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Max Planck Society returns duties to leading neuroscientist after animal-welfare row

Organization had revoked some responsibilities from Nikos Logothetis, who had been accused of animal cruelty.

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Nikos Logothetis gives a presentation at the Annual Rodolfo Llinás Lecture Series, hosted by the NYU Neuroscience Institute

Neuroscientist Nikos Logothetis studies visual perception. Credit: Alan Barnett Photography

Germany’s Max Planck Society (MPS) has reinstated the full management duties of Nikos Logothetis, one of its leading neuroscientists, along with his rights to carry out experiments with animals, after the dismissal of animal-cruelty charges against him last month.

The case against Logothetis — a director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen — related to alleged delays in euthanizing three sick research monkeys, and was dismissed by a district court in Tübingen on 19 December.

The accusations stemmed from complaints made by the German Animal Welfare Federation, a non-governmental organization in Bonn, which provided police with footage filmed undercover at the institute in 2014.

In August 2017, prosecutors in Tübingen charged Logothetis and two other unnamed staff members with delaying the euthanasia of the sick primates.

In February last year, the district court in Tübingen announced that it had issued the three institute members with a penalty order — an accusation of a minor offence, combined with a fine, which automatically becomes a conviction unless appealed. The MPS temporarily removed some of Logothetis’s responsibilities and his right to carry out experiments with animals.

Logothetis appealed against the penalty order in what became a cause célèbre. Many researchers — at the institute and in the international neuroscience communityhad expressed concern that the MPS had imposed sanctions on Logothetis before his case had been heard in court. The MPS leadership countered that it needed to reassure the public that it took animal welfare seriously.

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