The consequences of a chilly climate in the academic workplace.

After my post yesterday suggesting that women scientists may still have a harder time being accepted in academic research settings than their male counterparts, Greensmile brought my attention to a story in today's Boston Globe. It seems that almost a dozen professors at MIT believe they lost a prospective hire due to intimidation of the job candidate by another professor who happens also to be a Nobel laureate. Possibly it matters that the professor alleged to have intimidated the job candidate is male, and that the job candidate and the 11 professors who have written the letter of complaint are female; I'm happy enough to start with a discussion of the alleged behavior itself before paddling to the deep waters of gender politics.

But first, the story:

MIT star accused by 11 colleagues
Prospective hire was intimidated, they say

By Marcella Bombardieri and Gareth Cook, Globe Staff | July 15, 2006

Eleven MIT professors have accused a powerful colleague, a Nobel laureate, of interfering with the university's efforts to hire a rising female star in neuroscience.

The professors, in a letter to MIT's president, Susan Hockfield , accuse professor Susumu Tonegawa of intimidating Alla Karpova , "a brilliant young scientist," saying that he would not mentor, interact, or collaborate with her if she took the job and that members of his research group would not work with her.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they wrote in their June 30 letter, "allowed a senior faculty member with great power and financial resources to behave in an uncivil, uncollegial, and possibly unethical manner toward a talented young scientist who deserves to be welcomed at MIT." They also wrote that because of Tonegawa's opposition, several other senior faculty members cautioned Karpova not to come to MIT.

She has since declined the job offer.

In response to the June 30 letter, six of Tonegawa's colleagues defended him in their own letter to Hockfield.

Tonegawa, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, is considered one of the world's top scientists, and also one of the most powerful. The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, which he oversees, received $50 million in 2002 to support research into Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and other diseases. Despite his success, Tonegawa saw Karpova "as a competitive threat to him," according to a June 27 letter from a Stanford professor to Hockfield. All three letters were obtained by the Globe. Karpova's job offer was made jointly by the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the biology department, which would not have required her to work with Tonegawa.

The MIT professors who signed the letter are pressuring administrators to give Karpova a formal apology and to investigate the situation. "We have damaged MIT's reputation as an institution that supports academic fairness for young faculty and jeopardized our ability to attract the best scientists to MIT," wrote the 11 professors, all women, and most involved in MIT committees on gender equity issues. Several of the professors could not be reached and one declined to comment. ...

[Robert J.] Silbey [the dean of science], ... said in an interview with the Globe that he believed Tonegawa's e-mails and conversations with Karpova were simply notification that he did not want to collaborate on research. The two have similar research interests. Karpova is just finishing a postdoctoral fellowship at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and was interviewing for her first faculty job.

"Is he competitive? Yes." Silbey said of Tonegawa. "What is he competitive for? To make Picower the best in the world. Does that get on other people's nerves? Yes." ...

The tempest also adds to concerns about the future of MIT's efforts in neuroscience. Some professors say Tonegawa has already caused tension because he is overly competitive with any potential rival, including the McGovern Institute, which shares the same new neuroscience building at MIT.

MIT professor Tomaso Poggio said Tonegawa appears to want "everything to be under his control."

"Most people would say that he is very smart and charming and a very difficult person to deal with. He is not a team player," said Poggio, a professor at the McGovern Institute.

On July 7, a week after letters criticizing Tonegawa were sent to Hockfield, a group of six MIT faculty, including two women, wrote to the president in defense of Tonegawa. The signers of the letter are all affiliated with the center that Tonegawa oversees. They wrote that Karpova asked Tonegawa whether he would collaborate with her, and he said that he would not.

"We feel that Susumu is being unfairly maligned, and we wish to express our strong support of him," they wrote. "This is not a gender issue, and to portray it as such sets back the cause of women scientists."

The letter also says that punishing Susumu would have "far-reaching negative consequences" and would endanger future funding for the institute Tonegawa oversees.

In an e-mail responding to a Globe request for comment, Karpova would not field questions about what occurred. "I do believe that this problem has been sorted out for the present," she wrote.

She said she was accepting an offer to lead a research team at a lab called Janelia Farm in Virginia, recently established by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, "and I am very excited about this unique opportunity."

Karpova declined the university's job offer in a June 24 e-mail to the science dean and other MIT officials, according to a copy included in a complaint to university officials from Stanford professor Ben A. Barres .

"I wanted very much to come to MIT," she wrote in the e-mail. "However, the strong resistance to my recruitment by Dr. Tonegawa has convinced me that I could not develop my scientific career at MIT in the kind of a nurturing atmosphere that I and the young people joining my lab would need in order to succeed."

Karpova added that senior faculty at MIT warned her "about the professional difficulties I would face at MIT in a situation where part of the community strongly felt that my research direction could potentially compete with their scientific interests."

Tonegawa was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for pioneering work on the genetics of the immune system. He then moved into neuroscience, and is particularly focused on studying memory.

Several scientists said Karpova is considered one of the most promising young neuroscientists. Her work "has incredible potential for making big steps forward in our understanding of how the brain works," said Barres, when asked to comment on his letter to MIT. He wrote in the letter that the young scientist told him about her experiences at MIT during a visit to Stanford, which also was interested in hiring her.

Barres's letter also said that in addition to Tonegawa, Silbey, the science dean, advised Karpova not to come to MIT. Barres also wrote that Tonegawa told her "if she came he would do his best to block her success, including blocking access to the animal facility that he claims to have control over."

Silbey said that's not true, and contended that he told Karpova he wanted her to come to MIT. He said the overlap of her research and Tonegawa's would make it important for her to establish her independence in order to win tenure.

Tonegawa's tone, in e-mails Silbey saw, "wasn't at all threatening or unpleasant. It was in fact quite complimentary," the dean said.

The fact that no one seems to be disputing here is that Tonegawa made it clear to Karpova that he would not be collaborating with her if she accepted MIT's offer to join the faculty. The disagreement hinges on the manner in which he did so, his intent in doing so, and what impact this could be expected to have on the research and career prospects of a new faculty member at MIT.

By and large, scientists get to choose their own collaborators. At least, senior scientists who have already established their scientific reputations, accrued facilities and secure funding sources, and won a prize or two get to choose their own collaborators. Junior faculty members may be able to collaborate with each other, or, if they're lucky, an established colleague may deign to collaborate with them.

Collaborating with a big name can have a lot of advantages. You can learn a great deal about successful grant writing, about the social structures within your university and within your field of science beyond your university, and about making research work. People may pay more attention to your work because it is associated with the big name. On the other hand, people may assume that any of the important of exciting things that come from this collaboration are due to the talents of the big name.

Indeed, it sounds, in this particular case, like MIT might have been prepared to place an extra burden on a junior faculty member who might collaborate with a senior colleague -- note that dean Silbey stressed that it would be important for Karpova to establish her independence if she wanted to get tenure. But, it seems, this would be required even in the absence of a collaboration with Tonegawa, given the closeness of their research interests. (One must wonder whether the same importance would be placed on establishing independence if Karpova were doing research in an area that no one else at MIT was pursuing. Was she starting out with an extra burden simply in virtue of working in an are where MIT already had a star? If so, what precisely would be the point of hiring an additional faculty member in an area that was already "covered"?)

So, we have a situations where a job candidate knows up front that the prospective colleague whose interests are closest to her own will not enter into a collaboration with her. This might not rule out the prospective colleague mentoring her, but it does seem unlikely, given that he was willing to make the non-collaboration decision without even getting to know her as a colleague. Indeed, the sense one gets from the Globe article is that Tonegawa was at minimum prepared to refuse any help (including collegial interaction) with Karpova, and was perhaps inclined to be an active obstacle to her success.

There's no reason to think that this kind of behavior needs to be motivated by sexism. It's entirely possible that Tonegawa is just one of those scientists who sees academia as a bare-knuckles brawl over scarce facilities, funding, grad students, prestige, and Nobel Prizes. Or, perhaps, that he's a hyper-competitive jerk who would have no qualms about making life hard for a potential competitor, especially a very promising one with her whole careeer ahead of her. He might even have the best of intentions, viewing himself as a gate-keeper dedicated to maintaining the high standards of his research institute by keeping the riffraff out (although here, it's not clear that he would have enough data about Karpova to decide up front that she is riffraff).

Whatever the reasons, Tonegawa made it clear to Karpova that he would not be part of an environment that nurtured her talents and helped her get her footing in a new academic research environment. Having an environment where you're likely to be able to get assistance, mentoring, and collaborators is more likely to help you on your way to tenure than an environment where you're more or less on your own. Karpova, able to do the math, opted for a work environment more likely to put her on a successful trajectory.

Eleven women professors at MIT think Tonegawa's actions are part of a pattern where women get less support than men. Two women (affiliated with the center Tonegawa oversees) are on record as saying that gender is not the issue here. It's hard to know for sure what Tonegawa's motivations are here. However, it seems to be easier for junior faculty who are male to find mentors in male-majority departments than it is for junior faculty who are women (and this has been noted in print). Maybe it has to do with the choosing-who-to-talk-to freedom in academic science -- if you're more comfortable talking to your male colleagues than your female ones, that's what you do. And somehow, magically, without any of their senior colleagues spending much time with them, women are supposed to break into the senior ranks so there are some senior faculty who are able to mentor the new hires who are women.

It might be reasonable to ask whether it matters that the motivations of Tonegawa and others are not sexist if the effects end up being the same.

And indeed, I'm willing to bet that some new hires who are males might benefit from a less gladiatorial model of social relations in academic science. More cooperation might even lead to better science. You'd think that someone with a Nobel Prize already on the shelf might have the courage and the intellectual curiosity to want to find out.

Read more thoughts on this story from Dr. Shellie.


More like this

I didn't blog about this when it first came out, go see Janet Stemwedel's blog (here, here and here) on how Susumu Tonegawa dissuaded Alla Karpova from taking a position at MIT. Here's the latest from the Boston Globe: Susumu Tonegawa , whose actions sparked an outcry from several colleagues, will…
By now, much of academia has heard about the goings-on at MIT. Susumu Tonegawa, head of the prestigious Picowar Institute at MIT and Nobel Laureate, is stepping down from his position following a university review which found he "behaved inappropriately when he tried to discourage a young female…
Three Bulls is on top of this, but I want to add a few comments of my own (as is my habit). The story about Susumu Tonegawa sinking MIT's attempt to hire Alla Karpova is not over yet. Sure, the Boston Globe (and the MIT News Office) report that MIT has formed a committee to try to get its…
Back in early August, I wrote about the Karpova-Tonegawa controversy at MIT, and about Rollins College president Lewis Duncan's comments on the topic in the Boston Globe. More on the Karpova-Toadygawa story. This may be the best part of all. Because you see, Zuskateers, it isn't just Toadygawa…

You know, you've quoted far more of the article than fair use allows - it appears you omitted only two short paragraphs. Pretty silly (and unethical?) IMO, especially since the article link doesn't require registration.

One of the authors on this story, Marcella Bombardieri, has written about the challenges of women in so-called STEM disciplines before (in that case, in an article which used my department for most of its primary sources.)

I'll back up your bet that "new hires who are males might benefit from a less gladiatorial model of social relations in academic science." Not just new hires, but grad students, undergraduates, the works. An academic environment more favorable to women is one more favorable to me, too, even though I'm male.

Ni hao! Kannichi Wa!Pure and simple this cannot be associated with gender bias. To improperly dissect the background and forces at play is to hurt the cause as these 11 all female professors have done.This situation would have occurred independent of gender. It just so happened the test case was female.The principle here is pure and simple, power (often associated with money/resources) corrupts in the science culture as well as politics and business. When power is threatened, response is suppressive, generally independent of gender.This is more a phenomena of the current perversion of our current scientific industry and a testament that it is no different from run of the mill politics and corporate corruption that is rampant in our current society.Tonegawa is a case in point of the ridiculousness of our current science culture based on superficial arbitrary accolade of the moment as a measure of credibility and most importantly clout and power over others. Be assured all prizes including the Nobel Prize are political and arbitrary, just as the current peer review system for both support of research resources and the validation of what can be published as results.Here we are seeing the endpoint impact.Tonegawa, a rare Nobel prize winner from Yellow River country is an exceptional extreme of perversion of the scientific industry by common elements of politics and business. However, it is not that unusual at diverse levels of interactions in the business. He just happens to be visible on the totem pole. He means money and prestige to MIT that overrides any ethics or principle.We will see more of these specific cases as the large number of Yellow River people (Asians) break the "Asian Glass Ceiling." One cannot escape overnight one's cultural heritage however hard one tries. Just like Bill Clinton that emerged from the grassroots culture of Hope, Arkansas could not repress his roots resulting in indiscretions with women, Monica and others, and other excesses of power. Tennessee hick Al Gore is resorting to the same tactics. Tonegawa emerged from Japanese peasantry by shear hard work characteristic of most of us Asians in the fairly open American system of science. Yet, like Bill Clinton, he has historic elements of a peasant who has achieved in his mind Samurai status. And the perverted system is propping up the Samurai culture just like the general system has propped up Bill and indirectly now Hillary (remnants of pre-20th century regalism, surrogate Hollywood to some extent). From the time that Tonegawa cast off his traditional peasant wife who supported him to Nobel prizehood, his public insult to his native Japanese roots, to liason with the NHK anchor who interviewed him in Japan, to diverse episodes of paranoi and power-backed suppression of underling associates and colleagues who collaborate and associated with the outside world (e.g. his failure to capture the second Nobel by force, the T cell receptor) and other episodes, Tonegawa is pure and consistent Samurai.In Samurai and Yellow River culture, women have a special place in the hierarchy, that Americans may consider inferior, but do not confuse it with the basic hierarchy of Samurai where all are inferior and to be subjugated, or obliterated if threatening.MOTYR

By Mouth of the Y… (not verified) on 15 Jul 2006 #permalink

And indeed, I'm willing to bet that some new hires who are males might benefit from a less gladiatorial model of social relations in academic science. More cooperation might even lead to better science. You'd think that someone with a Nobel Prize already on the shelf might have the courage and the intellectual curiosity to want to find out.


But... we're in the world we're in, and the top people are by and large going to be the competitive, aggressive, quash-anybody-who-might-get-in-my-way types. I don't know enough about Tonegawa's research to comment on the science and the Nobel Prize, but he sure does seem to be one of those arrogant know-it-alls who make their way to the top and damn all the rest of the world.

Were I in that field, I sure as hell wouldn't want to go to MIT after seeing an atmosphere like that.


I have to agree with the other commenters, that the hyper-competive
-quash potential competion like atmosphere, can be confused by it's victims as discrimination. Whether the harm is greater for one sex
or another, I think is less important, than the harm that it causes
to science in general. I'm also of the opinion, that our educational
pipeline for aspiring scientists is unneccesarily leaky (I count myself
as one of those who fell through a leak). Of course modern discussions
seem to be dominated by the gender equality issue. I think this does a
disservice to the profession, as the difficulties of becoming a
successful scientist are so great, that a generally much for supportive
environment is needed for all promising candidates.

More cooperation might even lead to better science.Ni Hao! Kannichi Wa!In researching this issue, I noted this timely and topically related article in the same issue of the Boston Globe:A group of top Harvard University professors issued a striking critique of the university's approach to scientific research and teaching yesterday, saying its antiquated organizational structure based on powerful, insular fiefdoms has become so dysfunctional that it threatens Harvard's leadership in science.This Tonegawa example reminds me of a long held opinion of mine that no scientist particularly of the reclusive Samurai type as was recognized back in 1987 when he was awarded the Nobel should hold such position of authority and command over such large resources and direction of the institution past age 65, possibly even 60, because it only gets worse with aging. Of course, such aging scientists (Tonegawa is 67) should not be turned out to pasture, but nurtured by the institution as elders and fountains of wisdom, given their reclusive lab space and resources, but no authority or role in policy making.All said and done regarding Dr. Karpova, the new idealistic scientifically nurturing Janelia Farm Research Institute is probably the wisest move for her and for science rather than the decadent repressive MIT environment. Ironically, Tonegawa got his start at one of the few such institutes in the world, the Basel Institute for Immunology. As I said, power corrupts, and makes one forget.MOTYR

By Mouth of the Y… (not verified) on 16 Jul 2006 #permalink

Tonegawa's biography and banquet speech at the 1987 Nobel awards ceremony noted that he was an unusually fortunate recipient of senior collaborative efforts (and two wives) on three continents - as Rob notes above, it seems that Tonegawa would not be where he is today if his mentors were the "damn the rest of the world" type. A Japanese woman scientist I know tells me that this purported behavior is common for Japanese scientists of his era and is a major reason she is doing science in the US.

One would hope that a 67-year-old dude who is 20 yrs out from his Nobel wouldn't be quite the self-absorbed ass it seems he is. Someone remind me where I saw it, but Jim Watson has said several times that the greatest joy of being a senior scientist is that you finally have the luxury to stop thinking of yourself and, instead, work for the welfare of your junior colleagues.

There is no doubt that Tonegawa made a great series of discoveries, even by today's standards, on how our immune systems are so agile as to mount antibody responses against literally millions of antigens, some of which we've never seen. The V-D-J recombination system also bears on the action of vaccines, perhaps the greatest medical advance of the last century.

However, I have far more respect for scientists of lesser credentials and greater character. I am tickled to learn that Dr Karpova will take a position at Janelia Farm - not only will she have the resources to kick the scientific ass of Tonegawa, but she will be the recipient of mentoring from a true gentleman Nobel laureate, HHMI President Tom Cech. (BTW, Cech was recruited to Colorado as the trailing spouse of Carol L. Cech before he did his C. elegans work on ribozymes.)

I don't think this is a gender issue, but an issue of being socially maladjusted.

Perhaps MIT should hold classes for all science professors on how to act in social situations. Miss Manners could be the instructor.

It seems many scientists (especially those that are successful) are unable or unwilling to interact with others in a civilized manner.

Perhaps this is the be turn off to women scientists. They are sick of being mistreated and/or not being able to connect with the people they work with.

By angiebean (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink

Funny someone would mention Jim Watson. Perhaps, he only meant "male" junior colleagues. Or, if I'm am idealist, maybe his view now is an atonement for stealing Rosalind Franklin's results, and hence, robbing her of the Nobel prize.

By Josie Bracken (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink

Ohayou! it seems that Tonegawa would not be where he is today if his mentors were the "damn the rest of the world" type.How true and to name two, the visible "develop others-oriented" Niels Jerne and the nearly invisible epitomy of the brilliant and unselfish mind, Charley Steinberg. Charley did the thinking, Tonegawa did the legwork.Power corrupts, and makes one forget when payback time to others comes. (like what's Bill doing for Arkansas other than that self-promoting library?)MOYTR

By Mouth of the Y… (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink for the welfare of your junior colleagues....

It is at that point in a healthy career that one yokes their spirit beside that of their science and its future place in the store of human understanding rather than riding toward fame on the back of science. It is on that day that one finally lives up to the name "professor". It has been my good fortune to study with people who early or late in their career, famous or not, taught their subjects and coached their students with that attitude.

I also came to college with the expectation that a teacher can be a friend. With some exceptions, I was not disappointed. I really don't know that it is entirely on the the teacher of the student or the senior researcher of a department to make the relationships open, collegial and mutually supportive but leadership in that aspect of the role is not disconnected from the leadership in their title.

the hyper-competive
-quash potential competion like atmosphere, can be confused by it's victims as discrimination.

Big Tom: Regardless of whether such an atmosphere is intended as discrimination or not, my belief is that it disproportionately affects women scientists. To me, that makes it a gender issue (though not necessarily a discrimination issue). But it is a gender issue that, if solved, will also benefit men-- bringing good for all.

By the way this is a reasonable general definition for the concerns of third-wave feminism: thanks to earlier women's movements, conditions have generally improved to where in many areas, outright discrimination is no longer the issue. The question is how to rethink the environment and culture of our institutions so that they nurture and develop the talent of women and men. This is a question of values and the prioritization of values.

In the Tonegawa case, for example: while it is of definite value to the university to support the research of well-established Nobel-Prize winners, it is ALSO of value to support the development of new talent; Karpova was ideally positioned to further enhance the reputation of MIT, as well as to contribute to the education of new generations of students (a function that top universities sometimes forget!). Unfortunately, the university is either unwilling or unable to reign in Tonegawa's hyper-competitive behavior to achieve this goal. I don't think that's a good thing. I think it is worth some effort to figure out how the university structure can be rethought to give the "management" (chairs, deans) the ability to reign in objectionable faculty behavior while maintaining scientific quality. In the current system, the department chairs are basically trying to herd cats-- and have little if any influence over the faculty's behavior. While this may be laudable that the management has no control over the individual professor's scientific research, it is a shame that they also have no control over, for example, blatant mistreatment of research students, intimidation of colleagues, and the like.

Tonegawa deserves a serious reprimand by MIT and the scientific community for his uncooperative behavior. Who knows how many promising, young careers have been thwarted or completely squashed by this guy? The problem with academia in general is that it tolerates and even rewards scientists and professors like this. If MIT would stand up and say that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, it would go a long way toward preventing this sort of situation in the future.

here we go. Lot's of commentors and even the esteemed Dr. Freeride herself looking at this case in isolation and explaining it all in terms of the proximal issue of competition. OK, I'm being unfair to Dr. F. She notes that the situation is not automatically sexist, and indeed, it's not. (Hey, it could happen.) Some commenters, though, automatically discount the possibility that the situation is sexist. That right there is the sexist behavior which allows situations like this to occur. This case made the news b/c some profs at MIT wrote a letter of complaint. How many similar cases didn't make the news? I have personally been in situations where I was the only female and my male colleagues did not collaborate with me. I know other women who have been in the same situation. When you look at the pattern of women landing in these situations and men not landing in them, you must conclude that there is a gender issue at work.

By frumious b (not verified) on 18 Jul 2006 #permalink

Oh heavenly christ, thank god I finally made it to frumious b's comment after all that blather about "no, no, it isn't sexism, it just isn't; everybody has it tough and we shouldn't talk about sexism, we just shouldn't, it obscures the REALLY important issue which is that WE MEN are suffering too and can't you women stop worrying about yourselves and being so selfish and see the big picture which is the suffering of MEN, I mean, all of us, in science?" Must. Go. Puke. Now. There, I feel much better.

Here's the issue, folks: money. Money, and Title IX. Read all about it here in my fabulous post "MIT: Thanks for Nothing"

It appears to me - and to many others - that the esteemed Dr. Tonegawa may possibly be violating the terms of the federal funding agreements he's accepted on behalf of his fancy center for neuroscience research, if not actually breaking Federal law (Title IX). One of the signers of the letter to President Hockfield has communicated to me that she agrees with these points. Get ready for the Title IX show, folks. It's coming soon to a research lab near you.

Title IX - not just for women's sports anymore!

Oh, my, my, Lordy (if she exists)!Take it easy Miz. Zuska, come down to NAWLANS with Miz. Absinthe and relax for a week with us, do some tolerance training.But more seriously, what can I do concerning our Polly the Second?She is described by this article, but she went on to have our first grandchildren with him which even complicates things more. Especially since we are geneticist/epigeneticist hybrids.She is a brilliant scientist thanks to our UMGA's and 529's and her own ingenuity, but this guy is getting in the way of that fulfillment big time. He's a bum and living off her, actually draining her, acting macho all the time and she just goes along with it.I noticed you had some name changes that confuses dissecting your treatises on PubMed, etc., were the bums you got involved with anything along the lines of this article?Fortunately, Polly II has not legally changed her name (I hope we influenced her) and keeps her maiden name so far, but she let the kids take on the surname of the bum.Interested in your thoughts.Polly[Despite everything, I believe that people are all really good at heart--Anne Frank]

By Polly Anna (not verified) on 18 Jul 2006 #permalink

Howdy folks, we talked about this at our place. There is a lot more in play that the article suggests. Since Tonegawa is head of an entire institute, his declaration that Dr. Karpova would be seen as a competitor by him would most certainly place obstacles for her in obtaining collaborators within that institute, and her institute shares a building and facilities with that one. Dr. Tonegawa is within his rights of course to refuse all possible collaboration, but his stance is much more unreasonable than it appears on the surface.

I checked 3 bulls...insiders but trying hard to have perspective...go and read at least for the additional facts.

they caused me to add an ongoing updates section to my after-the jump

Dr Jim Hu: yes, you got me; Dr Cech's work was on Tetrahymena. I blame my misinformation on too many nights at the now defunct Oasis Brewery in Boulder and Herman's Hideaway in Denver.

Dr Josie Bracken: In no way do I defend Dr Watson's behavior as a 25 to 28 yo fellow in the Cavendish at Cambridge. I almost take his point made recently that he now wishes to help junior scientists as evidence that he acknowledges the prominent role of Dr Franklin in his discoveries. Had she lived, this would have been resolved but she had few posthumous advocates in the years between the 1953 Nature paper and the 1962 Nobel.

I would offer that, in his twilight years, Dr Watson is atoning for the sins of his past. Someone correct me if I am wrong; comparatively, Tonegawa has no excuse for his continued elitism and protectionism.

I would offer that, in his twilight years, Dr Watson is atoning for the sins of his past.

I'll add that I've thought this a number of times. Watson is famously not the type to outright say "I was wrong, I'm sorry", but I've heard that subtext in many of his remarks and writings since The Double Helix was published. Perhaps I'm hearing what I want to hear, but I'm glad to find that I'm not the only one.

I'd like to think the rotten old bastard feels bad for what he did.

for the record: the tonegawa lab was often referred to as "the crazy tonegawa lab" and had the lab members had the reputation for "bringing the drugs" to departmental retreats and being "guys not to be alone with".
just saying.

By Anon ex-MIT person (not verified) on 09 Aug 2006 #permalink