Harassment and discrimination allegations roil a top US biomedical institute

Source: Nature

Allegations of sexual harassment and assault levelled last week against Inder Verma, a prominent cancer biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, cap a tumultuous ten months for the well-known research centre.

In July 2017, three senior female faculty members sued the institute for gender discrimination. In December, Salk's Nobel Prize-winning president, biologist Elizabeth Blackburn, announced her departure. And on 21 April, the institute suspended Verma pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct. A statement made that day by Dan Lewis, the new chair of the Salk Board of Trustees, said that the “Salk will not condone any findings of inappropriate conduct in the workplace.”

Power imbalance

In the face of the prolonged turmoil, the Salk leadership has sought to assure the world that the institute will continue to conduct top-notch science that has in the past led to prestigious prizes, regular publications in premier journals and a visit this month by former vice president Joe Biden. In January, the Salk Institute's interim president, neuroscientist Rusty Gage, told Nature, “Despite the administrative shuffling that’s going on, if you come to campus and walk around you’ll see there is no sense of chaos — people are talking about science.”