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No place for bullies in science

Nature

High-profile allegations of bullying at a German research institute highlight the need for better systems to protect young scientists.

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[...] In Nature’s opinion, young researchers there have been let down over the years. These researchers say the institute and its parent body, the Max Planck Society — also one of the world’s leading research organizations — failed to control the situation in a timely manner. It is hard to disagree.
Most scientific institutions in Germany — including the Max Planck Society — already have formal procedures in place to deal with misconduct in the lab. These focus mainly on plagiarism, fabrication and falsification. But they usually also include an ombudsman system — a supposedly independent figure who can hear complaints and weigh in. Students and staff should be able to raise allegations of bullying in this way. In this specific case, this didn’t happen. Young scientists who say they were bullied found the system inadequate because no one to whom they could complain within the Max Planck system seemed to them to be truly independent. [...] We will never know how many promising scientific careers around the world have been brought to a premature end because young researchers felt they could not continue to work under a bullying senior figure. But it should stop. Now. Those affected must be shown that the system will protect them if they choose to speak out. Institutions should ensure they have explicit policies in place for dealing with bullying, and, as part of that, define what constitutes bullying. And senior scientists who see colleagues behave in an inappropriate way should speak out. [...]


Nature, Vol. 559, No. 7713. (10 July 2018), pp. 151-151, https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-05683-z 
Key: INRMM:14613826

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