Artist's impression of the 5km diameter central core of Square Kilometre Array (SKA) antennas. Credit: SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions (CC BY 3.0)

Smears and fury in big telescope lobbying – Eloise Gibson

University of Auckland physicist Prof Richard Easther has had his conduct and mental health attacked after he criticised taxpayer funding for a telescope, writes Eloise Gibson for Newsroom.

An excerpt (read in full):

Easther wasn’t alone in his concerns about the spending – eleven other New Zealand astronomers had signed a letter calling for a re-think. Last month, two of the most prominent Kiwi-born astronomers overseas – Gerry Gilmore, who heads the Gaia spacecraft project at Cambridge University, and Warrick Couch, a leading astronomer based in Melbourne – told Newsroom that signing the treaty would not have made sense for New Zealand.

But Easther had been the most audible voice. His critiques to MBIE officials and his speech at an SKA conference started more than a year of vehement and sometimes bizarre emails about him, culminating in a claim that he was mentally ill. The messages went to journalists, officials and his employer. In the year to December 2018, staff at AUT sent at least seven emails mentioning Easther to government officials leading the telescope project, saying he was inappropriate, unprofessional, on a personal crusade, harassing people, knowingly spreading wrong information, and that there had been “complaints” about him.

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