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Renowned Salk Institute Rocked By Sex Discrimination Allegations

The prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been the subject of unusual scrutiny after three senior female scientists filed a sex discrimination suit against it. Founded by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, the scientific institute is home to many Nobel laureates. The three women suing are tenured professors, comprising three out of the five tenured female faculty. The Salk institute has 28 tenured male professors.

Vicki Lundblad, Katherine Jones and Beverly Emerson claim that the Salk Institute has “disparaged their work, shut them out of advancement opportunities, pressured them to shrink their labs, and prevented them from being considered for lucrative grants.” Specific allegations have been made about grant money being funneled to male professors, even when the women work in the same scientific field. The women also assert that the male tenured professors trivialize and verbally disparage them. Head of the Salk Institute, Elizabeth Blackburn, was also alleged by the three women to be a victim of the discrimination. They claimed that the male professors questioned Ms. Blackburn’s judgment.

For her part, Ms. Blackburn denies the sex discrimination allegations, claiming she would never allow the marginalizing of female scientists. As part of the response to the suit, Salk has publicly discredited the scientific work and reputation of both women. Several scientists who do not work for the Institute have publicly spoken out against the personal criticisms of the women, calling them “character smears,” and lauding the work of these women.