The controversy surrounding Oxford zoology professor Roy Anderson deepened last week with the news that he has stepped down temporarily from his responsibilities as governor of the Wellcome Trust. This follows Anderson's recent suspension on full pay from his Oxford post — and his directorship of the Wellcome Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases — pending disciplinary hearings.
It has now emerged that three formal complaints have been made against Anderson concerning his alleged attempts to influence a decision by a zoology department appointments committee, which he was chairing, for a readership in epidemiology (see Nature 403, 353; 2000).
The complaint by the successful candidate, Sunetra Gupta, came to prominence when remarks made by Anderson became public and she filed a complaint through a solicitor late last year. Angela McLean of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's Institute for Animal Health has also filed a complaint through a solicitor. The third complaint was made by a senior researcher in the department.
The complaints form part of inquiries into Anderson's behaviour both outside and during an appointments committee in September last year. If convened, Oxford's Visitatorial Board — the five dons who will lead the disciplinary hearing — would also consider written evidence from members of the committee.
The Wellcome Trust says Anderson offered to step down temporarily from his £50,000 a year job as trustee — and from his responsibilities on the three Wellcome Trust advisory panels that he works on — because of formal proceedings against him. Mike Dexter, director of the trust, says he does not know the number of complaints against Anderson or their basis. “It was his wish not to take part in any decisions [at the trust], which I think is honourable,” says Dexter.
Dexter says Anderson's action is entirely related to the formal complaints, and that the trust is not pursuing any kind of investigation of its own. He refuses to speculate on whether such an investigation might follow, although he does not rule it out.
“It's an Oxford matter at the present,” says Dexter. “It would be most unfair and unfortunate if we were to intervene at any stage. Roy's a brilliant scientist, a wonderful servant of the trust, and we simply allow the process to continue.”
The appointments committee voted six out of eight in favour of Gupta. Her candidacy was supported by Sir Robert May, another professor in the department and the government's chief scientific adviser and head of the Office of Science and Technology.
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Loder, N. Anderson steps down from Wellcome over Oxford row. Nature 403, 472 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35000724