Ordered professor to consult with DEI office on language
The research ethics committee at King’s College London ordered a professor to consult with the campus “Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team” about his proposed survey on men competing against women in sports.
John Armstrong sought to ask athletes about their views on gender-dysphoric men competing as females in women’s sports. However, the Research Ethics office denied his application because he referred to gender-dysphoric men who compete against women as “males.”
Armstrong told The College Fix via email he was told to “contact the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team to seek input on the wording used in the survey and surrounding presentation of the research.”
Armstrong (pictured), a lecturer and mathematician at the university, said “the specific text they objected to was in the presentation of the research.”
“The language is not sensitive and the misgendering of athletes is not appropriate,” the research review team told Armstrong. This is because he wanted to ask individuals their thoughts about “when males should be allowed to compete in the female category in athletics.”
“This is different to the language used by World Athletics,” the research team told him.
Professor Armstrong said that athletes who are critical of transgender participation in elite competition have lost a chance to be heard, due to the obstacles imposed on research into the topic.
“Grassroots volunteers and elite athletes deserve to have their voices heard,” the professor told The Fix. “As this research was not conducted, World Athletics have announced a new transgender policy without listening to these voices, and the potential for research impact has been lost.”
Armstrong declined to comment on how he plans to proceed with his research.
King’s College did not directly answer questions from The Fix about the specific objections the committee had, if there is a specific rule in the guidelines that prohibits researchers from calling biological males “males,” and if the research office has a specific institutional stance against academic work that might undercut policies supported by LGBT activists.
“While we can’t comment on individual research applications, we are strongly committed to ensuring that the research carried out by our staff and students is consistently of the highest quality and to the most rigorous standards,” a spokesperson told The Fix via email. “This is important to instill confidence in academic communities, funding bodies, and crucially the public that the data, findings, and results produced by our researchers are sound and trustworthy.”
The communications team did not respond to a follow-up comment a week ago that asked if the college specifically planned to take any further actions with Armstrong’s application.
Armstrong further elaborated on his views in an essay he pointed The Fix to in The Critic.
He first wanted to research this topic after being “approached by members of the UK Athlete’s Commission,” Armstrong wrote.
“This text was not even part of the planned survey,” Armstrong wrote. “The ethics committee raised no objections to the proposed survey questions.”
He predicted the harms that would come from the politicization of research.
“Activist interference in what can be researched erodes the integrity of science,” he wrote. “Many people will be familiar with the idea of publication-bias: it is much easier to publish positive results than it is to publish negative results.”
“Political policing of research introduces a new ethical-review bias,” he wrote. “If the ethics team at my university limits what questions can be asked about gender-identity, this introduces a bias into all the work conducted on gender at the university.
“University leaders need to act,” he wrote. “If they continue to allow activists to interfere with what we teach and what we research, it will undermine the credibility of science.”
Editor’s note: The attribution for a quote from King’s College has been amended.