Of course, if these criteria were applied universally, Harvey Weinstein (whose indictment on charges of rape has yet to be tried in a court) would still be a Hollywood producer, and many other abusers who have been forced to resign their positions under public or community pressure would still be in power. As is clearly recognized in Title IX cases, a "preponderance of the evidence" is enough to find that an alleged abuser is likely to be guilty in situations where he or she is not in danger of being deprived of life or liberty. No one has an absolute right to be a Hollywood producer, president of the United States, or, in the cases I usually deal with, head of a lab.
Nevertheless, in the cases I have reported of two alleged abusers in Europe--Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and David Lordkipanidze, director general of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia--organizations they are affiliated with have chosen to ignore the serious charges against them on the flimsy grounds that they were published online. The organizations in question are the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution (ESHE), of which Hublin is president, and the IPHES human evolution institute in Tarragona, Spain.
Let me take each in turn.
Even before I published the allegations against Hublin in January 2019, a number of anthropologists and archaeologists had begun to question his suitability as president of ESHE, as some of the allegations against him were fairly well known in that scientific community. The board of ESHE was definitely aware as well. But Hublin was able to squelch the movement to remove him, in part because he had obtained a court gag order against the principal alleged victim of his misconduct. That gag order also allowed Hublin to gaslight his friends and colleagues into thinking that an inappropriate relationship between a senior scientist and a student had been a purely private affair that turned bad. That went on for 18 months.
More recently, Tanya Smith, a highly accomplished and respected anthropologist at Griffith University in Australia, published a blog post detailing Hublin's attempts, some years ago, to wreck her career. This gave added impetus to a longstanding attempt to organize a boycott of ESHE's annual meeting later this month in Liege, Belgium, which received some important news coverage in The Scientist after Oxford University radiocarbon expert Tom Higham (another highly respected scientist) came out publicly in support of the boycott.
The ESHE board felt compelled to issue a statement to the entire membership (full disclosure: I am a member myself) justifying why they were taking no action. As you can see from the text below, the fact that the allegations have been published "on the internet" is the key excuse for not taking action. But this might not be the end of it, as the issue is likely to come up at the annual meeting.
But the accusations against Lordkipanidze have not stopped IPHES from naming him as president of its Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) (Lordkipanidze had previously served as a member of the board.) That decision led to the resignation of one board member, but one only. I think it is fair to speculate that the leaders of IPHES appointed Lordkipanidze to the SAB originally because there is an important Spanish team working at Dmanisi, the famous hominin site that he directs, and that to force him off the board would almost surely cut off that team's access to the site, its spectacular fossils, and the data from them. But why they needed to go one step further and appoint him president of the board, only they can answer.
Although the director of IPHES has declined to discuss the matter with me, I did have an exchange with one newly named board member, Erella Hovers, an paleoanthropologist at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I have known Erella for a long time, so I thought that it might be possible to at least present the case that the allegations against Lordkipanidze were solid. I am reproducing our exchange below, because I think it demonstrates the problem I am writing about in this post. (Although Erella's response to me was on the record, I offered in a followup email, not reproduced here to put it off the record if she asked me to do so. She did not, and thus I am ethically free to reproduce it.) Again, the same logic--or, in my opinion, illogic--is used to justify doing nothing in the face of clear evidence of misconduct.
Fortunately, in many cases, my reporting--whether for mainstream publications or for my blog--has led to concrete results. I hope that ultimately ESHE, IPHES, and other organizations will realize that it's not where the evidence is published, but how strong the evidence actually is, that really counts.