Image of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Image by Jacqueline Poggi,

Gender discrimination is back in the news. This time two top scientists have decided to sue their employer, the Salk Institute, because they believe that “they and other women have suffered long-term gender discrimination at the renowned California research center.” According to Vicki Lundblad and Katherine Jones, the two women suing the institute, the California research center “has long been an “old boys club.” The women described the culture at the Salk Institute as “a culture where women are paid less, not promoted and denied opportunities and benefits simply because they are women.

Both Lundblad and Jones have reported feeling pressured “to downsize their laboratories even though they’ve done well in bringing in research money.” Additionally, they are accusing “Salk administrators of not promoting any female scientist to the rank of full professor since 1999, of retaliating against them for their complaints and of not responding seriously to changes proposed by Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, the institute’s president since late 2015.

Image of Vicki Lundblad
Vicki Lundblad; Image Courtesy of Newzeb,

Both of the women are top scientists at the institute who have devoted a lot of time and energy into the company. For example, Lundblad is a “molecular and cell biologist who has done groundbreaking studies of how telomeres, the protective tips of chromosomes, factor into aging and cancer.” Jones, who has been working for the Institute for the entirety of her 30-year career, is a gifted “biologist who has done widely cited research on how to fight cancer and conducted studies that have helped to explain how dormant HIV infections can become active.”

However, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies is pushing back against the allegations, and even issued the following statement:

“Drs. Jones and Lundblad, whose laboratories have received over $5 million in support from the institute over the past 10 fiscal years, have been treated generously by the institute, including relative to their male peers. Each scientist’s lucrative compensation package is consistent with well-recognized metrics that have been applied to all Salk faculty in a nondiscriminatory manner.”

The institute itself is renowned for its research in Biological Studies and has managed to garner international attention for its “pioneering advancements in basic science” ever since Jonas Salk founded it in 1963. Jonas Salk is well known for developing “the world’s first effective and safe vaccine against polio.”

When asked about the pending litigation, a spokesman for the institute refused to comment, and both Lundblad and Jones have yet to comment “outside of their lawsuits.”


Top scientists sue Salk Institute for gender discrimination

Top female researchers claim old boys network at Salk Institute — updated

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