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The Harvard lab head, the grad student, and the restraining order: An ongoing saga

with 63 comments

Lee Rubin via Harvard

Regular Retraction Watch readers may recall a remarkable story from January involving Harvard’s Lee Rubin and one of his graduate students. As we reported in Science at the time, the graduate student, Gustavo German, said he had been subjected to a forced psychiatric evaluation as “an act of revenge by Rubin, retaliation prompted by German’s allegation of scientific misconduct against Rubin and two of his students.” And a judge “agreed with German, concluding [last August] that Rubin was ‘motivated by bias and revenge, not by a legitimate interest in keeping German safe.'”

That led to a restraining order that required Rubin to remain 100 feet from German at all times — including in the lab where German was working on his PhD.

Today, we have an update on the story, also in Science: “At Harvard, extraordinary court battle between Ph.D. student and prominent researcher grinds on.” As our Alison McCook writes:

Nearly a year after Elizabeth Fahey, a Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, ordered Harvard in August 2016 to allow German to work in Rubin’s lab to complete the final months of his degree, German still does not have his Ph.D.—and Harvard has moved to kick him out of the university.

Read the whole update here.

You can also read the July 7 court memoranda referred to in the story, and a Harvard response from July 10. You’ll see that Justice Elizabeth Fahey doesn’t hold back:

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Written by Ivan Oransky

July 27th, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Comments
  • CRD July 27, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I remember this story well. I just looked up Gustavo German about a month ago to see if there were any updates to this story. Not surprised by this latest revelation.

    • Cancer doc UK August 9, 2017 at 4:48 am

      Is there something to Germans allegations or not?
      This is the paper in question..
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26321202

      Take figure 1: look at the white column error bars.

      Figure 1 G: The first two white columns (BJ-riPS and 1-38G) have the same size error bars.
      Figure 1 H: The second white column (1-38G) has the same size error bar as G columns BJ-riPS and 1-38G
      Figure 1 I: The second and third white columns (1-38G and 1-51N) have the same size error bars
      Figure 1 J: white columns 1-38G and 1-51N have the same size error bars.

      In my experience this never happens with my data sets,
      Has anyone seen the raw data for the paper above?

      • rfg August 9, 2017 at 9:32 am

        “Has anyone seen the raw data for the paper above?”

        Actually yes.

        And, it’s worth looking at the paper – well over a hundred panels. In my view [I’m not an evil stem cell scientist] a spectacular piece of work.

        German’s allegation was that 4/6 data points in one panel of one figure were made up. He made this allegation based on a conversation he had with another student. This conversation was a year prior to making his allegation to the President of Harvard. Coincidentally, German’s interpersonal relations with several fellow students in the Rubin lab had already begun to deteriorate at the time of the charge. German also felt that he was not getting the support (two lab techs, expensive mice etc) from Rubin that he required.

        Harvard’s research integrity officers apparently concluded that German’s charges were made in good faith. Given the conflicts in the lab and with Rubin himself, I’m not certain this was the proper conclusion. Seems a mote point at this juncture, although I believe that a specious charge of research misconduct should carry consequences.

        After receiving German’s charge Harvard’s research integrity officers confiscated computers, notebooks, etc. and spent 7 months reviewing the raw data in this paper.

        This was a formal review.

        Harvard’s ethics panel dismissed German’s charges.

        A lot of people not named Rubin have seen the raw data and found no reason to correct or retract the paper or to censor Rubin and the other two students charged by German.

        CDUK, Cell has an open data policy – perhaps you can access this data via that route.

  • LBJ July 27, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    Two observations:
    1. No update on the alleged misconduct reported by this “whistleblower”. Did Mr. German still believe Dr. Rubin committed fraud? If so, did he pursue his allegation? Also, why did Mr. German still want to work in Dr. Rubin’s lab? Do not you want to stay away from people with ethic problems?
    2. A Pubmed search showed that Mr German did not have any publication while in Dr. Rublin’s lab. Can he get a Ph.D from Harvard without any publication?

    • Cancer doc UK July 28, 2017 at 4:38 am

      As Harvard are clearly backing Rubin and ignoring the judicial system, the chance of finding the sun in the sky by Harvard “investigators” is zero.

  • rfg July 28, 2017 at 7:02 am

    All I know is what I read in the original reporting. The original reporting says that misconduct allegations were investigated by Harvard and dismissed.

    There were also apparently confrontations between Mr German and other students in Rubin’s. This seems to me to be credible.

    Rubin reported the behavior to a campus psychologist or psychiatrist – not sure if the distinction is relevant. This person sent someone to German’s apartment while his parents were there to bring him in force a forced mental exam.

    This is the “harassment” that the judge is citing. Apparently the judge felt this was retaliation for the whistleblowing. I’m not sure – more likely Rubin was genuinely concerned.

    German did not feel he was getting the support – use of a lab tech, mice and supplies he required.

    Now we have a University committee that dismissed German from the program for noncompliance.

    A truism is that no one professor can dismiss a student from a graduate program. So this was a committee action not Rubin acting alone.

    • Cancer doc UK July 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      I also remember the original report of the judge. It was damning for Rubin.

      The courts are independent. It is clear to the court the student should be given the same rights as he was privileged before his PI harassed him.

      To be clear, a Harvard professor has been judged to have harassed a student in a US court. This was evidence based.

      That is not hearsay, but based upon many documents.

      We must also remember the student does not have the financial backing of a very rich University.

      I for one agree with the judge.

  • Ken Pimple July 28, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Great title. It sounds like a joke: A Harvard lab head, a grad student, and a restraining order walk into a bar . . .

  • oldnuke July 28, 2017 at 8:12 am

    How can a judge in a state court intervene with a university fulfilling its obligations with regard to the SEVIS requirements? I think the judge is overstepping.

  • Paul S. Brookes July 28, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Based on a quick read of the court documents, some of the requirements of the July 7 order seem completely unreasonable, relative to the standards typically found in research Universities worldwide. For example, ordering that a lab technician should be hired for the student’s use, and that the student should have final say in the hiring decision for said tech’, is complete bat-shit bonkers.

    • Pointerout July 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Not really. It’s probably too compensate for the fact that Rubin has poisoned the well for any intramural collaboration. It would be unreasonable to expect the student publish a paper or do a thesis completely solo.

      • CRD July 29, 2017 at 1:36 am

        I agree. If the entire lab has been poisoned against him, if only based on the other members’ admiration for the lab head, then having Harvard hire an outside tech to work with German seems to be the only way to have him succeed, and succeed he should. This is what happens, it would seem, to people who question the possibility of scientific misconduct: what a way to show the world how “impartial” and “objective” scientists are!

  • rfg July 28, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Agree!

    Overstepping and bonkers rulings!

    But, if you go back to the original RW thread and the comments posted to the Science article you will find most respondents agreed with the judge and felt German was the agrieved participant in the mess. Never mind the decades of scientific excellence by Rubin nor recognition that his hard work created the possibility of doing the study in the first place.

    See cancer doc Uk above for a typical response. A disgruntled student makes a charge of misconduct and some will automatically assume that Rubin is guilty and Harvard is engaged in a cover up.

  • (another) Michael July 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Not sure what drives this judge. As a Boston College law school graduate she probably relishes the chance to stick it to Harvard, but given the scant evidence of any wrongdoing by the lab head this seems like the wrong case for establishing some type of precedent.

    • CRD July 29, 2017 at 1:34 am

      Scant evidence of wrongdoing? German accused him of misconduct, and the professor immediately replied by getting a doctor to declare him a threat to himself or others and have him committed! That is an extreme action, and indicates to anybody who looks at the issue as being one that would only be committed by somebody with something to hide.

      I read the entire court document back in January, and I recall distinctly that the judge noted that it appeared as if the members of the lab found German weird, and based on nothing other than his otherness, they viewed him as a threat and made all sorts of unfounded allegations against him which the judge found to be totally unwarranted. To the extent of the information that has been made public, I have seen no evidence whatsoever that German was a source of any sort of negativity, whereas Rubin seems to be causing loads of trouble.

  • Chung-ke Chang July 28, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    For the record, I am one who agrees with the judge. The original issue at hand was not Rubin’s academic achievement nor whether there was misconduct, but only whether Rubin’s actions (e.g. forcing a psychiatric evaluation on German) were retaliatory or not. The court found him wanting and issued a restraining order; if he (and Harvard) did not agree with the order, they could have appealed the case – but would still need to adhere to all the terms of the restraining order during the appeal process. And the law does not discriminate between ‘recognized researcher’ and ‘disgruntled student’, their statements in court (should) carry exactly the same weight. In the end, this is a simple case of “A’s actions are interfering with the normal life of B”, it just so happens that B’s major normal activity is doing lab work….

    As for the hiring of a technician for the student’s use, I look upon it as something akin to paying damages for, say, a car accident – you could be ordered to pay for the mechanic bill of the opposite party if you were the one who caused the accident. The fact that this is for a ‘student’ and not a ‘principal investigator’ is irrelevant in the eyes of the law. It is actually easier this way, otherwise the judge could have ordered Harvard to just provide the funds and have the student hire the people himself, but then these ‘private assistants’ would need to have access to labs, equipment, etc. as per court order. Now THAT would be an administrative nightmare.

    And no, not providing the same level of support (i.e. technicians) is not a choice. If the court allowed a lesser level of support to become a precedent, then other (non-research) civil cases could use this precedent to award lesser damages or enforce lesser restraints that would benefit the defendant. It had to be exactly the same status quo before the grievances started, no more and no less.

  • anon July 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    This is a side topic but the use of the term “use” with “technician” bothers me deeply.
    The technician I hired is a person not a piece of equipment, and she “works with” me, not “is used by” me. Furthermore, it is not her job to be “used” by anybody in the lab. She helps others with their projects at my request.

    This story sounds like there is a lot of pertinent information that isn’t (and shouldn’t be) public, so I’m not going to pass judgement on any of the individual players.

  • anon2 July 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    This seems a many-sided situation and it also seems like these documents shouldn’t be in the public.

    • Chung-ke Chang July 28, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Um, no. This is a civil case, so the court documents have to be open to public scrutiny. This is to ensure that a fair trial was given to both parties. If there were any personal information in the documents, then they should be redacted, but personally I could not find anything that was not already public information.

  • Anonymous July 29, 2017 at 12:39 am

    I agree with the judge’s ruling. If you read the original findings of fact, you will find that Lee Rubin called on an emergency commitment for his student, when his student was at home with his parents. From this, Rubin could not have determined whether the student was at risk of harming himself or others, particularly after not having seen German for a week. Emergency commitment is serious – it’s denying 14th amendment rights of life, liberty, and property (due process clause).

    I would expect Rubin in this case to behave professionally and do what’s needed in order for his student (that he agreed to taking on) finish his PhD with the requirements. If Rubin had accepted the court order and made possible for his student to finish his PhD, this situation could have been done by now. Instead, Rubin and Harvard dragged it on, and now everyone is losing.

    I think that it’s great that the court documents are provided here (and for those that disagree, please know that court proceedings are public record).

    Lastly, I think it’s time that scientists get behind the science and the facts. It’s a fact that a few hours after Rubin saw the redacted email of the whistleblower complaint, concerns about the student’s mental health came into question. It’s a fact that Harvard administrators then contacted the student’s physician and psychiatrist, who confirmed that the student was of sound mental health. It’s a fact that despite not having seen his student for more than a week, and multiple confirmations of the student being of sound mental health, Rubin called an emergency commitment, through a physician that never met the student, at a time when the student was at home with his family. It’s a fact that the student’s mental health evaluation turned up nothing. It’s a fact that the court granted German a restraining order against his mentor, and that Harvard refused to follow its terms.

    This is also not a many-sided situation. This is Harvard’s wrongdoing. A student raised concerns, had his mental health put into question when it previously wasn’t, and is not able to finish his PhD as a result. The student wants to finish his PhD with his work from the Rubin lab, a court has ordered to make this possible, and Harvard and Rubin instead want to fight this. This is not in the best interest of science, and it’s a waste of resources that could instead be put towards finding cures for disease. Harvard has a chance to turn this around, and they won’t. This is Harvard’s fault, and I think the public needs to know about this.

    This is a matter that affects all scientists – if this is what people go through when they raise concerns, then the public is at risk for receiving false information or harmful therapies. It’s important to note that if an allegation is true, those who stay quiet are also in a position to be punished. Again, I would call on the science community to get behind the facts, not character references. This is an issue that affects us all, and no one expects to end up in such a situation. The best thing for the science is for Harvard to make sure that the student finishes his PhD, with the same freedoms given to other PhD students – freedom to choose and consent to an advisor, freedom to publish their work, mentorship to publish their work, and references that stand in support of their work, regardless of personal feelings involved.

    I applaud German in his effort to take on Harvard pro se. He is teaching us all a lesson in how trainees can stand up for themselves and act in the greater interest of science.

  • rfg July 29, 2017 at 8:13 am

    “Lastly, I think it’s time that scientists get behind the science and the facts. It’s a fact that a few hours after Rubin saw the redacted email of the whistleblower complaint, concerns about the student’s mental health came into question. It’s a fact that Harvard administrators then contacted the student’s physician and psychiatrist, who confirmed that the student was of sound mental health. It’s a fact that despite not having seen his student for more than a week, and multiple confirmations of the student being of sound mental health, Rubin called an emergency commitment, through a physician that never met the student, at a time when the student was at home with his family. It’s a fact that the student’s mental health evaluation turned up nothing. It’s a fact that the court granted German a restraining order against his mentor, and that Harvard refused to follow its terms.”

    Indeed “science and the facts” should matter. From earlier RW and Science [mag] reporting:

    “Last March, a PhD student at Harvard filed a misconduct allegation against his mentor, a prominent stem cell researcher. Three months later, he was taken from his home by police in the middle of the night for a forced psychiatric evaluation.”

    “Court records reveal that the police had received their order because, for months, German’s mentor—prominent stem cell researcher Lee Rubin—had been voicing concerns about German’s behavior. German appeared “uncharacteristically disheveled and exhausted” at times, according to an affidavit from Rubin; other members of Rubin’s laboratory said they felt unsafe around German, and worried he might sabotage their experiments. Rubin’s concerns deepened in late May 2016, after German—who was just months away from finishing his Ph.D.—stopped showing up at the lab. Just weeks later, German’s disappearance led the health service doctor—who had never spoken to German, nor his physician—to order him to be taken from his home in the middle of the night for a psychiatric evaluation.”

    The timeline is important. Rubin and other members of Rubin’s laboratory had been concerned about Rubin’s mental health for months not hours…”other members of Rubin’s laboratory said they felt unsafe around German, and worried he might sabotage their experiments.” It was German’s disappearance for a week that prompted the health service doctor to act.

    • Cancer doc UK July 29, 2017 at 8:55 am

      @rfg – yet, the court did not accept the others concerns about the students mental health “for months”. Moreso, the lab members are not mental health professionals. Their concerns were 100% unfounded.

      The mental health professionals that did evaluate the student found him to be in a sound state of mental health. The accusations of the students alleged mental health failings by the Rubin lab members were, therefore, false.

      So, why did the lab members accuse the student of poor mental health? Who generated the data in the Rubin lab the student alleged were falsifying data?

      Who is hiding what here?

  • rfg July 29, 2017 at 8:16 am

    I meant German’s “mental health for months not hours.”

  • rfg July 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

    CDR
    “German accused him of misconduct, and the professor immediately replied by getting a doctor to declare him a threat to himself or others and have him committed!”

    This situation in the laboratory seems to have been festering for months, if not longer. The apparently unfounded accusation of misconduct from German against Rubin happened months earlier than the forced mental exam, not immediately.

    The timeline is important.

    I go back to this statement, ”other members of Rubin’s laboratory said they felt unsafe around German.”

    Can you imagine the legal, moral and ethical trouble that Rubin and Harvard would be in had he not reported these concerns to the Harvard health services and if the there had actually been an attack on another member of the lab?

    • Cancer doc UK July 29, 2017 at 10:37 am

      @rfg

      “I go back to this statement, ”other members of Rubin’s laboratory said they felt unsafe around German.”

      The court disagreed.

      Were some of the lab members those responsible for generating data German alleged were falsified?

      There were never any attacks on the lab staff, in any way, by German.

      The attack was on German. Moreso, the judge stated this was so severe a restraining order was placed on Rubin.

  • LBJ July 29, 2017 at 10:17 am

    For the sake of scientific integrity, Mr. German, if u have solid evidence proving that Dr. Rubin committed misconduct, then be a real “whistleblower”, report it to ORI of HHS.
    To Dr. Rubin, what is more important than a man’s reputation (alleged research misconduct and whistleblower retaliation)? If the allegation is false, sue Mr. German for defamation to clean your name.

    • Anonymous July 29, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      LBJ:

      A PhD student voiced concerns about research being done in the lab. Why the student chose one channel over another remains a question, and that is for the student to speak to. Normally, it would be the advisor that things are reported to, to give an opportunity to address concerns before going to a higher level. The advisor is responsible for setting up an environment where people are free to voice concerns. Rubin’s actions following voicing of the complaint seem to indicate that this is not an environment conducive to voicing concerns. It remains unclear where the report would go to at a higher level without experiencing retaliation. If you were in this position, would you go to HHS right away? If you were a PhD student, young and in training, would you think or know to go to a lawyer before speaking out? It’s a challenging decision for where to report these things, and a nightmare when it happens, and therefore, it’s up to the lab itself to create an environment where concerns can be voiced and dealt with before they go to a higher level. If they don’t, it’s their own fault.

      In terms of defamation, it doesn’t seem that there is evidence that the complaint was made in bad faith, so it would be inappropriate for Rubin to sue, particularly after the retaliatory actions that he took.

      I’m also concerned about your comment: “what’s more important than a man’s reputation?” This comes across as slightly sexist, and more important than this is pursuing science that Rubin has indicated would lead to cures for disease. Ask the community of people suffering from SMA – do they think that Rubin’s reputation is most important, or that the science is getting done?

      Harvard’s litigation is a waste of time and money, and their actions have repeatedly made clear that they are not acting in the best interest of the science. This is what needs to be remedied and made known by scientists and the public at large.

  • Anonymous July 29, 2017 at 10:50 am

    RFG:

    Please revisit the findings of fact in the original article and construct a timeline to see for yourself. The student’s mental health was never in question until the day that the supervisor saw the redacted email. The original allegation was sent on March 10 to President Faust. Rubin became aware of this on May 4. On May 10, the accused scientist (Muela) and Rubin met with the research integrity office, and saw the redacted allegation. Then at 5pm, that same day, the accused student and her boyfriend went to a department administrator and voiced concerns about the student’s mental health. This was the first time that allegations of the student’s mental health were brought up.

    On May 12, and admin dean contacted University Health Services and their mental health department, who said that German sees someone there for ADHD, and is fine and has no red flags. The admin from the Rubin lab said that although German is odd sometimes in his behavior, there is nothing requiring immediate action, he’s no danger to himself or anyone. On May 13, the admin dean and faculty program head met with German and concluded that he doesn’t present a danger to himself or others. Also on May 13, German’s psychiatrist contacted him to say that the school inquired about him. German said he was fine, and his psychiatrist said that he could “not believe [the admin dean] could have made such an inquiry about [German’s] mental health if it were unsubstantiated,” which made the student aware and fearful that he was being retaliated against, which is why on May 21, the student stopped coming to the lab. On May 25, the admin dean checked in with the student, and the student said that he was fine. On June 3, the program admin checked in with the student, and the student said he was fine. Everything pointed towards the student being of sound mental health, including the evaluation that was done on the emergency commitment. So in sum, the student’s mental health was not in question until a few hours after Rubin saw the redacted allegation.

    If you have doubts about the student’s mental health, please go through the findings of fact and construct a timeline for yourself. It reveals an incredibly disturbing gaslighting campaign initiated hours after Rubin saw the redacted email allegation. See how all they did to look into the student’s mental health turned out negative, and how the student’s mental health was never in question until the day that Rubin saw the allegation.

    On a related note, being afraid of other people in a lab setting is unfortunately too common in science. Experiments fail easily, and it’s easy to pin blame on others and fear that someone else is messing with them. HOWEVER, these are not real fears. Real fear is when you fear for your own physical safety, not when you fear for the safety of your cell cultures. No court would accept that these people were physically afraid of German. People who are physically afraid of other people don’t call the doctors of these people to find out if their fears are substantiated, they call the police. No one went to the police, because no one was truly afraid of this person. Harvard recently justified a security presence in the lab because of “intemperate” comments, like “stop the defamation campaign against me.” Yet Harvard never installed a security force when they were raising allegations about the student’s mental health, which says that Harvard’s recent actions are not based on a realistic assessment of the situation, but are instead throwing a tantrum by having their authority challenged by the court.

    Again, German is trying to finish his PhD and that was the agreement made when Harvard accepted him into the program. The scientific community needs to get behind the science and the facts and make sure that they are supporting the science going forward, not supporting litigation. This is an easy issue to solve and the court order outlines how this would be solved. Ask German what he wants. Ask who he wants to have supervise him, give him discretion for choosing a research assistant that can work with him, and give him the mentorship that he needs to finish his work.

    Finally, I would advocate to have federal funds suspended from the Rubin lab and the department for allowing efforts to be spent on litigation and not productive research.

    • Cancer doc UK July 29, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      May I add I believe it would be prudent to request all raw data from any publications and grant applications from the Rubin lab/group in the last 10 years.

      German did not raise the issue of potential research misconduct lightly and the retaliation by Rubin is disturbing.

      The fact that Harvard did not find any misconduct by Rubin, after their recent actions, is of little importance.

  • littlegreyrabbit July 31, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    If German was suffering from mental health issues it should be seen as an exacerbating indictment on Harvard’s behavior, rather than a reflection on German. Why wouldn’t someone have mental health issues when they are undergoing the kind of mobbing the Rubin lab seems to be handing out? I have been through an experience like German – fortunately I was always only extremely characteristically exhausted and disheveled.

    It is particularly disturbing that mental health issues appear to be being used as a weapon and not as a symptom of Harvard’s catastrophic failure in its duty of care

  • rfg July 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    LGR,

    In my opinion mobbing is too strong a term.

    German is being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental mental disorder. 2–5% of adults have the condition.

    According to adhdadulthood.com Adults with ADHD often have:
    1. Lack of focus
    2. Hyperfocus
    3. Disorganization
    4. Time management problems
    5. Forgetfulness
    6. Impulsivity
    7. Emotional problems
    8. Poor self-image
    9. Lack of motivation
    10. Restlessness and anxiety
    11. Fatigue
    12. Health problems
    13. Relationship issues
    14. Substance misuse

    Antisocial personality disorder is common in adults with hyperactivity.

    In our grad program ADHD is considered a disability. Accommodations are made for testing. My experience with a few ADHD students is that they struggle with research. The list od symptoms above makes this understandable.

    • Cancer doc UK August 1, 2017 at 5:38 am

      @rfg
      If Rubin was so concerned about Germans mental health why wait until AFTER German accused him of research misconduct to have police turn up to Germans home in the middle of the night and handcuff him and force him to attend a facility for a mental evaluation?

      The judge deemed this was harassment by Rubin.

      I am surprised German did not seek substantial financial damages for this action, let alone simply wish to finish his studies.

      I would also wish to point out that being disabled does not, and should not, exclude one from being a superb research scientist.

  • Anonymous July 31, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    Ummm, RFG, I think you’re putting the focus on the wrong thing here. Harvard made a contract by accepting this person into the PhD program. If they thought that he wouldn’t make a good researcher, they wouldn’t have accepted him.

    You seem to be forgetting that that student’s mental health was never in question until Rubin saw the redacted email with the allegation. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say with your arguments, but the court has already spoken, numerous times, that Harvard was in the wrong, and it’s time to get behind these facts.

    If you have questions about the accomplishments of the student, look them up online. His CV cites a 4.0/4.0 GPA for his undergraduate studies, his team won 2nd place in the Harvard MIT case competition, he did his MSc at Oxford and is PhD candidate at Harvard, and he is taking on Harvard pro se and winning his case.

    Clearly, your expectations of what a person with ADHD can accomplish are inaccurate.

    • Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 12:07 am

      And by inaccurate, I mean outrageous and discriminatory.

      • rfg August 1, 2017 at 7:59 am

        I’ve never met German or Rubin or to my knowledge anyone in Rubin’s lab. I don’t think I’m discriminating against German by pointing out that ADHD is a recognized mental disorder.

        I’ve also written a few comments to site on the internet in response to what I think are some outrageous comments about an accomplished scientist and most of his students. Defending Rubin is not discrimisting against German.

  • littlegreyrabbit August 1, 2017 at 4:28 am

    rfg,

    Yes well, my experience is all students who bring forward a complaint of scientific misconduct subsequently struggle with research. Things like “I was afraid he was going to attack me” and “I am afraid he is sabotaging my experiments” are the very quintessence of mobbing.
    Lets us assume it is true that he receives treatment for ADHD, there are no circumstances confidential medical information should be leaked to the dean, let alone being discussed on Retractionwatch! If we removed all the academics who are borderline bonkers there would hardly be anyone left. Then to take a confidential and unconfirmed diagnosis and associate it with a range of symptoms dragged off the internet goes beyond appalling and into the downright unbelievable.

    I thought this kind of response belonged to the 1960s. I thought this was 2017, why are these kind of attitudes even remotely acceptable?

  • rfg August 1, 2017 at 7:36 am

    See Anonymous July 29 at 10:50.

    The information about the ADHD is in that post well befor my post July 31.

    I didn’t discuss anything that was confidential medic information.

    It’s just one factor that leads me to conclude that Rubin, members of his lab and department, Harvard’s health services, the Harvard administration, the ethics committee at Harvard that examined and dismissed the misconduct charge from German against Rubin and two students, the BBS comitteee that recently moved to dismiss German from the program leads me to conclude that collectively these professionals are getting a mobbing as you put it from this one judge and some of the commenters here at RW.

    Yes I do factor Rubin’s decades of excellence and the heartfelt testimonial of former students into my conclusion.

    • Cancer doc UK August 1, 2017 at 9:42 am

      @rfg

      I would suggest we acquire the Rubins excellent papers raw data and take a much much closer look.

      I would also ask to see the actual misconduct allegations that German made, with data and evidence.

      This issue, again, has been sideline by accusations of a students mental health by non mental health professionals and subsequently judged to have been malicious and harassment, all to do one thing and one thing only.

      That one thing is to discuss the allegations of misconduct – this is what we all need to see, with examples and data.

      I hope German keeps his eye on the ball.

      • rfg August 1, 2017 at 10:40 am

        ORI in its oversight role should have already reviewed Harvard’s findings and thus all the data that you suggest that “we” acquire.

        German appears to have properly lodged his allegation of research misconduct, and Harvard appears to have properly investigated the allegation over about a 7 month period – going so far as to confiscate Rubin lab computers, notebooks and other data.

        German’s allegation of research misconduct, which reportedly was based not on his own observations, but on a discussion with another student, apparently involved 4/6 datapoints on one figure of a Cell Stem Cell paper.

        http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/how-dispute-harvard-led-grad-student-s-forced-mental-exam-and-extraordinary-restraining
        “According to German, something did change about a year ago. In the fall of 2015, he took a refresher course in the conduct of science, which covered topics such as ethics and misconduct. The course reminded him that, around June 2015, a member of Rubin’s lab had told him about the alleged data fabrication in the Cell Stem Cell paper. After talking about the situation with faculty and students—in hypothetical terms—German concluded that it was “grave misconduct,” he stated in an affidavit, and that he had an obligation to correct the scientific literature.”

        “It alleged that Rubin and two co-authors had knowingly published fabricated data in a 2015 paper in Cell Stem Cell that focused on how certain gene mutations might contribute to SMA. The whistleblower alleged one author had fabricated four of six data points showing that a particular compound had a statistically significant benefit in protecting motor neurons, and that Rubin had moved ahead with publication even after being alerted to the alleged fabrication by another member of his laboratory.”

        For those that think this is a massive conspiracy against German, perhaps you can [now or in the future] add ORI to the list of co-conspirators.

        • Cancer doc UK August 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm

          I think this is enough rfg:

          “At 1 a.m. on 4 June 2016, Gustavo German, a doctoral student in biomedicine at Harvard University, heard a knock at his door. It was three police officers.

          They explained that a doctor with Harvard’s health service had issued an order to take German to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation to see whether he should be committed, even against his will. Surprised, German said he was fine. One police officer put on black gloves. His parents, who were visiting, tried to persuade the police to stop, saying they were not concerned about their son.

          The officers made German lie down on a stretcher, and an ambulance carried him to a hospital. He was back home within hours, however; a psychiatrist had found nothing out of the ordinary. But German was traumatized, he says, and “my mom was distraught.” She couldn’t sleep for 5 days, he says. Soon after, German says a Harvard official told him he shouldn’t return to his laboratory.”

          After German was cleared of any mental health issues Harvard banned him from the lab. If this happened to me I would sue Rubin for damages, loss of future earnings etc, and win.

  • littlegreyrabbit August 1, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Everyone loves whistleblowers – until they turn up in your institution, your department, your lab.

    These things are not zero sum games. Dr Rubin’s decades of excellence and heartfelt testimonies etc etc doesn’t necessitate the need to destroy German’s career and reputation and spray half-truths about his supposed mental state across the internet.

    It is not for me to judge the merits of complaint I have not seen, but just because a complaint is not upheld does not mean it was completely without merit. The bar to prove an accusation of misconduct is enormously high and there can be large grey zones where a complaint can be seen as alerting an institution to a potential problem that is solvable without destroying anybody’s career prospects

  • Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    RFG – the issue here is not about character references. This is about deciding on the kind of society we want to live in and what kind of laws that we want to uphold. People voicing their concerns, and having an environment where they can speak freely, is a good thing. No one should pay a price in their career for bringing matters to light, and it’s up to an institution to make sure that there are vehicles in place for people to voice complaints.

    I’d caution against drawing conclusions based on character references. Actions and evidence are recognized by the court. Instances like this have happened before, like with child molesters, where the complaints of victims are ignored and society tries to rescue the molester by character references.

    Again, it’s not about defending Rubin or German, it’s about defending the values that we want to uphold as a society.

    • Cancer doc UK August 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Apparently German was not alone, but acted after a discussion with another member of the Rubin lab.

      Does anyone know who the other lab member was who initially raised misconduct suspicions against Rubin?

  • Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    RFG – it’s not a conspiracy against German. Read the court documents – all of them! Seriously! You clearly have no understanding of how the law is operating in this case. Any complaint brought forward in good faith must be protected from retaliation. It’s called a protected activity. German took part in a protected activity and was retaliated against, which is against the law. It’s difficult to prove retaliation because Rubin only suspected that it was German, he didn’t have concrete proof. But to have someone committed after conversations with their medical provider, psychiatrist, and various people in the department that all turn up negative, and while that person is away (with their family) and it cannot be deemed whether they are a danger to themselves or others, and when the attending physician wonders why the person was committed when there was nothing wrong with them – this is harassment, and this was the basis of the harassment prevention order. No matter how nice a person Rubin may seem to others, he messed up, and continues to make things worse for himself by failing to follow the court’s orders. Harvard is not above the law, and no one in this country is. That’s something to be thankful for. I support whoever is on the side of the law and acting in the greater interest of science, and right now, that’s neither Rubin nor Harvard.

  • rfg August 1, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    “RFG – it’s not a conspiracy against German.”
    Perhaps, you meant to say that it IS a conspiracy. Because Harvard dismissed him from the program and I can assure you this was not just Rubin’s decision, but a faculty committee and likely approved by the Provost.

    “Any complaint brought forward in good faith must be protected from retaliation.” I agree with this. I’ve experienced first hand the pain of whistleblower retaliation. In this case, German recalled a year-old discussion with another student about one figure in a massively complex multi-author study (look it up) and wrote a letter to the President. It’s not clear to me that he had any firsthand knowledge of the supposed misconduct or whether he was simply relying on this secondhand account.

    “Does anyone know who the other lab member was who initially raised misconduct suspicions against Rubin?” No, but they apparently did not raise the complaint, just German.

    “But to have someone committed after conversations with their medical provider, psychiatrist, and various people in the department that all turn up negative, and while that person is away (with their family) and it cannot be deemed whether they are a danger to themselves or others, and when the attending physician wonders why the person was committed when there was nothing wrong with them – this is harassment, and this was the basis of the harassment prevention order.”

    Let’s stick to the facts. German was not “committed.” He was given a psych exam and was “home within hours.”

    Yes – Rubin spoke with the Harvard health center and raised concerns about German’s mental state. He was away from the lab for two weeks on his own accord and all Rubin knew was that he told a few people he was fine.

    Here’s the backdrop:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/how-dispute-harvard-led-grad-student-s-forced-mental-exam-and-extraordinary-restraining

    “German was an intense, but mostly agreeable co-worker, according to affadavits filed by members of Rubin’s laboratory. But he began clashing with some co-workers. In January 2016, a postdoctoral researcher reported that German asked her to perform a tedious task, which she believed was disrespectful, leading to a dispute. German was “red in the face and shaking with rage,” she said in her sworn statement. At about the same time, other lab members said they noticed changes in German’s behavior; he became “erratic” and “looked unwell.” 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.”

    Can’t blame thse January problems on a complaint filed in March.

    I can see myself calling the student health center about a student that just didn’t show up for two weeks. As a parent I’d want a supervisor to do the same thing for one of my children (I’m guessing the visit from the parents might have had something to do about the tense situation in the lab). Yes, it might look like harassment/retaliation but better that than actual harm coming to the student.

    “No matter how nice a person Rubin may seem to others, he messed up, and continues to make things worse for himself by failing to follow the court’s orders.”

    I don’t see any evidence that Rubin is not following the courts orders. Presumably he’s maintained a distance of 100 feet from German, paid for German’s experiments, mice etc..

    German doesn’t seem to be making things easy for himself either by diagreeing about a new advisor and [in Harvard’s view} violating “the terms of the probation.”

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/harvard-extraordinary-court-battle-between-phd-student-and-prominent-researcher-grinds

    “German says he was able to make some progress toward his degree this past February and March, but that came to a halt over disagreements about who would serve as German’s dissertation adviser. This past April, that dispute led Harvard to place him on academic probation, and on 16 May it withdrew him from the university, saying he had violated the terms of the probation. Afraid that the withdrawal would expose him to deportation, German—an Argentine citizen in the United States on a student visa—filed an emergency motion with the court after he was put on probation. On 31 May, Fahey ruled that Harvard could not notify federal authorities about German’s immigration status, nor respond to federal authorities’ requests about it.”

    Perhaps you’re referring to the posting of guards in the lab – I doubt that Rubin had any say in this.

    • Cancer doc UK August 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      “I don’t see any evidence that Rubin is not following the courts orders. Presumably he’s maintained a distance of 100 feet from German, paid for German’s experiments, mice etc..”

      No, Rubin stopped all Germans work.

      Facts please

  • Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Again, RFG, facts. Look up involuntary or emergency commitment. It wasn’t a psych exam. I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish here. A student wants to finish his PhD, with an advisor that he agrees to – a decision that every student at Harvard is entitled to. Do you disagree with this ruling?

    As to the posting of guards, this didn’t happen when they were questioning the student’s mental health.

    Lastly, I’m clear about what I said. This is not a conspiracy against the student. Harvard is simply refusing to follow court orders.

  • rfg August 1, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    “Again, RFG, facts. Look up involuntary or emergency commitment. It wasn’t a psych exam.”
    I looked it up and I still think you are wrong. German was not committed, something that would have involved a stay at a mental hospital.

    “A student wants to finish his PhD, with an advisor that he agrees to – a decision that every student at Harvard is entitled to. Do you disagree with this ruling?”
    I disagree. If you accept a student into a program then BOTH the student and the prospective mentor must agree to the commitment. It happens rarely, but if a student can’t get anyone to agree to be their mentor then the program has no choice other than to dismiss that student from the program. They have failed a requirement. At my own school this has happened fewer than three times over the past twenty years, but it does happen. I can’t really tell what’s going on here “over disagreements about who would serve as German’s dissertation adviser,” but perhaps either German picked a dissertation advisor that did not meet the BBS requirements or the potential advisor did not agree to serve. Perhaps there’s some other scenario. Regardless, I don’t think the original court order could be construed such that Harvard had to give German a PhD degree under any and all circumstances. He still had to meet requirements, satisfy both an advisor and a committee and finish in a timely manner. From what I gather none of this happened and Harvard dismissed him.

    “Lastly, I’m clear about what I said. This is not a conspiracy against the student. Harvard is simply refusing to follow court orders.”
    There is nothing at all that is simple about this case.

    • Cancer doc UK August 1, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      rfg

      “He still had to meet requirements, satisfy both an advisor and a committee and finish in a timely manner.”

      I think you are fully aware that some PhDs can take up to 6 years and more……

      It’s clear to all that Harvard wanted him out. According to the court this was harassment by Rubin.

      Harvard, like any other private business, needs to obey the law and the courts.

  • Anonymous August 1, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    RFG, this is not a discussion that’s going anywhere at this point. It doesn’t matter if you think that I’m wrong. All that matters is what to do going forward, and I want to see Harvard following the law and doing what’s in the best interest of science. I want to see other scientists take a stand for the greater interest of science, and to also support the facts as laid out by the court, and as they happened. I want to see the public weigh in and understand how faculty like Lee Rubin and the stem cell department in general are wasting their funds on litigation rather than acting in the best interest of the research.

    I hope that other scientists will look at how others speak to the facts of this case, and make hiring decisions appropriately based on this. There are diseases to cure, and there’s science to do, and if Harvard, or the scientists here are not going to help with that, I think they need to be removed from conducting research and let more competent and emotionally in tune people lead the way.

  • Anonymous August 5, 2017 at 9:38 am

    The student’s case (in my mind) rests on validity of his complaint about research misconduct. If the complaint is legit, then Harvard and Lee should be censured. If the complaint is borne out of his unhappiness about whatever in the lab (jealousy of others’ progress, etc), then he should be censured. As a tax payer, I don’t want my money spent on fraudulent research. As a PI, I don’t want to tolerate student who makes scientific progress halted because his/her mental problem.

  • rfg August 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    A very wise man once told me that there are always more than two sides to every story.

    In this case there are many: German, Rubin, The Judge, Harvard admin, Harvard’s ethics office, Rubin’s other students and staff, Harvard health services, Cambridge police, ORI and the list goes on.

    “The student’s case (in my mind) rests on validity of his complaint about research misconduct. If the complaint is legit, then Harvard and Lee should be censured. If the complaint is borne out of his unhappiness about whatever in the lab (jealousy of others’ progress, etc), then he should be censured. ”
    Not really.

    The only requirement is that the whistleblower’s complaint was made in good faith. It need not be shown ultimately to be valid.

    Also important in this regard is that it OK for there to be personal conflict between the whistleblower and the accused – there usually is. As long as the whistleblower’s complaint has some validity, then it must be investigated and the whistleblower must be protected from retaliation.

    In my view German’s misconduct complaint against Rubin crosses the threshold for “good faith.” Low bar and just barely! So, don’t censor German for making a complaint that later turns out to be false.

    The complaint was made one year after hearing from another student that 4/6 points in one graph on one figure of a massive paper MIGHT have been made up. This was enough for Harvard’s ethics panel (good for them) to undertake a 7 month seemly comprehensive investigation including confiscating computers, notebooks etc. The complaint was dismissed.

    Some respondents (LGR, 8-1-17; 9:27) here seem to think Rubin might still be guilty of misconduct (didn’t quite make it over the high bar?), but I disagree. Guilty til proven innocent is not how it works.

    “As a tax payer, I don’t want my money spent on fraudulent research.”
    Amen.

    “As a PI, I don’t want to tolerate student who makes scientific progress halted because his/her mental problem.”
    Months prior to the misconduct allegation German was clearly struggling with interpersonal relationships in the Rubin lab. Redfaced yelling at a tech. Demanding that a postdoc drop her work and help him, demanding in a grandiose and disrespectful email that Rubin give him more support, etc. I have very little sympathy for any of The Judge’s rulings. Based on all of the events I also think that Harvard had no choice other than to dismiss German from the program. The appeals court should uphold this dismissal.

    • Hira kyiko August 6, 2017 at 10:09 am

      One must remember the FACTS in this case.

      The judge found, after reviewing all evidence, that Rubin harassed his student.

      Harassment is illegal.

      Rubin, therefore, committed an illegal act against an innocent student.

    • Anonymous August 7, 2017 at 1:35 am

      Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor: We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

  • rfg August 6, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Fortunately, that’s not how our civil justice system works.

    Yes the judge found harassment. IMO the facts do not support this finding.

    Rubin and Harvard are appealing all the judge’s findings.

    If this case were a baseball game it would be about the top of the third inning. A lot more game to play and in this case the umpires change to the judges the appellate court and possibly courts.

    • Hira kyiko August 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      @rfg

      I’m sorry you think this is a game. In fact it is a matter of a young mans career. A young man who was forcibly placed into a mental evaluation by a Harvard professor.

      The young man (German, PhD student) was evaluated and found to be in sound mental health. This was not the findings of a judge, but mental health professionals.

      • rfg August 6, 2017 at 5:57 pm

        @Hira kyiko

        No, I don’t think it’s a game – it’s a tragic for all the parties and for the the bystander students in Rubin’s lab trying themselves to advance their careers under truly bizarre circumstances none of which is their own doing.

        You misstate the facts in an egregious way. A young man was NOT “forcibly placed into a mental evaluation by a Harvard professor.” This certainly did not happen. Harvard professors do not have this kind of power. Rather, a Harvard mental health professional evaluated Professor Rubin’s concerns about the mental state of German, factored in German’s obvious concerns about his career, and previous behavior and in his professional judgement found the justification to request that the Cambridge police bring German in for a mental exam. I do not know if the Harvard health professional factored in Germans ADHD from Harvard medical records, but I suspect that he did and I think he should have done so. In turn, the Cambridge police acting in their statutory authority evaluated the Harvard mental health professional’s request, found it credible in their professional judgement and took German in for the mental exam.

        Rubin may have initiated these actions by the mental health professional and the police, but I find no reason to believe that he did not do this out of vindictiveness. Rather I think he did it out of an abundance of caution and a concern for German’s well being, which he as mentor is in some way responsible for. I also think that it’s insulting to the Harvard mental health professional and the police to insinuate that they were Rubin’s puppets. They weren’t.

        Rubin was not the only one concerned. It’s an established fact that German’s parents were so concerned about German that they came to Boston to see their son.

        • Cancer doc UK August 7, 2017 at 10:46 am

          “Rubin was not the only one concerned”

          But he was. He initiated everything regarding Germans forced mental health evaluation.
          Rubin became concerned only a few hours AFTER German had accused him of research misconduct. Rubin did not go and talk to Rubin, or his parents, he actioned a mental health professional to have German forcibly taken in for a mental exam.

          Am I the only one who thinks this is not coincidental?

          I’m sure Germans parents were concerned about their son, all parents are.

          • Anonymous August 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm

            The judge thinks that this is not coincidental. It wasn’t totally clear from a first read of the findings of fact. But the case bothered me, and I made my own timeline of events, and as I put together the events on May 10, 2016, it dawned on me how these issue about the student’s mental health came up a few hours after the allegation was received by German. That’s when I realized that the forced mental health exam wasn’t the biggest issue (at least on an emotional level), it was a gaslighting campaign that began on the day the redacted email was revealed, that put the student’s mental health into question.

            From my timeline:

            May 10 [daytime?]: Muela and Rubin met with RIO [time not noted; assume during day]; received redacted copy of German’s allegation (in later affadavit, Rubin admits he suspected it was German)

            May 10 [5pm]: Muela and her boyfriend went to speak with department admin, raised concerns about student’s “erratic and threatening behavior” and abrupt change in his behavior

            May 12: Cardozo called HUHS to see if German had a doctor/counselor there and if Cardozo should be concerned. Was told that German sees doctor there for ADHD. Cardozo also contacted head of HUHS mental health, who advised him that German is fine, has no red flags, has a therapist who Cardozo asked to check in with German to see if he is alright. Cardozo also spoke with Rubin lab admin, who said plaintiff is “odd sometimes in his behavior but nothing requiring immediate action, no danger to himself or anyone.” It was after this that Cardozo phoned German to be sure he is okay. German said he was fine; Cardozo was satisfied he was fine and they agreed to meet.

            May 13 [time?]: Cardozo found German to not be in any distress, though upset at his lab schedules. This meeting went fine and ended with a “group hug.” Cardozo emailed Rubin and the others at Harvard who knew of this issue. Cardozo advised them that plaintiff is “alright, not a threat, and would build bridges with his lab colleagues.” Cardozo thought the problem with German “was solved.” All but Rubin expressed relief and satisfaction.

            May 13 [2:25pm]: German’s psychiatrist, Dr. Arash Ansari, M.D., telephoned German on May 13, 2016 at 2:25 p.m. after Dr. Ansari had been contacted about German by Cardozo. Cardozo led Ansari to believe plaintiff “was going through some sort of mental crisis that required urgent intervention.” Dr. Ansari inquired of plaintiff about his mental health. When plaintiff said he was fine, Dr. Ansari expressed that he could “not believe Cardozo could have made such an inquiry about my mental health if it were unsubstantiated.” It was this call revealing Cardozo’s concern about plaintiffs mental health that caused German, on May 13, 2016, to believe Cardozo [12] and Rubin “intend[ed] to defame [him] and retaliate against [him] after [he] raised the research misconduct complaint.”

            May 21: German stopped attending Harvard

  • Anonymous August 7, 2017 at 1:29 am

    RFG, your comments are becoming more and more ridiculous. Again, you are misunderstanding the laws around involuntary commitment, and you are making up your own facts at this point. Yes, this person was involuntarily committed, by a doctor that had never met the student. The judge accepted evidence that Rubin was the only source informing this doctor. When the police show up at your door and remove you from your home for a mental health exam, this is forcibly placing someone into a mental health exam. This is emergency commitment. Again, if you look through the findings of fact, you’ll see that no one put his mental health into question (that is, whether he was dangerous) until a few hours after Rubin saw the redacted allegation. And to be clear, this was not a phone call to the police, this was a visit from the accused researcher talking to an admin in the department.

    Please, others, if you see that facts are being misrepresented in the comments here, call them out. Having truth on file is important to everyone in science, and it’s inappropriate for scientists to be making up their own facts.

  • Anonymous August 7, 2017 at 1:34 am

    Thank you to others here presenting sound comments and giving an accurate picture of the law.

    I appreciate that others believe too that punishing someone in their career after blowing the whistle in good faith is not OK, and that support of this notion in general is the reason why it’s against the law to retaliate.

  • aceil August 7, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    This case is interesting and raises more than one question: 1) What’s a previous diagnosis of ADHD to do with his mentor? 2) Don’t students have privacy? Is this a case of mental stigma?

  • cynic August 7, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    In my book (not in the eye of law of course), the trauma of being accused of research misconduct and having my computer and lab note confiscated (when in fact I did nothing wrong) would be just as traumatizing if not more so than being dragged to hospital for a mental exam (when in fact I am totally not crazy). In the latter case, the misunderstanding could get cleared up in hours.

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