News & AnalysisIntellectual Property

Dispute Over Lab Notebooks Lands Researcher in Jail

Science  02 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6060, pp. 1189-1190
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6060.1189

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Summary

Judy Mikovits, a biochemist who became world famous for her studies with chronic fatigue syndrome, was arrested and jailed on 18 November in Ventura, California, on a felony charge of possessing stolen property from her former employer—the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada—which fired her in September. The property at issue consisted of her laboratory notebooks and related data. Court documents filed by police in a criminal case and by WPI in a related but separate civil case allege that Mikovits instructed a lab assistant to steal the notebooks and other material. These astonishing—if not downright bizarre—events cap a 2-year period in which Mikovits has been mired in a topsy-turvy research debate that saw her work praised and then derided by prominent colleagues.