MIT Fracas Hits the Bigs

Science, one of the top two scientific journals (quit yer cheezin, Cell, I think you know you are a total rag) covers the Tonegawa/MIT stuff in today’s issue.  There is not a whole lot new from the Globe article earlier in the week, which we discussed here.  We will quote a little from the end of the piece in Science (subscription wall) where we have some new info:

“Tonegawa’s supporters at MIT, however, say that any suggestion of gender bias is absurd. “To portray it as such sets back the cause for women scientists,” states a 7 July letter to Hockfield from a half-dozen Picower Institute faculty members. Tonegawa is under no obligation to collaborate with anyone, they write, adding that he contacted Karpova “at her instigation.” But other sources familiar with the content of e-mails sent by the 68-year-old Tonegawa to the postdoc say his words went beyond the issue of collaboration and conveyed hostility.

Reif says that he will chair a committee to investigate both the Karpova affair and how neuroscience is organized at the university, adding that “a bit of tension seems to be underlying this set of events.” And on 17 July, Hockfield wrote the women faculty members that MIT apologizes to Karpova “for any misunderstanding.” The gender issue may be beside the point, says MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins, who chaired a 1999 committee on gender bias and who signed the 30 June letter. “Regardless of the specifics of this case, this shows exactly why it is challenging to hire outstanding women at MIT,” says Hopkins.

Karpova says she is “very much upset” over the publicity. “I am trying to move on with my life, to get back to doing science,” she says.”

Emphasis is mine.  We have a more solid assertion of the content of Tonegawa’s e-mails were hostile in apparent tone (if e-mail can have tone).  Our very own UC has reported these same conclusions, and we have a quote from one of the original 11 signers of the letter of complaint. Finally we have a new quote from Dr. Karpova, essentially trying to not let this incident become a spot on her career, even though she didn’t even do anything wrong.  This has been your science policy update.  Is it too much to ask the Science write for one little typo?  Susemu, anyone?

11 Responses to “MIT Fracas Hits the Bigs”

  • When you note that this could become a stain on Karpova’s career/reputation, I suddenly flashed on the dude who had to apologize because Dick Cheney shot him in the face.

    I’m worried that the comparison is apt.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    I totally agree. And I see where this is leading us as well.


    Sosemu Tonegawa is so evil, when he gives plasmids to other labs, he booby traps the eppendorf tubes with lyopholized DNase, so that not only was the DNA you obtained useless, but it degrades all your other plasmids.

    Sosemu Tonegawa is so evil, he serves transfer buffer at his parties rather than punch.

    OK, I’m not very good at this game, but I’m sure other people can do better.

  • Now this may be an issue where sexism really comes into play (sorry about opening the can of annelida). A guy would be standing up for himself, a woman being a whiny bitch that causes trouble.

  • Susemu Tonegawa is so evil, he trains his lab monkeys to slap each other with his mind.

    Susemu Tonegawa is so evil, he changed his name to Sosueme.

    Susemu Tonegawa is so evil, his lab monkeys eat the grad students that disappoint him.

    Susemu Tonegawa is so evil, his mature biofilms are supplied by Girls Gone Wild.

    Susemu Tonegawa is so evil, he makes us want to joke abou thim like Dick Cheney and we all know how evil that bastard is.

  • Exactly- in these cases the burden is on her, and if it were a man it really just seems like it would be treated differently. Everyone kind of knows that. And that is the saddest part.

    And Janelia Farms may end up being amazing, but it is an unknown quantity right now and it is in the middle of nowhere, where MIT is in the middle of everything science-wise, so she ended up taking a compromise. I think she’ll be fine. Success Tonegawa shame will be the best revenge.

  • I always thought MIT was in the middle of Harvard and Northeastern

    -ba dum – bum-

  • This is no gender issue. If anything the gender issue is in the other direction. It looks to me like Karpova wanted to collaborate with someone who turned her down. Hello, welcome to America where freedom of speach still stands tall. After repeated attempts to convince him, she was asked that she not contact him any longer as he had no interest in returning these contacts. A small winey group at MIT that did not get there way with this hire are orchestrating a full but so obvious attack on Tonegawa, using their globe bed mate as their sounding board. If I was Tonegawa I would file a suit against these transparent undermining …….. and the Globe as well.


  • fedex, I call bullshit. You don’t really sound like you know what you are talking about (with all due respect). If you read the whole post above, you would see that the entire point is what is between the lines. This is one of those things where you lose your argument because we are arguing from experience, which happily is NOT a logical fallacy.  However, if you have particular insight, please share it.  It kind of sounds like you are on an anti-kick for the hell of it.  Is this your gut feeling?

  • sosemu tonegawa is so evil, he created spambots to parlay his side of the story and further frustrate frustrated feminist scientists

  • Re: fedex

    “It looks to me like Karpova wanted to collaborate with someone who turned her down. Hello, welcome to America where freedom of speach still stands tall. After repeated attempts to convince him, she was asked that she not contact him any longer as he had no interest in returning these contacts. ”

    It does not appear that she was begging to work at MIT, they were RECRUITING HER. There’s a big difference. I would want to know more about who invited her, who was on the hiring committee, and what their motivations were. I would guess that Tonegawa has alienated others in the department and that they were trying to hire new people in spite of him, possibly to supplant and, yes, compete with his lab. It sucks that they tried to use a young, new scientist as their ‘cat’s paw’ – though it wouldn’t be unprecedented.

  • Jackie- fedex is a troll, but you raise good points. It is just a bad situation.

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