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Two Sides Respond To Lawsuit Alleging Gender Discrimination At Salk Institute

Two Sides Respond To Lawsuit Alleging Gender Discrimination At Salk Institute
Two Sides Respond To Lawsuit Alleging Gender Discrimination at Salk Institute GUEST:Gary Robbins, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego's famous Salk Institute is facing a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by two longtime sulk scientist. Biologist Vicki Lundblad and Dr. Katharine Jones. The two claim that women scientist are routinely denied the same funding and leadership roles offer two men. Late last week Salk Institute denied the allegations and criticized the quality of work produced by the two plaintiffs. It's a nasty interlude happening weeks before sulks biggest fundraiser. Joining me is Gary Robbins he's a reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Welcome Gary. The lawsuit refers to Salk Institute as an old boys club. You interviewed Vicki Lundblad and Katharine Jones. What were some of the examples? They felt there was a lot of people -- men -- they would make despairing remarks about their work and their work environment. They did not value the work of women and they were not as equal. They say it shows up in a way that they have access to money. They were talking about internal money so the right to get before the fundraising team at the Salk Institute and say we need fund raising money for this or to be allowed to apply to the foundation that the Salk Institute works with. They claimed they were not given money that came from the private foundations. They feel like they were being based out of these opportunities. They also claim that Salk Institute limits the ability of female professors to get access to money to sustain robust labs and in fact their labs are smaller than the average lab. Both of them have for researchers in their lap. It's more common to have 8 to 10. Some labs are 30 and some are above that. They are at the minimum. They are saying we can't grow more because we don't have access to more money. The Institute is saying you need to do better science to get money from the outside. I don't know what the internals are but it's a circular logic for both sides. Salk Institute did respond to these allegations. What did they say? They sent a point by point against what they were saying. For example in fact, the amount of money that went to each of these persons was common for what occurs in that Institute and in some places was higher. They said they could have applied for institutional money but did not or do not do it often enough to get the money they needed to sustain their labs. It's a he said, she said where one side is saying one thing and the other is saying the complete opposite. You said of the upheaval. You consider Salk Institute a gentle institution. What are we learning about this because of this lawsuit? I've been here for seven years covering the Salk Institute. They don't like bad publicity. That's understandable. Through me it's how rapidly they respond to the lawsuit. They did in a blunt way. It's unusual to call into question anybody's scientific performance. People are very sensitive about that and to be specific that they had not done the high-quality work that their peers were doing and more specifically, by St. both scientist had failed to publish a paper in one of the top journals for 10 years. That's an indictment. They are not playing around. The Salk Institute feels they've been mischaracterized and these two women feel the opposite is true. To be clear both Vicki Lundblad and Katharine Jones are highly respected scientist. Very much so. Dr. Vicki Lundblad was elected to that national Academy of science. That is the most elite science society in America and created by the Lincoln administration to advise the government on science. That's as high as you go other than winning a Nobel prize. The quality of who these people are does not seem to be in question. It had long careers. This lawsuit comes one month before a big fundraiser for the Salk Institute. Could it impact how much money the Institute raises? We suddenly have tension introduced into the situation. That celebration they use it to bring the community together, show goodwill, show off the professors and get people in the me to donate money. It's a positive environment. Steadily there's a negative cloud over the Institute. There could be more material coming out here in the run-up. Over the next few weeks I would not be surprised to see more of this legal wrangling. The five right now is not good. The thing in one of the lawsuits they claimed that the men have made a lot of negative comments about the new president. Dr. Blackburn has made a real case for women in science for many years. We've spoken to her about it and she's been one example of it. I know they were offended by that. What's next? I talked to the attorneys that represent the two women and we talk to the two scientists. She said they will interview people directly involved. Looks like they will involve the former president of the Salk Institute. Also one of the lead scientist in the lawsuit. There accusations against him and whether he discriminated against. I've been speaking with Gary Robbins the reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Thank you. You are welcome.

As lawsuits alleging gender discrimination at Salk Institute in La Jolla await to be examined in court, the two sides are responding.

Last week, Salk biologists Vicki Lundblad and Katherine Jones filed the lawsuits against the nonprofit. They spoke to The San Diego Union-Tribune about the lawsuits.

Salk Institute further responded to the claims Friday.

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Gary Robbins joined Midday Edition Monday to talk about the developments in the gender discrimination lawsuits.