The American Association for the Advancement of Science announced in December that its chemistry division has withdrawn the nomination of Patrick Harran to be a fellow of the association. After the association announced Harran's nomination last month -- a significant honor for a scientist -- the AAAS was criticized for failing to consider Harran's full record. One of his lab assistants was killed in a laboratory fire in 2008, after which questions were raised about whether Harran should have done a better job of assuring safety. Harran faced felony counts related to alleged violations of state health and safety standards and could have served more than four years in prison if convicted. In 2014, he reached a deal with authorities -- opposed by the lab assistant's family -- in which he did not admit wrongdoing and legal charges were dropped. He did pledge to create and teach an organic chemistry course for college-bound urban students for five summers, to perform 800 hours of community service and to pay $10,000 to a burn center. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the incident.
The re-evaluation of Harran's nomination came, the AAAS statement said, "after it became apparent that an initial review of nomination materials had not included all relevant information. Members of the nomination reviewing committee recently became aware of a 2008 case involving the death of a technician in the UCLA laboratory of Dr. Harran." The statement added that an AAAS committee "is also considering changes to the fellow review process for subsequent nominations."
Harran did not immediately respond to an email seeking his reaction.
The deaths of leading academic scientists may contribute in an unexpected way to the advancement of their fields, according to a study released last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study (abstract available here) looked at the impact of the deaths of 452 academic life scientists who died while still "at the peak of their scientific abilities." As expected, the flow of articles by their collaborators declined. But their fields actually thrived as a result of a significant increase in publication of articles in the field by people not previously active and many of these papers went on to be influential. The paper speculates that "outsiders are reluctant to challenge leadership within a field when the star is alive and that a number of barriers may constrain entry even after she is gone."
The authors of the paper are Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Joshua Graff Zivin of the University of California at San Diego, and Christian Fons-Rosen of Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Spain.
Appeals court rules U of Hawaii was justified in denying student teaching experience to man who was qualified academically but whose statements about adult-child sex and students with disabilities alarmed professors.
Today on the Academic Minute: Cristine Legare, associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses these dual engines of cultural learning. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Adjunct professors at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, formerly known as Brooklyn Polytechnic University, voted to join an existing NYU adjunct union affiliated with the United Auto Workers, they announced Monday. The election adds 240 new members to the union, which in a separate unit also includes adjuncts from The New School. UAW represents the NYU graduate student union, as well. Some 89 percent of adjuncts who participated in the engineering faculty election voted in favor of the bid. John Beckman, an NYU spokesperson, said via email that the university will, “of course, honor the outcome of today's vote. We will be sitting down with the union in the near future to work towards an agreement.”