viernes, agosto 06, 2004

This is taken from the GM Watch web site:


The academic rights of an ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, may have been violated when he was denied tenure last year, according to a report from the academic senate.

Ignacio Chapela was an outspoken critic of Berkeley's controversial academic-industrial partnership with the Swiss agribiotech firm Syngenta, which ended last year. He was also the lead author of a disputed paper in Nature in which he asserted that genes from genetically modified crops had flowed into Mexican maize, and had become scattered throughout the genome (D. Quist and I. H. Chapela Nature 414, 541-543; 2001). After a storm of criticism about the paper, Nature withdrew its support for the article, but the authors stand by their research.

Against this background, Chapela was denied tenure at Berkeley's College of Natural Resources in November 2003 (see Nature 426, 591; 2003). He appealed.

The resulting report, issued on 28 June, claims that Jasper Rine, a geneticist at the university who sat on a key committee reviewing Chapela's tenure, had conflicts of interest. It says that Rine had financial dealings with biotech firms, oversaw the Syngenta agreement and had cited Chapela's Nature paper as an example of poor science in one of his classes. Both the dean of Chapela's college and his department chair requested that Rine be taken from the committee four times; but Rine did not excuse himself nor did the committee chair ask him to leave. The report also says there was "unjustifiable" delay in the tenure-review process.

"I am glad the senate is able to rise to the occasion," says Chapela, whose contract has been extended while he appeals. ... As the senate continues its inquiry, Chapela is hoping for a second tenure review. He has also filed two claims that may precede a lawsuit. In April, he accused the university of discrimination, saying that he was denied tenure because he is Hispanic. Early last month, he claimed he was victimized by the university for speaking out against the Syngenta deal.
- Nature 430, 598, 05 August 2004


A team of scholars says universities should avoid unusual and controversial research agreements such as the one the University of California at Berkeley had with the company formerly known as Novartis. The university had invited the team of outside scholars to evaluate its relationship with the company.

The arrangement at Berkeley, in which nearly an entire department of biology participated in a five-year, $25-million corporate-sponsorship agreement, was "outside the mainstream for research contracts with industry," the team of evaluators concludes.

"While an intriguing experiment, there appears little rationale for repeating the approach," they say in their report.

The report also suggests that Berkeley's relationship with Novartis created a potential conflict of interest among administrators that affected the tenure review of a faculty member, Ignacio Chapela, who was an outspoken critic of the agreement. He was denied tenure in late 2003. The report does not offer an opinion on whether Mr Chapela should have received tenure, but it does state that "there is little doubt" that the Berkeley-Novartis relationship was a factor in the tenure decision.

The agreement "played a very clear role and an unsatisfactory role in the tenure process" of Mr Chapela, said Lawrence Busch, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University, who headed the evaluation. ... The deal created the impression that the department was "on the dole" and "biased toward the funding source," [Busch] said. "Universities as institutions can only be objective observers on the scientific and regulatory scene to the extent that some distance remains between them and industry funding sources."
- Chronicles of Higher Education, July 30, 2004

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