Research misconduct and breach of ethics

How Luis Serrano, CRG Director (Barcelona) lied to Catalan/Spanish Court

A year ago they ignored conciliation officer`s proposal to accept that the dismissal was illegal and make things done: i.e. to pay out a ...

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Style of doing science: FAQ on CRG, Barcelona and EMBL-EBI connection


After having known/read my experience in working for science (not real one, but so to say, science), my friends and colleagues keep asking me mainly these two questions: 
I. What happened at EMBL-EBI and why are these cases connected?
— Serrano lab used to be a part of EMBL System Biology Unit, apparently they foster phenotypes like that.
II. Why didn't you quit on your own once you realized that the environment in CRG, Barcelona, was so toxic?
— I did want to, my mistake was that I relied too much on a snitch, was mislead by a «good cop» (Luis Serrano's left hand, whereas his work-wife was a «bad cop») — they all were just a perfect match for each other.
I just could not believe I saw it all real and not in my sleep. 
I could not accept the idea that the guy was just a cad.

Here are the answers elaborated.

  1. In April of 2013 my boss at EBI-EMBL reported on me to HR after I had used capital letters in one word of the working correspondence: that was the exclamation-like «WHAT?», — he said then that I was rude and impossible to collaborate with (indeed I wasn’t much collaborative in some sense).
    HR explains me that writing one word in email using capital letters is equal to shouting. But on the other hand she looks confused and keeps asking me whether I have something more to tell her. I don’t want to tell more.
    However, the project coordinator, who was the addressee of that my email, says in the presence of HR that she hasn't considered me rude and inconvenient to collaborate.
    Meanwhile I'm excluded from acknowledgement in inner EBI meetings concerning the project: up to the extent that they later say «all right, they took your results and presented them as their own, but they’ve had you acknowledged as they thanked Systems Microscopy consortium and you are a member of it» (nice, isn’t it?).

  2. In June of 2013 all of the sudden my Dad falls down in a swoon and cannot walk well after getting back, I’m urgently coming home from the UK. My bosses are apprised.

  3. On 25/06/13 my Dad passes away on my arms in a hospital after having tremendously suffered from the acute AAA rupture.

  4. Staying at home on my vacations (they were approved) that summer and busy with documentations following the funeral I’m getting a quite boorish email from the project coordinator at EBI that I have to correct something in the code ASAP as she's preparing a paper (in fact the project wasn't ready then for the paper yet and that paper was later written by myself with the help of my boss of the later time). Also she writes me that my talk on the ISMB conference was prepared badly (it was very soon after the funeral, though she lied, the same talk was also done for the SM consortium spring meeting, later I could bring several references from both conferences proving her falsehood). She doesn't forget to note that she understands that I'm in a hard life situation.

  5. I tell her to fuck off (i.e. that I won't read her emails until I’ll come back to work).

  6. When I come back I'm told that my contract is suspended for insubordination and unauthorized leave. The custom was that folks at EBI, including bosses, didn’t care much of vacation paperwork, spoken agreement was usually enough. I’m advised to leave the campus ASAP.

  7. Being in the state of a catatonic stupor I do nothing for about a week, but a colleague meets me and brings EMBL-EBI’s docs and proves me that their actions against me were in contradictions with their own legislative papers. He urges me «Catherine, don’t stay like that, do something, go to a lawyer».

  8. I go to the Cambridge Citizen Advice Bureau, they ask me questions like «Did you hack them? Did you steal something from them? Who is this employer?» and advise me to write and to call to the EMBL-EBI Head Office in Heidelberg, they also give me a list of lawyer addresses to visit.
    I follow their advice.

  9. Next day after my contact with EMBL-EBI HO the Head of Administration at EBI calls me, apologizes for the suspension of the contract and invites me back to work.

  10. All my email/servers etc credentials are withdrawn, I spend some time to get some of that back, but not everything. I’m implicitly hinted that they are prepared to give me an EOC agreement (End of Contract).
    I write to EMBL-EBI Head Office again.

  11. Administrative Director of EMBL (Keith Williamson at that time) comes to the UK to talk to me. It turns out that he’s mislead about the project which they declare as accomplished (it was just a stupid lie, I wonder how further they’d report about it).
    After my talk with him I’m fully restored in my rights.
    They recognize that everything is fine with my holidays, I was wrongly accused in insubordination and unauthorized leave, though no apologies now, except spoken ones from Keith (he was the one who seemed a gentleman in all that story).

  12. I’m invited for the chat in the EBI Director office (Ewan Birney) along with my boss and his proxy on R&D tasks. I’m told that I have «questionable personal qualities» (Birney repeats the same after my boss) and this is me, who had a lesson now and must comply with their way of doing R&D.

  13. I write another email to the EMBL Head Office with cc to my boss and Birney where I ask (at last) why is that me who has «questionable personal qualities», why was I bullied, why did all this happen after my boss didn’t have me responsive to his invitation to private bike rides (and to have a look together on concert posters, — I don't mention that), I claim for fair employment practice — that was completely ignored, I also ask to change the person who authorizes my leaves — that was accepted after the investigation, see below.

  14. I get a response from Director General of EMBL, Iain Mattaj, where he implies that the bullying was alleged but that I dared to accuse my boss in sexual harassment and that all needs to be investigated.

  15. I reply that I didn’t say that the conduct of my boss was a sexual harassment per se, all I asked: the explanations of the bullying and I mentioned him hitting on me in that context.
    This my reply was ignored.

  16. I’ve never got any explanation. I was told off that I brought forward the accusation of sexual harassment with no reason. I was made guilty for the mention of the fact that my boss had hit on me and then bullied me.

  17. However, Iain Mattaj apologized for the bullying itself, he even used a word «harassment» in his apologies. After the investigation I’ve got the apology letter from him where he enlightens me that I took the suspension of my contract, accusation of unauthorized leave and removal of all my credentials at work for the bullying because my father passed away right before that.
    All the rest was just fine.
    Basically, he didn't apologised for the damage itself, he apologised that I felt damaged.
    Yet better that way, than nothing.
    He also generously spared me from a discipline sentence for my alleged accusation in sexual harassment™ of my boss.
    Nice, isn’t it?
    Although they’ve swapped my boss for his proxy and that was the second gentleman in all that story (minding top level).

  18. After I’ve got that hysterical email from Maria Lluch-Senar—Luis Serrano tandem at CRG in reply on my rebuttal to her manipulations and lies, I asked Luis Serrano to behave fairly and that I wouldn’t be just silent and shocked, I’d been prepared by this case at EMBL. Serrano lab used to be a part of System Biology unit of EMBL, they had to follow their rules:
    «maintaining a culture based on the principles of good scientific practice, throughout the Laboratory and in their respective Units».
    I believed that they had to follow that at least to the degree that EMBL was able to.
    But Luis Serrano, once Head of EMBL systems biology Unit and CRG Director, president of SOMMa (some local Spanish Network of Excellence™) said me that he didn't care. Literally:
    «I don't care, we are at CRG here, we have nothing to do with EMBL».
    All right.
    Those were their good scientific practice

  19. Shortly after that I apprised Luis Serrano that under the conditions he put on me I’d quit on my own at the end of the year.
    They ignored that, apparently that was not a way to bring them a satisfaction (however they did try to fire me first as if following my wish: they prepared papers for that by the end of October to fire me in a couple of weeks after that, see below their lies about 3-months term to make me obeying to the Director's favourite).

  20. But then, in the end of September'2016, they were just about to go to their lab retreat, Serrano told me that my presence there would be «awkward»  and it’s up to me to go or not, I did not want to go to their retreat, I was preparing to quit anyway.
    But a colleague asked me to come, she also assured me in her support (at the end she turned out to be just a snitch for Serrano).
    Better I’d never seen that part of their specific culture at that retreat (so freaking lowbrow level even ignoring complains of the guests of the resort).
    That was awkward.
    If they feel better on the way they have chosen: lying, threatening, making their research labs the places of so toxic ambiance with no respect, no open discussion, licking asses, making folks leak asses, humiliating them, snitching on each other, where even their own written code of good scientific practice is violated,
    it's up to them.

    Below are the other parts of the story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Luis Serrano, CRG Director (Barcelona) lied to Catalan/Spanish Court


  1. A year ago they ignored conciliation officer`s proposal to accept that the dismissal was illegal and make things done: i.e. to pay out a small fine (~ one month wage) to me and give me a paper confirming that dismissal was illegal, their representative also told then that they needed the decision of the Court to make that small payment.
    Now they've started with their style of menaces again, urging me to accept the following proposal: before the Court they admit that the dismissal was illegal and pay me that money, but in turn© I have to purge all materials on them I put online. They pay that ridicule fine, I clean, they go scot-free, as if nothing happened, as if they did nothing wrong and as if I am doing here even something criminal. If I do not accept this — they're going to carry out their threats.
    I don't.
    I said no lies.

    What did kinda surprise me — that Catalan/Spanish Court did not find anything abnormal in their menaces*), neither noticed any contradiction in their proposal with its own decision at the end. The judge had a look rather petulant by me declining their menaces (thus he had to proceed with hearing, get himself busy).
    And all that looked really quite medieval to me…

  2. On the Court hearing Luis Serrano, CRG Director, came to witness me «constantly refusing» to talk to his favorite, M Lluch Senar.
    That was yet another sheer lie (unless just comical):
    I've updated the DropBox with the copies of correspondence which happened a month before my dismissal when I had to explain to M Lluch Senar, biochemist, (© L. Serrano) how mass-spec really works (she tries to show up herself as if she understands it but pretty dumb to get a simple point). Finally, from the 3rd attempt, she gets it and even thanks me, reminding me one more time that I'd be fired anyway. She's been obsessed repeating that in near every second her email with cc to Luis Serrano. I bet that seemed so sexy to her patron.
    Chat between me and her is mentioned in the beginning of that correspondence. So the meeting was with me and her alone, at my initiative because in that case that did make sense.
    Luis Serrano was well aware of the meeting, he was in cc.
    In fact, I refused no meeting with his favorite. I've been just asking for assistance as she used to be damn blind, aggressive and incompetent, sabotaging any communication with the lab people and the colleagues involved in the project.
    Only once I refused her manipulations «if you want to talk… we can discuss» — I said I don't, she lied as if she looked at the app (all I was doing for them she kept calling «webpage» :)), there were nothing to discuss, she was unable to set a task and was reiterating what was already done (they both got hysterical after I said «I don't» then, although I could wait weeks for them just to look on what was going on with the project… — «ha-ha, Katerina wants to work!»). Another time it was «if you don't understand — come and ask». I said I have nothing to ask, I refused to recognize a scientific authority of the made-up biochemist which they had started to claim after I complained to a set-up of Conflict Resolution Committee — I was fired.

    That wasn't the only lie he told to the Court, also he lied about me unrelated to his starring in «I think what maria proposed does not make any sense» — that was in fact said after me trying to explain Maria the same, but not that way directly. I just did not discarded her suggestion completely (that'd be too risky! but minding now Serrano's confession to the Court — see in DropBox Court's decision: his favorite reported on me unsuitable for her right around the same time!)
    The related email is now on the DropBox too (my actual boss was in cc of course and Luis Serrano was surely reacting on this correspondence).

  3. The third lie:
    The CRG representative told the Court (and Luis Serrano repeated it) that I was given 3 months to follow discipline I allegedly violated.
    In fact, next day after Serrano told me that his favorite M Lluch Senar was my boss (yet another one, as I still had to ask my official boss for holidays and the like), less than 3 months before my dismissal, I've got a letter from her, that she had «talked with Luis and he said me that he has given you the opportunity to work for three months in the lab and to finish the project». That is I was told I'd be fired anyway. Serrano was in cc in that email (it is in DropBox too).
    No way he didn't know, I was pointing on that assertion (that I'd be fired anyway) to the HR, Conflict resolution Committee. They didn't care, they served to M Lluch-Senar and her henpecked one like dogs, despite the law — «it'll be illegal and you can go to the Court then». Well, we'll kill you, what's the matter? — your relatives can go to our Court then (the Court won't find anything wrong in that).
    Luis Serrano, CRG Director, lied his face off to the Court.

    Not to mention the repeated falsehood about Conflict Resolution Committee, implying that they called for it — yet another lie: who could think that my call for Conflict Resolution Committee they'd unscrupulously use for themselves….
    Not to mention the lies about the reason of my transfer to Serrano lab: in order to mob and fire actually, as he explicitly confirmed himself — his favorite reports on me that she's unhappy to work with me (meanwhile, after her discussion with me he writes to several colleagues that her proposals make no sense) — and voilá — he transfers me to his lab and coerces me to talk to Sra. Lluch only alone. Nice trick, isn't it?
    Later Luis Serrano, CRG director refers to this intrigue as if they had transferred me for the sake of discipline I allegedly violated. Oh, yes, no word about corruption, let alone innoble conduct of those who know no decency. True modern scientific leadership although with quite questionable practice, but who cares when it comes to money laundering so successfully sold out as that true research activity, right? Just givvus more money, we are saving humanity's health, kids from starvation, we are saving the Earth!! Preserve our strata whatever it takes (skip it, now).

    Needless to say now that this Spanish Court did not give the floor to me unless defendant party would have asked for it. And of course they were not interested to ask.
So this Spanish/Catalan Court has taken CRG Director's words as they are along with their dismissal notice as a proof of my disobedience and made decision that my dismissal was legal. You can enjoy reading on DropBox their decision: nothing from my part is even mentioned…
— yet another achievement of Spanish science and Social Justice ⚖️ in Spain/Catalunya… But thank Providence and post medieval (neo-fascist?) world: otherwise I'd have been put on fire literally, in the Auto-da-fé / or shot dead by these franquists pokemons under the new brand of la nueva Alianza de Excelencia SOMM (Severo Ochoa y María de Maeztu — WTH is this clownacy?).

like Luis Serrano, CRG

Story archive in Dropbox

*) artículo 169 del Código Penal of Spain: «Amenazas son un delito o una falta… el anuncio de un mal futuro ilícito que es posible… con la finalidad de causar inquietud o miedo…»
=
«Threats are a crime or a fault... the announcement of a bad illicit future that is possible ... with the purpose of causing concern or fear ...»