Lab rivalries go back nearly as far as labs themselves. There’s the case of a prominent 19th-century bacteriologist who paid local authorities to deny a former collaborator access to the bodies of plague victims. There are the AIDS researchers who sabotaged one another’s work on at least five occasions. And there are numerous stories of scientists who have accused colleagues of stealing their work.
But even the highest-profile cases rarely end up in criminal court; they typically become humiliating footnotes to the discoveries they slowed.
This week, however, a judge in Montana sentenced a former chemist at the water treatment plant in Billings after she pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of tampering with public records or information.
The information in question? Her colleagues’ water tests, which she contaminated for three months, ultimately costing the Billings water treatment plant its state certification and thoroughly perplexing her colleague, her boss and a host of experts, who could not figure out why just one chemist’s tests kept failing, according to prosecutors.
Lab rivalries are common. It’s rare that they end up with a felony charge in court – or in this case a $40,000 fine for, essentially, gaslighting. https://t.co/55sycshA97
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 8, 2019