There’s a follow-up in Science to their story about a situation in Lee Rubin’s group at Harvard. A long list of present and former Rubin lab members and scientific collaborators have written a letter about the article, and about Prof. Rubin. “It is our collective experience“, they write, “that besides being an outstanding scientist, he is a warm and caring scientific mentor who does not deserve to have the reputation he has built over 40 years or more besmirched.” The tone of the letter makes it clear that its signers feel that the original article was too heavily weighted towards the journalistic “Here are two equal and opposing sides” convention, which is a common complaint.
Of course, the problem with such situations is that there’s so much mud to go around that it’s hard for anyone to come out without some on them, no matter what the facts may turn out to be. It’s like a contested divorce or an inheritance fight, and just as with those, the facts can run all the way from “this disaster was a team effort” to the entire thing being driven by one unstable or vengeful personality, with everyone else looking on in disbelief. Things aren’t helped by the unimpeachable fact that science (and perhaps academic science even more than other parts) is well stocked with unusual personalities. Some of them are unstable geniuses (like Kurt Gödel), but some are just plain unstable, minus the Gödelian ability to find things in relativity theory that were odd enough to surprise Einstein. At any rate, I very much hope, for everyone’s sake, that the situation in Rubin’s group can be resolved in a way that will allow everyone to do something more fruitful with their time and energy.
Update: please note that I will delete ad hominem comments and baseless allegations – those are almost the only things I ever do delete.