Susana González is a Spanish regenerative medicine scientist who promised to search for cures of heart ageing with the help of €1.9 Million from the EU public funder ERC, before in spring 2016 she lost it together with her group leader position at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) in Madrid. Despite a misconduct investigation which led to Gonzalez sacking, ERC chose not to terminate her funding (unlike EMBO did with that of her similarly misconduct-tainted Iberian colleague Sonia Melo). ERC suspended this hefty sum, instead of re-using it for the funding of more honest applicants, while an ERC’s standing committees on ethics and integrity are investigating Gonzalez for possible research misconduct (see my report here).
Now it seems ERC might be able to give the freshly employed group leader Gonzalez her suspended funding back, that is, if they decide to do so. As I was informed by an insider source, Gonzalez is now employed from June 1st 2016 as group leader at the Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO) in Madrid. This zombie scientist did not even have to move house to find another tenured job in research. Here is one example of suspicious data irregularities in Gonzalez papers (listed on PubPeer): a western blot duplication across two publications from her lab (Herrero-Merchan et al 2012 and Arranz et al 2012):
As I was informed by an anonymous source, the head of CBMSO, José Félix de Celis, was decisive in initiating and managing this controversial recruitment. Apparently, Gonzalez already had some kind of position at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), then she attempted a transfer to Centro Nacional de biotegnología (CNB), both in Madrid as well. CNB rejected having such a colleague on board, also the CBMSO researchers apparently did their best to oppose the Gonzalez installment. The scientists at the Development and Differentiation department had a meeting on May 28th 2016, where the CBMSO director de Celis overruled the numerous strong protests against this new acquisition.
Gonzalez has started working at the institute from beginning of June 2016 as PI, however physically separated by two floors from her Development and Differentiation departmental colleagues. This was apparently the compromise de Celis gave to his reluctant scientists: that they will not have to spend all day in direct proximity with the disgraced Gonzalez.
Indeed, the CBMSO institutional site lists Gonzalez as a tenured faculty member in their personnel directory. Therefore, congratulations to Dr. Gonzalez, and let’s hope on behalf of all scientists that she and Dr de Celis will convince ERC to give the suspended €1.9 Million grant back .
I will post update whenever new information should surface.
Update 22.06.2016. My information presented above was forwarded to me by a confidential source. Now, Jose de Celis, director of the CBMSO institute when Gonzalez is now employed, replied to my email inquiry with these clarifications:
“1) Dr Susana Gonzalez was awarded a permanent position as “Científico Titular for “Organismos Públicos de Investigación” (OPI) in 2009, and this position was assigned to CBMSO through our Institution: the CSIC. The CBMSO, as such, cannot directly “hire”, “fire” or “sanction” any researcher. These permanent positions are ascribed to the MINECO ministry and allocated to CSIC.
2) Having clarified how hiring occurs, it follows that the CBMSO has not “recruited” Susana Gonzalez, as you repetitively assume. Instead, Dr González, after being fired from the CNIC, used her legal rights to re-install herself as a civil servant of the MINECO/CSIC. The CSIC follows the administrative procedure of re-assigning scientists who re-enter the institution to the same Center for which the position was originally obtained.
What applies to CBMSO also applies to CNB, another CSIC institute subject to the same regulations as us. In this manner, the information relative to the “apparent” decision of CNB to disregard her incorporation is incorrect.
3) The status of Dra Susana Gonzalez as a tenured scientist (and therefore in the official list of CBMSO staff members) does not mean that she has an automatic status as group leader (PI) at the CBMSO. The position of PI is granted by the CBMSO governing committee, which has not discussed this matter yet. To grant the status of PI, we take into consideration the grants, personnel, scientific project and curriculum of the applicants, the recommendation of the internal scientific committee, and in some cases the advise of our external advisory board. This process takes time, and requires that we have a clear understanding of the situation of Dr Gonzalez.
4) As Director of the CBMSO, I have a variety of responsibilities, but as mentioned before, very few related to the administrative process of hiring, firing or managing any recruitment.
5) Since Dr Gonzalez is not a PI at the CBMSO, she is not ascribed to a scientific department, as you seem to assume. Your statements that “the CBMSO director de Celis overruled the numerous strong protests against this new acquisition” and “this was apparently the compromise de Celis gave to his reluctant scientists: that they will not have to spend all day in direct proximity with the disgraced Gonzalez” are fabrications with no relation whatsoever with the discussions that took place in our Department meeting”.