Other than Kim, all were at least somewhat negative/critical. (They also report contact with another 2 who were present, but did not hear the remarks: Dominique Forget and Satu Lipponen, as well as additional contact with Hee Young Paik - #8 below - who reported that some other members of KOFWST who had been involved in the drafting of the organization's request for an apology had been present.) Louise Mensch's December post on Medium reports more on the accounts of the ERC-associated participants.

That brought the total definite eye-witness accounts other than Tim Hunt to 18, with 2 of these reported an unambiguously positive/uncritical personal response to Hunt's remarks. 

Original group of 14:

1. Anonymous EC/ERC staffer who accompanied Tim Hunt: in The Times online (see above for additional reports based on this). In their post, Waddell and Higgins identify him as a Press Officer, Marcin Mońko, and quote a Facebook post he made.***

Self, positive and negative/critical.* Audience, positive.** (plus a second-hand report of positive reactions made by one member of KOFSWT).

* The official also described the first part of the speech as “meant to be light-hearted”, adding, “although completely inappropriate”. 

** “I didn’t notice any uncomfortable silence or any awkwardness in the room as reported on social and then mainstream media.”

*** "‘I was there in Seoul at this lunch. During a short speech, or rather toast, Tim Hunt indeed made a joke, bad joke, unacceptable and sexist [our emphasis] one, but he then went on to praise Korean women scientists and in general encouraged women in science. He said “we need women in science”. He said women should do science despite all the obstacles. This final remark was not reported and this is also very sad'."

2. Deborah Blum:  Storify, Daily Beast, The Times.

Self, positive and negative/critical. Audience, not stated.

3. Natalia Demina: The Times, Radio Free Europe (Russian language, see Timeline, 17 June including Twitter), reported by Louise Mensch on her blog here and here. Further detail in Waddell and Higgins post.

Self, positive. Audience: in The Times, positive*, to Radio Free Europe, positive and negative/critical.**

* Natalia Demina, a Russian science journalist, who was present, tweeted shortly after the speech that “everybody who heard” Sir Tim “understood he was joking”.

She could not be contacted yesterday but wrote online: “For me Tim Hunt’s speech was a joke. I remember that many of my colleagues smiled and applauded . . . I was completely shocked to see the accusations against him.”

** Demina is reported as saying that although she and some others she talked to later thought Hunt's remarks were a harmless joke, others didn't think it was harmless, and the consensus was that it was an unfortunate joke/remark (and the consequences too severe). Consensus that it was an “unfortunate joke at the wrong time”.

4. Timothy Dimacali/Dinacali: Facebook, reported in The Sun on 4 July and a report by Mensch on her blog on 8 July. Waddell and Higgins post.

Self, positive and negative/critical.* Audience: Some positive. 

* “As I keep telling people, he said it in a very lighthearted manner with no outward hint of malice, condescension, or derision.

“I’m not defending him, mind you; what he said was wrong and definitely deserved to be called out. But it was, more than anything else, a joke gone horribly wrong.”

5. Pere Estupinyà: The Times and report by Mensch on her blog*. Waddell and Higgins post**.

Self, positive and negative/critical. Audience, some positive.

* “I don’t remember Tim Hunt’s exact words, but he said something positive about women scientists after his awful joke . . . I mean: he definitely made the famous comments. He made them in an humoristic tone. Then he said some positive words towards women.”

** "Pere Estupinyà told us that Mensch had quoted him correctly in her blog but had ‘skipped his references to how inappropriate the joke was'."

6. Tim Hunt: BBC (see above and Timeline), Observer/Guardian*, Observer/Guardian**, correspondence with KOFWST (English statement: quickest route is PDF). 

Self, positive at time, positive and negative/critical in retrospect. Audience, positive.

* “I stood up and went mad,” he admits. “I was very nervous and a bit confused but, yes, I made those remarks – which were inexcusable – but I made them in a totally jocular, ironic way. There was some polite applause and that was it, I thought. I thought everything was OK. No one accused me of being a sexist pig.”

** Crucially, Hunt said, he then added the words, “now seriously” before going on to praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. “The words ‘now seriously’ make it very clear that I was making a joke, albeit a very bad one, but they were not mentioned in the first reports and I was deluged with hate mail,” Hunt said. However, he did acknowledge that his “idiotic joke” had touched a nerve.

7. Ivan Oransky: Buzzfeed, The Times, Mendelspod blog.

Self, negative/critical. Audience, positive and negative.

8. Hee Young Paik: On behalf of KOFWST (English statement: quickest route is PDF). Waddell and Higgins post.

"Self", negative/critical. Audience, not stated.

9. Shai Panela: Tweets, Waddell and Higgins post.

Self, positive and negative/critical. Audience, not stated.

10. Charles Seife: Daily Mail, Tweets (Twitter advanced search: @cgseife 23 to 25 June.) Waddell and Higgins post.

Self, positive and negative/critical. Audience, not stated.

11. Connie St Louis: Original Tweet, BBC (see Timeline), Scientific American Blog Network, The Times (24 June), The Times (27 June).

Self, negative/critical. Audience, negative/critical.

12. Shiow Chin Tan: Reported by Mensch on her blog*. Storify by Mensch in their original context, Waddell and Higgins post.

Self, positive. Audience, unknown*.

*I did not notice my neighbours’ reactions at the table – to be honest, I had come in late from the previous session and was busy with my lunch – but I don’t remember hearing any particular comments from anyone after Tim Hunt’s little speech.

13. Scott Watkins: Tweets (Twitter advanced search: @drscottwatkins from 8 to 9 June), a correction tweet reported by Mensch on her blog, additional report by Mensch on her blog.

Self, negative/critical. Audience, some positive response.

(14. Cristine Russell: It is unclear from this blog post whether the author, Cristine Russell, was present or not. It was a guest post on the Scientific American Blog Network, whose editor was present at the lunch.


Hilda Bastian, 19 October 2015.


[Updates 20 October: Hunt correspondence with Paik (KOFSWT) had only been linked for one, added for the other. Note on additional first hand report by Federico Kukso - thanks @shubclimate.]

[Updates 29/30 May 2016: Additional eye witnesses identified by Dan Waddell and Paula Higgins added after the introduction, and further detail from Louise Mensch's December post were added. I also deleted a confusing sentence about audience response from the introductory section and updated the numbers.]