Gender discrimination lawsuit at Salk ignites controversy

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Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 237-238
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6348.237

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Two senior female scientists have sued the venerable Salk Institute for Biological Studies, alleging long-standing gender discrimination at the independent research center in San Diego, California. Biologists Vicki Lundblad, 64, and Katherine Jones, 62, said in a pair of lawsuits filed in California Superior Court in San Diego on 11 July that their employer pressured them to downsize their labs, disparaged their work, and prevented them from being considered for lucrative grants. “Salk has allowed an ‘old boys club’ culture to dominate, creating a hostile work environment for the Salk tenured women professors,” Lundblad alleges. Salk’s female president, Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, said the lawsuits “misrepresented” the institute. “I would never preside over an institute that in any way condoned, openly or otherwise, the marginalizing of female scientists,” she wrote in a statement. Blackburn also approved the institute’s release of statements attacking each woman’s scientific productivity and noting that neither had published in the top journals Cell, Nature, or Science in the last decade. Despite “millions of dollars” in Salk support, the statements argue, each woman has “consistently rank[ed] below her peers in producing high quality research and attracting the grants that could advance that research.” The personal attacks drew infuriated reactions on social media and in unsolicited emails to Science from prominent biologists, including four Nobel laureates.