David Collier has an interesting new post on our old friend Hilary Aked of Spinwatch. It might be hoped that a good researcher would approach their topic with an open mind, prepared to have their views adjusted by new information. Partisan activism and academic research aren’t perhaps the best bedfellows. And, as Collier demonstrates, Aked has been blurring the boundaries between the two in a highly dubious way.
First she invited various pro-Zionist organisations to assist her collect data about Israel advocacy, notifying them of the routine ethics procedures required of any such research project by the host university. Collier asks a pertinent question:
Within the arena of academic freedom, there is no problem with any study of any group, but clearly here, you would question the motive. Is Aked’s intent to add to the fountain of knowledge or is it to strengthen her political cause? How would Aked the activist react as Aked the academic when dealing with material that weakened the anti-Zionist cause? Would it make the ‘cut’?
But the problems go beyond a suspicion that her research may be skewed by bias. When North West Friends of Israel responded to her letter, they ended up as the subject of a not very ethical hatchet job by Aked on Electronic Intifada.
[W]ithin the article she has used information provided in confidence for her academic research. True too, that she both named the source and discredited them:
Although she had not originally solicited their views directly, Aked clearly responded to their overture as a PhD candidate and not as an activist or journalist. She would thus seem to have committed a serious breach of her own university’s ethics procedures.