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Appointment canceled after scandal

The Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine in Padua, Italy, revoked geneticist Pier Paolo Pandolfi’s appointment as scientific director after members of its scientific advisory board resigned en masse in protest. In May, Pandolfi was nominated for the position by the foundation that funds the institute, without any prior discussion with the advisory board, which is required by the organization’s bylaws.

Soon after the decision was announced, reports began to circulate about why Pandolfi left his position as director of Harvard University’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a prestigious center for genetic studies on cancer, in December 2019. Pandolfi returned to Italy having been accused of sexual harassment and altering images in 13 scientific articles. “There should have been more investigation before making the appointment,” said Israeli biochemist Aaron Ciechanover, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry and one of the board members who resigned.

Pandolfi denies doctoring any images, but admits to the harassment. “It was romantic, not sexual—and it was the biggest mistake in my life,” he said, according to the journal Nature. The allegations he admits to relate to a postdoctoral student whose name was not revealed. She says that Pandolfi declared his love for her in 2018 and began sending frequent personal emails and arranging meetings to reiterate his feelings. She tried in vain to keep the relationship professional. “It was embarrassing, horrible, and I was not able to work,” the researcher says. She stopped working directly with Pandolfi after reporting the case to the center in April 2019.