Letter to Roland DOUCE, Head Grenoble CNRS "Institut de Biologie Structurale"

Tuesday 18 november 2003 (not copied to others)

IBS demandes on Elizabeth during her treatment

Dear Professor Douce,

Yesterday morning I was interrupted in a meeting with Bill Stirling by a distraught telephone call from Elizabeth my wife. She had been told that in future she must obtain grants to pay for publishing her work, and that when next she comes to work "we will discuss new procedures and expectations that I (James Conway) will mandate in response to our conversation on Thursday".

I do not wish to interfere with the administration of an IBS group, but I respectfully suggest that now is not the time to "mandate" anything to Elizabeth, especially in such a minor matter.

Elizabeth has contracted an infection after 4 months of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Normally a strong woman, her resistance both physically and morally has been much reduced. Following her telephone call yesterday, before returning home to take her to hospital for a consultation with Professor Mousseau, I called to tell James Conway that he had seriously disturbed my wife. He reacted angrily and asked me to see you, but unfortunately you were otherwise occupied.

If I had seen you, I would have suggested that IBS should be proud, as I am, of the work Elizabeth continues to perform under very difficult circumstances. She continues to publish in the most prestigious journals, and has just had a paper accepted in the Journal of Virology while undergoing treatment. Also her submission for the cover of Journal of Virology will appear on the next issue in December.

Earlier this year Elizabeth was invited to the US by Prof. Rossmann, one of the foremost experts in her field, who paid all her expenses (though I understand that you yourself generously offered to help with those). She was invited to the Gordon Conference in June, which would have also been entirely refunded, since she is the European Gordon Conference liaison officer for 3D EM. She also was invited to give a course of lectures in London, again at no expense to IBS.

In fact apart from the page charges in question, half of which will be paid by her Vienna collaborator, Elizabeth has not asked for any money from IBS this year! She felt that her reprimand was then particularly unjust.

Concerning the question of budgets and grants, I am myself responsible for a group at ILL (larger than any at IBS). I consider that one of my main jobs as group leader is to help obtain grants and budgets for the members of my group. (Their job is to do good science). This is the situation in most laboratories that I know. Members of my group are not even required to ask me for permission to spend small amounts of money within agreed budget limits.

Elizabeth hopes to return to work at IBS at the end of this month. But in her weakened condition, she is not able to face hostile criticism when she feels that she has continued to contribute to the best of her ability to the scientific reputation of your laboratory.

I would respectfully suggest that James Conway be asked to be gentle with her, and to try to help her rather than criticize her. I also think that a small budget be agreed in advance, that would allow her a minimum of independence for publishing and travel in 2004.

enclosed: Publications and Activity Summary 2003

Sincerely, Alan Hewat (Diffraction Group Leader, ILL)

Reply from Roland DOUCE, Head Grenoble CNRS "Institut de Biologie Structurale"

Wednesday 19 november 2003
Jacques SAUDRAIX (Head of Administration at IBS)
Eva PEBAY-PEYROULA (UJF and future Head of IBS))
James CONWAY (Head of Electron Microscopy at IBS)

Cher Collegue

J'ai bien reçu votre mail concernant Elizabeth.

D'une manière générale (sauf problème grave) il n'est pas normal qu'un conjoint interfère directement dans la bonne marche d'un laboratoire auquel il n'appartient pas.

Votre rôle à mon avis est de soutenir Elizabeth moralement afin qu'elle puisse passer le plus sereinement possible une période difficile. Pour l'instant, administrativement parlant, elle est en "congé longue maladie" jusqu'à guérison complet et, à ce titre, elle ne doit pas travailler au laboratoire.

Des son retour officiel je réunirai Elizabeth et James pour régler définitivement ce petit problème.


Roland Douce


Dear Colleague

I acknowledge receipt of your mail concerning Elizabeth.

As a general rule (except for grave problems) it is not normal for a spouse to interfere directly in the conduct of a laboratory to which he does not belong.

Your rôle in my opinion should be to support Elizabeth morally while she copes with a difficult period as serenely as possible. For the moment, administratively speaking, she is on "long-term sick leave" until her complete recovery, and as such she should not work in the laboratory.

As soon as she returns officially, I will meet with her and James to settle this little problem definitively.


Roland Douce