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Australian university suspends ancient DNA expert Alan Cooper as part of workplace investigation

By Elizabeth Culotta

The University of Adelaide in Australia has suspended evolutionary molecular biologist Alan Cooper, director of the university’s Centre for Ancient DNA, as the result of an investigation into the lab.

“The University recently commissioned an independent culture check, in relation to the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD),” a university spokesperson wrote in a statement to Science. “Following on from the information provided, the University has decided to take further action. The Director of ACAD has been suspended from duties pending the outcome of further processes. Those processes will be conducted confidentially, and the University will not make further comment while they are under way.”

In recent weeks, allegations that Cooper bullied and harassed his lab members have surfaced, as noted by ABC News Australia and on social media and blog posts. Cooper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cooper moved to Adelaide in 2005 from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. His research group analyzes DNA recovered from ancient bones, teeth, microbes, and plants to probe a wide range of evolutionary topics, including the peopling of Australia, microbial and mammalian evolution, and climate change.

The university says an acting director will supervise the lab’s research.

Source: Science Mag