Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 21:25 UK

Greenfield says her sacking was 'unfair'

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

Lady Greenfield rejects suggestions by some RI senior staff that, if she were to return, the organisation may lose potential donors' support

Baroness Susan Greenfield says she believes that her sacking as director of the Royal Institution earlier this year was "unfair".

Speaking for the first time since her dismissal, Britain's most prominent female scientist, said the financial crisis facing the RI was not her fault.

The RI has declined to comment on Lady Greenfield's remarks.

She was made redundant by the RI on 8 January this year in order to make savings following a financial review.

That review showed that the organisation was in trouble following a £22 million refurbishment and the sale of property which generated income for the RI.

Of course I will take responsibility collectively with every one else
Baroness Susan Greenfield

Many felt that Lady Greenfield was sacked because she bore responsibility for the ensuing financial crisis.

Speaking to BBC News for the first time since her departure, Baroness Greenfield poured scorn on that idea.

She said: "It's an interesting notion that one day I woke up and thought: 'Right, today I think I'm going to go and blow £22m on my own and I am going to sell off some property because I have been so bad at fundraising.'

"The RI has lots of checks and balances. It was something I pushed for because that's what I was appointed to do - to bring about change and to bring the RI into the 21st Century.

"Of course I will take responsibility collectively with everyone else"

Voices of support

Lady Greenfield spoke to BBC News before a meeting on Monday of the members of the RI that was convened by her supporters. They are pressing for a vote that would pave the way for her return as director.

The RI's senior staff however have said that, if she were to return, the organisation would lose the support of potential donors and be plunged into further financial turmoil.

Lady Greenfield rejects this suggestion.

"I would love to meet these sponsors," she said. "They have decided to stay anonymous so it's very hard to know if they exist [and] why they have adopted such an extreme and frankly prejudicial view.

"It may be because they only have limited access to facts that they are labouring under misapprehensions.

"It would be very nice if I could sit down with them and talk... because I would like to contest that, actually, many of their fears may be unfounded.

"For example, over the last 11 years that I've been director, 12 million pounds has been raised - that's just over a million a year."

Asked whether she would return as director if her supporters win the vote on Monday, Baroness Greenfield replied: "I would certainly consider it."

She added: "But what we must remember is that the RI is in financial crisis and what we must consider is what's the most cost-effective and productive way forward, and how my talents, such as they are, can be used.

The former RI director said: "I think it's much easier to blame someone for something than to say, 'lets roll up our sleeves and all work together to get through this financial crisis'."

Lady Greenfield believes that her gender was part of the reason she was dismissed. She is bringing a case against the RI to an employment tribunal.

"I was unfairly dismissed. Implicit in that has to be the fact that I am female and it is my contention that a man would not have been treated in the same way," she said.

She added that she found some of the press coverage accusing her of using the RI for self publicity "very sad".

The baroness commented: "If a woman scientist goes on the record and goes public and then gets criticised for it, what message does this send out to girls entering science and other women scientists who are invited to talk to the media?"

It's an affair that Lady Greenfield says has left her battered and bruised.

"One doesn't like to feel that people don't like you," she said.

"But what has really spurred me on is how many people have rallied to my support.

"Why should busy people want to go to the effort of bashing away through all the red tape and the bylaws to requisition a special general meeting?

"Why should they do this and put in jeopardy an institution they love, unless they felt it was a really important thing to do?"

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