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UPDATE PhD candidate remains banned from the lab

UPDATE PhD candidate remains banned from the lab

Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob

Procedure CWI will be extended with 3 weeks because of "new information"

MAASTRICHT. A PhD candidate from Maastricht research institute Carim who was denied access to the laboratory, will not have her keys returned to her. This was the conclusion of the judge last Tuesday. With this, the court has decided in favour of Maastricht University. The PhD candidate doesn’t need to be there, because she has no supervisor.

The 29-year-old PhD candidate Eleni Liapi, who is carrying out molecular research into heart failure, was requested to hand over her key to the lab to her former supervisor in February 2019. The labour relations were severely disrupted; the cardiology professor no longer trusted her pupil. Liapi, on the other hand, feels as if she has been ‘branded’ as a “persona non grata” after, as she states herself, came across fraudulent research practices by her professor. By keeping her out of the lab, she at least wouldn’t be able to discover any new cases of fraud, was Liapi’s argument.

In court two weeks ago, Liapi demanded immediate access to the lab so that she could complete her thesis. The UM’s lawyer, on the other hand, stated that Liapi no longer had a daily supervisor (her promotor had stepped down from this position), so what business did she have in the lab? The judge also deemed it “sufficiently proven that research in the laboratory within the framework of the PhD research (…), could only be useful if there was a supervisor.”

As to the authority of the professor to take away the keys (Liapi doubts this), the judge has taken no decision. She wants the UM to detail its opinion more; they may do this in an action on the substance. The Executive Board, according to the lawyer, supports the actions of the professor.

The judge would not comment on the accusations of research fraud directed at the professor – “this procedure is less unsuitable for that”. The UM’s Commission of Scientific Integrity (CSI) is looking into that at the moment.

The committee has formulated its advice, as appears from a statement issued by the Executive Board on Thursday, 23 January (the regulations state that the advice should be submitted to the Executive Board, which will then assess the case and take a decision). However, because "at the last moment, new information" has arrived and the Committee was unable to do anything with this "due to the limited period of time for the procedure", the Executive Board has asked to extend the procedure by three weeks. The Board states that this is a "momentous" case that requires "the utmost care".

The new information, as appears from correspondence with Liapi, concerns a new written defence by the cardiology professor, in which she repeats her side of the story – this time in greater detail than before.

The CWI is also giving Liapi the opportunity to respond in writing to the latest information. A hearing may follow.

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CommentsReacties

2020-01-23: 007
So a PhD student calls out her fraudulent supervisor, the supervisor stands down, and now the PhD student is banned from work because she has no supervisor? Wtf.
2020-01-23: Nico Rasters
Wtf indeed.

The statement "[t]he PhD candidate doesn’t need to be there, because she has no supervisor." is utterly ludicrous.
Doing a PhD is not the same as going on a North Korean guided tour. PhD candidates are expected and supposed to work independently.
Liapi needs access to the lab to finish her research, but does not require a (fraudulent) supervisor to be present.
As this has been going on since February last year, this means that for almost one year Liapi has been placed in solitary confinement!

Along comes a judge who ignores the fraudulent research practices of the professor, even though it has a direct relation to this case.
And the ban stays in place. This verdict is fundamentally WRONG, and I cannot help to wonder what reasoning or pressure is behind it.

In fact the whole situation feels wrong. Something is rotten, indeed.

Take for example the statement that "[t]he Executive Board, according to the lawyer, supports the actions of the professor."
Both Liapi and the professor are UM employees. Why would the Executive Board support (only) one of them?

Why is an internal commission -which is disrespecting the deadline- looking at the accusations? This should ALWAYS be handled externally.

Why is nobody questioning the "(wo)men in the middle"?
The UM has many gatekeepers in place to prevent criticism from reaching the outside world:
- counsellors on scientific integrity
- a confidential advisor for PhD candidates
- a Principal Investigator who is responsible for the mentoring of PhD students
- an ombudsman
I'd be hard pressed to believe that Liapi went straight to the press without first talking to one or more of these people.

Most disconcerting is the deafening silence from our own academic community. Are you not aware of what is at stake here?
According to https://callingbullshit.org/tools/tools_legit.html "any scientific paper can be wrong". This is acceptable.
But when academics are fraudulent AND their employer supports them, this changes into "any scientific paper can be fraudulent".
Academic papers have no "certificate of integrity" and there's also the replication crisis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis).
Add a fraudulent professor into the mix, and the academic work produced by co-authors and colleagues becomes questionable by association.

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