“How a dispute at Harvard led to a grad student’s forced mental exam and an extraordinary restraining order against a prominent scientist”

“German, however, believes the forced evaluation was an act of revenge by Rubin, retaliation prompted by German’s allegation of scientific misconduct against Rubin and two of his students. (The allegation was later dismissed.) And this past August, a Massachusetts judge agreed with German, concluding that Rubin was “motivated by bias and revenge, not by a legitimate interest in keeping German safe.” The judge issued an order that has created an extraordinary situation: Rubin must allow German to work in his laboratory, but stay at least 30.5 meters away from him, and have no direct or indirect contact. Rubin must also provide German with all of the lab resources he had before the problems began…
[In early 2016] One research associate suspected German was tinkering with her experiment, after she noticed that images her equipment had automatically recorded over the weekend were out of focus on Monday mornings. She stated in her affidavit that she began locking her computer, and even rinsing out her coffee mug, worried that German might spike it with chemicals. In April, after lab members informed Rubin of their concerns, Rubin and German attended a meeting with an ombudsperson in an effort to reduce tensions…
The order has made life “very difficult for Dr. Rubin and for the operation of the Rubin lab,” says Rubin’s attorney, John Rooney of Melick & Porter in Boston. “[T]he other graduate students will not progress toward their degrees” if he couldn’t come to the lab, Rubin stated in an affidavit. “Work on federal grants that require my personal participation would need to be suspended, which likely would mean many individuals would lose their jobs.” A spokesperson for Harvard says officials “are helping facilitate Dr. Rubin’s compliance with the order, while ensuring that research programs in the lab continue unimpeded and that the studies of the student are fully supported.” German says that, “basically, the situation is really painful.””

Posting this just as theater of the absurd. I’m glad that science is shifting away from some of the norms that made these kinds of science-personalities and lab environments possible. But then again, humans are humans are always possible disasters.

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