For such a high ranking Russell Group Institution, Bristol University seems to be getting its facts alarmingly confused. In response to Freedom of Information requests from Tymes Trust the University replied:
“We have received no official reports of harassment of University staff by a third party between September 2010 and June 2015.“ and: “We have received no recorded instances of harassment of staff by a third party between July 2015 and January 2017.”
However, this is seriously at odds with their website, which now echoes the accusations Prof Esther Crawley has been making very publicly at several lectures this year. She claims multiple forms of harassment and abuse and blames and denigrates ME/CFS patients, parents and carers as well as Dr David Tuller, Senior Fellow in Public Health and Journalism, Center for Global Public Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA.
In spite of Bristol Uni’s answer to the Freedom of Information requests, denying that any of their researchers have been subject to harassment, they now claim: ”The University has long been aware that Professor Crawley has experienced significant harassment and personal abuse over several years. This has included but is not limited to: vexatious FOIs; cyber stalking; malicious emails; blogs/tweets and other social media posts that could be regarded as defamatory; unsubstantiated complaints to multiple institutions including Ethics Committees, The University of Bristol, The Advertising Standard Authority, the GMC and funders. The University considers this behaviour to be unacceptable.”
If this really is true, then the University has given a fraudulent response to the Freedom of Information requests.
What might be of relevance, given the high reputation of the University, is that Prof Crawley has long been using claims of harassment to further her own career, following the example established by Sir Simon Wessely with the support of the Science Media Centre and the John Maddox Prize. This career enhancing narrative of honest researchers pursuing science in the face of harassment; facing threats from ME/CFS patients, parents and carers, has been developed over the last six years or so and promoted widely by the media. (see their Views From the Frontline publication http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SMC-Views-from-the-front-line-essays-on-the-SMC.pdf) The claim is of threats to the psychiatrists and researchers who have been promoting a psychosocial view of ME/CFS, and the validity of this claim has already been dismissed in court in relation to those involved in the PACE Trial. It is being used as a defensive barrier against those who are legitimately highlighting concerns, distortions and inaccuracies in Prof Crawley’s work – work involving children – which should be open to the most stringent of reviews and critique by academics, the press and the public. Such discussion, which involves dozens of international specialists in ME/CFS, should be PROMOTED by the university and not denied under the pretext of harassment.
As Tymes Trust recently pointed out – “ The 2016 tribunal appeal Judgement ordering QMUL to release the PACE trial data, which had found, in the Judge’s words, no threats have been made either to researchers or participants, [as had been claimed by QMUL] taken together with this new information, that Bristol University have no reports of harassment of University staff by a third party between September 2010 and January 2017, raises questions about such accusations and about those who make them.”
During her recent TEDX talk about her personal heroism in standing up to alleged persecution by ME patients, Prof Crawley made the outrageous claim that she cannot show any pictures of very seriously ill children in talks because they would be hounded and harassed – by, it is implied, other ME patients, parents and carers! I find this suggestion extremely offensive and a blatant deception, as do all other patients and carers I have had contact with. In these crazy situations I am reminded of the quote: “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”. This appears particularly appropriate when you consider Prof Crawley’s recent outrageous behaviour in having Dr Tuller ejected from a public lecture and referencing police involvement, when he very politely said he would like to ask her a couple questions because she had publicly accused him of libellous blogging and then hadn’t respond to his email request for an explanation. As he pointed out, it is an extraordinary thing for an academic to accuse another academic of libel, in public, as she has done more than once. Prof Crawley interrupted him, refusing to answer any questions and Dr Tuller quickly offered to leave, leaving politely and immediately, although Prof Crawley continued to accuse him of being unbelievably defamatory, unprofessional and not worthy of having any questions discussed, even by others.
For Prof Crawley to publicly treat a highly respected visiting academic with such insulting behaviour in order to avoid valid discussion, even implying that he might engage in belligerent or aggressive behaviour, shows a severe lack of judgement on her part. Bristol University really needs to consider its position in supporting her, before it is brought into further disrepute by her highly un-professional self promotion through her inflated ‘heroic victim’ narrative.
The whole of Dr Tuller’s communications with Prof Crawley can be found here http://www.virology.ws/2017/12/04/trial-by-error-my-one-sided-correspondence-with-professor-crawley/
Dr David Tuller’s letter to the University of Bristol can be found at http://www.virology.ws/2017/06/14/trial-by-error-continued-my-letter-to-the-university-of-bristol/
And his account of this meeting is at http://www.virology.ws/2017/11/20/trial-by-error-my-brief-encounter-with-professor-crawley/
Earlier blog post links can be found here http://www.virology.ws/mecfs/