What Bielekova doesn’t have, at age 47, is tenure, the coveted guarantee of recognition, job security and freedom to pursue controversial ideas that is critical to long-term success in an academic career. She was not put forward as a candidate for the second time last year, despite a positive recommendation from a panel of outside experts who reviewed her qualifications.
To me the kicker is this part. NIH intramural is weird the way they have big deal lab heads and a lot of career scientists under them that would be standard tenure rank folks elsewhere. So when the big deal head dies or retires it is always a little weird. Do they hand the lab to one of the folks already there? And boot the rest? Or do they spawn off a couple of new jobs? or find homes for people in other big-deal groups?
Bielekova alleges retaliation and discrimination based on gender after what she describes as a “power struggle” following the retirement of her mentor, who was chief of the neuro-immunology branch. She said male scientists were provided numerous advantages in the aftermath and that she has been harmed by groundless accusations from male colleagues of unprofessional conduct. A male colleague from her branch, she said, was nominated for tenure at the same time that she was held back.
Amazingly Story Landis, prior NINDS Director, gave the full reveal quote:
While tenure awards are supposed to be based largely on merit, it is widely acknowledged that personality conflicts, budget constraints, internal politics and other factors affect them.
“Tenure decisions are complicated, and not just about what you’ve published,” Landis said.
In this, the NIH IRPs are no different than anywhere else, eh? It isn't about objective merits but about the subjective views of your colleagues, when it comes right down to it.
And lets in a whole lot o' bias.
Bielekova, ..has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against her institute’s director and two others,
Twill be interesting to watch this play out.