A leaked European Commission report has supported Sir Tim Smith’s claims that apparently sexist comments about the “trouble with girls in science” were meant as a joke.
The Nobel Prize laureate resigned from prestigious posts at University College London, the Royal Society and European Research Council (ERC) amid outrage over his remarks earlier this month.
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he said to the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea.
“Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.
“Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?”
Outrage over the comments sparked the #distractinglysexy trend celebrating female scientists on Twitter and institutions Sir Tim worked with swiftly distanced themselves from him.
Within days, the 72-year-old had resigned from as Honorary Professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences, the Royal Society's Biological Sciences Awards Committee and ERC.
But a leaked EU report seen by The Times supports Sir Tim’s claims that his remarks were an “idiotic joke” and not meant to be taken seriously.
A European Commission official who was at the lunch for women journalists and scientists offered a differing transcript from the account compiled by three reporters present.
The official included previously unreported comments that came directly after Sir Tim’s controversial remarks, the Times reported.
He allegedly continued: “Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea.
“And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”
Sir Tim mentioned the second part of the comments in an interview prior to the leak, insisting that he had attempted to make the joke clear.
“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,” he told The Observer.
He received the Nobel Price with two other researchers in 2001 for his work on the cell cycle, discovered the cyclin molecule and is credited for furthering the understanding of cancer.
A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Independent that the new leaked transcript forms part of a "mission report compiled by an official" and is not being treated as a verbatim transcript.
She would not comment on whether the authority would be considering reinstating Sir Tim to his post.