Renowned academic accused of forging data at Oxford
An Oxford professor claims recently suspended Adelaide University scientist Alan Cooper forged data while working at the world-famous institution.
And a former PhD student who worked with Prof Cooper claims he was bullied, screamed at, and shamed by the 2016 SA Scientist of the Year. Prof Cooper came to Adelaide from Oxford University in 2005 to set up the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA with much fanfare — the centre was opened by then-premier Mike Rann. The university confirmed last month that Prof Cooper, who has received a range of fellowships and grants, had been suspended from duties after a “culture check” of the centre. The culture check was set up to investigate whether “all staff, students and affiliates are engaged in a positive and collegial environment; and provide information to assist consideration of what, if any, changes might be made”. It was announced two days after US science journalist Michael Balter published allegations against Prof Cooper including “bullying, harassment, falsifying grant applications and other documents”. Prof Cooper’s former boss at Oxford, Emeritus Professor of Zoology Paul Harvey, says he was presented with “a catalogue” of evidence about Prof Cooper. “Alan forged data in a grant application and lied,” Prof Harvey said. “I forwarded it all to the university and they took over the investigation. Alan left for Adelaide under a cloud.” A submission to the review from Dr Nic Rawlence, a former PhD student of Prof Cooper’s who also did postdoctoral research at ACAD, claims he was subjected to “bullying and harassment” that made him sick with stress and forced him to move overseas with his family. Researchers at the University of Adelaide have used the DNA samples of Indigenous Australians to reveal they had relationships with particular geographic areas that extends back nearly 50,000 years. Dr Rawlence, now director of the Otago Palaeogenetics Laboratory at Otago University in New Zealand, describes a toxic environment at ACAD. “The bullying and harassment by Alan started from day one,” he said. “There were the major incidents that involved lots of yelling and screaming at you, to completely shaming you in dreaded lab meetings about how useless you were, usually in front of lab visitors as well. The bullying and harassment was systemic, day in, day out.” Prof Cooper has not responded to requests for a response. The university will not make further comment while “additional processes” are under way. In a statement a spokesman thanked those who were part of the culture check. “Following on from the information provided, the university has decided to take further action. The director of ACAD has been suspended from duties pending the outcome of further processes,” he said.