January 27th 2020
Professor Nikos Logothetis, an internationally renowned neuroscientist and director of one of the prestigious Max Planck Institutes, has just announced that he is moving his research program to China and will be joined by several of his colleagues along with their families.
Some of you may know Professor Nikos Logothetis because of the widespread media coverage of the anti-animal research campaign waged against him from 2014 to 2018. We at Speaking of Research, have written about this campaign, penned letters in support of him, and garnered the scientific communities in support of him and his vital research.
As a brief recap of this campaign:
- On 12 September 2014 German anti-animal research group SOKO Tierschutz published edited video footage taken by an infiltrator working at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
- Professor Logothetis issued a detailed rebuttal of the allegations
- The Max Planck Society (MPS) took almost a week to issue a statement in support of Professor Logothetis in response to the SOKO allegations, too little and far too late to influence most of the media coverage
- Likewise the Society for Neuroscience and Federation of European Neuroscience Societies issued a statement of support, but again far too late to impact on the initial coverage
- The result was that Professor Logothetis and his colleagues were subjected to months of character assassination, hate mail, and harassment
- In 2015, Professor Logothetis announced that his research into the physiology of cognitive processes would no longer involve nonhuman primates, and that the work of his team would turn to focus on rodent studies
- Animal protection authorities investigated and found no serious violations of animal care rules. Speaking of Research published a detailed article about this case that can be found here
- In an unusual move, in 2018 the Attorney General asked the prosecutor to place a penalty order against Logothetis. He appealed the order, so the case was headed to court in three weeks. However, the administrative court in Tübingen decided on December 19 to dismiss the case
The institutional decisions of the Max Planck Society (MPS) were not based on scientific merit but were made, without explanation or supporting evidence, in response to campaigns and unsubstantiated allegations by groups fundamentally opposed to nonhuman animal research. This can lead, and has led, to long-lasting damage to science, the pipeline of future scientists, and the interests of the public that benefit from scientific research. Today, the failure of the MPS to support science and scientists demonstrates the real risks of such campaigns and lack of institutional support and its profound effects on society: the possibility of ending discoveries that can advance scientific understanding that underlies medical progress. Fortunately– for science, for those who benefit from its discoveries, and for Professor Logothetis and his research group—he is now able to continue his vital research, albeit far from home.
~Speaking of Research