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Written by Student Rights on 21 December 2015 at 5am

Concerns raised about ethics at Bath

A blog post published last week, and highlighted by Harry’s Place, has shone fresh light on concerning academic practices at the University of Bath.

Addressing research by Hilary Aked, a PhD student studying the ‘Israel lobby’, the blog claims an article written by Aked attacking a recent Israel advocacy day “used information provided in confidence for…academic research”.

This included naming a source despite earlier emails claiming contributors would be given the option to remain anonymous. 

The concerns are summarised in the claim that:

Aked wanted to have an article published a few days before a pro-Israel campaign that set out to both smear the day and those behind it.

The problem is, that those behind it provided information to Hilary Aked the academic with all the implied and concrete protection that ethical research provides”.

It is also pointed out that the article “publicly and deliberately sets out to harm a participant in the research with the very information that the participant provided to that research”.

Regardless of your views on the cause, this should cause serious questions to be asked of Aked, and potentially breaches the university’s code of practice on research ethics, which forbids:

 “…intentional misuse or unauthorised disclosure or use of data or information generated through research”.

However, this is not the first time concerns have been raised about practices at the University of Bath – or about Aked.

Studying under Professor David Miller, criticised in 2010 after the publication of work by anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald on his website ‘Neocon Europe’, Aked is a member of Miller’s Spinwatch.

Spinwatch works with and is funded by Middle East Monitor (MEMO), which has published work describing Israelis as “pathological liars from Eastern Europe, who lie as much as they breath oxygen” and championed the cause of imprisoned Palestinian militants.

MEMO’s director, Daud Abdullah, was criticised by the British government in 2009 for signing a declaration which praised “the victory that Allah accomplished by means of our brothers the mujahidin, our defiant and steadfast kinsfolk in Gaza”.

Meanwhile, MEMO’s senior editor, Ibrahim Hewitt, was removed as the host of an Oxfam event last year after his views on the “so-called Holocaust” and that homosexuals would suffer “severe punishments” in an Islamic state for their “great sin” were revealed.

Spinwatch is also funded by the Cordoba Foundation, described by David Cameron as a “political front for the Muslim Brotherhood” and named in last week’s review into the group as “a think tank which is associated with the Brotherhood”.

Given that the review found “aspects of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics…are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security”, this should raise further concerns about Spinwatch’s connections.

In addition to concerns about Aked and Spinwatch, in June a conference at the university organised by the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) saw ex-Muslims smeared as “native informants” and a number of extreme speakers hosted without any challenge.

These speakers included Ismail Patel, the founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa (another organisation which has funded Spinwatch) who has declared: “Hamas is no terrorist organisation...we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel”.

They also included Asim Qureshi and Moazzam Begg of the pro-terrorist group CAGE, and Adam Belaon, a member of Claystone, which is “closely linked to extremists, including Haitham al-Haddad”.

Here at Student Rights, we hope that the university authorities will investigate the complaint made about Aked’s conduct, as the line between academia and activism is one that must be protected.

However, we also hope that this acts as a spur for them to look into the wider concerns raised in this piece. From the suggestion of unethical research practices to the invitation of extreme speakers onto campus, there is plenty for the university to address.