Professor's position in doubt as audit reveals undeclared links

April 14, 2000

Roy Anderson's future as a governor of the Wellcome Trust is in doubt after two reports criticised the management and financial affairs of the Oxford research centre he formerly headed, writes Steve Farrar.

The distinguished scientist resigned as director of the Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases before the results of either inquiry were made public.

While the world-class research carried out in the institution that Professor Anderson founded was not questioned and no evidence of financial impropriety uncovered, he was found to have breached regulations by failing to declare his involvement with a private firm.

His dual role as a governor of the trust that funds the centre and as director of the centre had created a perception among some staff that his regime was autocratic in certain aspects and discouraged independent views.

Mike Dexter, director of the Wellcome Trust, has confirmed that while Professor Anderson will retain his post as Linacre professor of zoology at the University of Oxford and can continue his research at the centre, his place on the trust's board has not been resolved.

"His position as a governor remains to be discussed over the next few weeks," Mr Dexter said.

The management review involved confidential interviews with staff and university academics. It concluded that a chain reaction had been triggered by Professor Anderson's false allegation that a female scientist had gained her post by sleeping with the head of zoology at the university, a matter that had been separately investigated and resolved.

"This has brought deep divisions to the surface, both within the centre and in terms of relations with the zoology department," the review report stated.

A series of serious management weaknesses were identified that allowed tensions to fester and made some staff feel the situation was intolerable, although it was noted that Professor Anderson's group gave him strong support.

An audit of the centre found the trust had not been informed that some research staff had been awarded Pounds 250,000 of grants from commercial sources, including private consultancy International Biomedical and Health Sciences Consortium, of which Professor Anderson was a director.

"There appears to have been a lack of awareness of current grant conditions and adherence to the requirements of the trust and the university regarding such contracts and grants," the second review stated.

Dr Dexter said the trust would act fast to appoint a director from outside.

Professor Anderson declined to comment.

Beyond our ken: a statue of Kenneth Barker has been erected at De Montfort University where he was vice-chancellor from 1987 to 1999 MIKE SEWELL

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