THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON) Copyright 2000 Telegraph Group Limited June 22, 2000, Thursday HEADLINE: News:
NINE months ago, Dr Sunetra Gupta, a talented scientist and award-winning novelist, was falsely accused of having a relationship with a professor to gain a senior academic post at Oxford University.
Today, her accuser, Prof Roy Anderson (left), one of Britain's most distinguished scientists, makes a public apology, and Dr Gupta speaks to NATASHA LODER for the first time about her fight to restore her reputation.
Dr Gupta tells how she battled to win a retraction from Prof Anderson because "nobody should be allowed to get away with this. I felt there was no other choice".
BYLINE: By Natasha Loder
TO this day, Dr Sunetra Gupta, a young and ambitious academic who was coming to the end of a five-year fellowship within the Oxford University zoology department, does not know exactly what happened when the selection committee met to discuss her application for a readership.
What is known is that the initial vote of the eight-strong panel went six to two in favour of promoting her to the post. The discussions then became heated and took on a sinister turn. They lasted for two hours.
Prof Roy Anderson, then Linacre professor of zoology at Oxford and a Government adviser on BSE and AIDS, who chaired the meeting, made it clear that he thought Dr Gupta was unsuitable. The committee was adamant that Dr Gupta was the best candidate and a recess was called. Prof Anderson then told two members of the committee that Dr Gupta, who had worked alongside him for many years, had had a relationship with the head of the department, Paul Harvey, and that was why he supported her appointment. Prof Harvey also sat on the committee but was apparently unaware of the comments Prof Anderson was making. Dr Gupta still got the post.
When Dr Gupta, 35, discovered what had been said about her, "I started feeling ill and I went home and telephoned my husband". Dr Gupta said she was "appalled" that, when she later pressed for a public apology, she received no help from Oxford. "It seems to me the university was trying to brush it under the carpet," she said. Nine months later, she has a retraction. In a letter to her, Prof Anderson, who has already resigned his posts at Oxford as a consequence of his behaviour, now acknowledges there is "no foundation in truth whatsoever" in his comments. ...
Dr Gupta, who was born in Calcutta, graduated in biology from Princeton University and gained her PhD from Imperial College, London. Today, she carries out mathematical modelling of disease. She grew up in Ethiopia, Ghana and Liberia, before arriving in London in 1987 to do a PhD with Prof Anderson. ... Soon after she won the readership, she says Prof Anderson began to behave in a "peculiar" way towards her. "He tried to take away the office that came with the job and he took away the responsibility of running an MSc course without telling me. It was starting to be a bit ridiculous." ...
What was most damaging was that she had been accused of not winning her job on merit. The question remains, why did Prof Anderson suggest it? Dr Gupta is not certain but one of Prof Anderson's letters to her solicitors explained that he felt it was the only explanation as to why she received such forthright support from Prof Harvey. ... http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/00/c/0621.htm ...............
Professor Roy Anderson 11 May 2000 The Wellcome Trust has accepted the resignation of Professor Roy Anderson as a Governor of the Trust.
Professor Anderson decided, in view of recent events at the University of Oxford, that it would be in the best interests of both the Trust and himself to resign. The Trust respects that decision, and wishes to acknowledge the very significant contribution Professor Anderson has made to the Trust since he was appointed as a Governor in 1991, and also his very substantial scientific contributions more broadly.
Media contact Noorece Ahmed Press Office The Wellcome Trust Tel: +44 (0)20 7611 8540 E-mail: email@example.com Out of hours (pager): 01893 366023 http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/1/awtprerel0500n191.html ............
Anderson quits Oxford for Imperial College Professor Roy Anderson has announced that he plans to resign from his Oxford chair to move to the school of Medicine at Imperial College in London. He has run into a number of controversies at Oxford recently. Imperial College said that they would be issuing a statement in the next few days. Nature 405 11 May 2000 p. 111 .................... ......... http://www.planet-hardcore.de/cherwell/archive/ht00/8/news/03.html
Inquiry launched into missing £1million
William Shuckburgh An Oxford professor, who is also a senior scientific adviser to the government on BSE and AIDS, is at the centre of the largest-ever inquiry into the possible misuse of more than £1 million of research grants.
Roy Anderson, Professor of Zoology and Fellow of Merton, was initially suspended on full pay a month ago, following complaints from Sunetra Gupta and two other female members of his department.
Dr Gupta apparently complained about alleged remarks Anderson made with regard to her appointment to a readership in epidemiology, in which he suggested she was having an affair with the Head of Zoology, Paul Harvey, a leading member of the appointments committee which selected her.
It has also emerged that as well as being director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, in which capacity he has recently applied for over £4 million of research grants, Anderson is a governor of the Wellcome Trust itself, which awards the grants.
Furthermore, it has been discovered that he owns a third of the International Biomedical and Health Sciences Consortium (IBHSC).
This has prompted the Wellcome Trust to launch an investigation to consider whether Anderson should return the grant money. A spokeswoman for the trust denied that they had known about Anderson's stake in IBHSC and said "we have policies to make sure governors are independent and deal with grants fairly".
The trust are now investigating whether these policies have been breached. The University confirmed that they too would be investigating links between Anderson, IBHSC and a drugs firm called Abbotts Laboratories.
It is thought that the investigations would consider whether Wellcome-funded facilities have been used improperly to do work for drugs companies. Although Professor Anderson could not be contacted, his lawyers, Olswang, had previously said that he strongly denied all the allegations against him.
They also commented that "he intends vigorously to dispute both his current suspension and - should they occur - any further disciplinary proceedings".
However, this was before the latest allegations emerged.
It is feared that if the allegations are proved to be correct relations between the University and the Trust, which donated £24.6 m to Oxford last year, could be damaged.
This could have a significant effect on research carried out in Oxford. Meanwhile, it is being stressed that Anderson's suspension is a "neutral move while the allegations are under investigation and does not say anything about innocence or guilt". ...............
Researcher wins prize
Dr Sunetra Gupta, a researcher in the University's Zoology department and a mother of three has been awarded the Southern Arts 1999 literature prize for her novel, A Sin of Colour.
Dr Gupta is thought to have been involved in a harassment case against one of her colleagues in the Zoology department. Professor Roy Anderson was suspended last month after Dr Gupta filed a complaint against him.