Oh crap - there goes my work

February 5, 2009

A PhD candidate is threatening to take his university to court after it destroyed 35kg of lizard excrement - the material for his research project.

Working in the faculty of biological sciences at the University of Leeds, Daniel Bennett's PhD was based on analysing samples from the rare butaan lizard, collected through painstaking fieldwork in the Philippines.

But he said that at the beginning of his third year he returned from fieldwork to find his desk occupied by another student. His samples had been removed and incinerated.

"The department's reaction to my plight was, to say the least, muted. In fact, it took 16 months before I received an official response to my complaint, which offered me £500 compensation and announced that new protocols had been established," he writes in this issue of Times Higher Education.

He has submitted his thesis, but has refused to accept the money. He says the incident has contributed to his "deep depression", and he now plans to take the university to court.

Leeds called the loss an "unfortunate mistake" and said "lessons had been learnt". It said it was unaware of Mr Bennett's plans to take legal action. "The issue is being dealt with under the university's student complaints procedure, though the completion of Mr Bennett's PhD thesis has been unaffected."

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com

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