Brazilian Woman Has Name Excluded from Article in Science Magazine

OTHER SIDE: head of the laboratory says that the researcher would have refused to sign the publication license

São Paulo

For the biologist Anna Xavier, from Santos (SP), the dream of publishing in Science magazine her research on a fourth membrane surrounding the brain turned into a nightmare. The work was published in the January 6 issue of the magazine but does not include Xavier's name among the 12 authors. After a long dispute with Maiken Nedergaard, head of the laboratory where she has been a researcher since 2016, at the Center for Translational Neuroscience at the University of Copenhagen, her name ended up being deleted.

The study began in 2017. Xavier, 40, says that she spent more than two years on tests to determine and characterize the existence of a mesothelial membrane in the nervous system. She worked in collaboration with Kjeld Mollgard, former Dean of the University of Copenhagen.

The study was initially submitted to Nature, one of Science's competitors. It ended up being rejected based on objections and criticisms raised by expert reviewers. Nedergaard then suggested further tests to determine layer function. "With the post-pandemic pressure, in March 2021 I developed symptoms of stress and got two weeks of sick leave." On her return, the biologist took another three-month leave of absence. Other researchers in the group were responsible for the tests.

In October, Xavier became pregnant, and in January 2022, she left on maternity leave. In March, the Brazilian learned that the article had been submitted to Science without mentioning her. She took the case to the union and social media. She says that she was then offered to share the first authorship with three more researchers, which she refused because she considered that the file would not give adequate credit to her and the former dean's most outstanding contribution.

The dispute reached a kind of ombudsman at the university. According to Xavier, Nedergard began to demand a series of proofs that she had in fact produced data and analysis that three years earlier had substantiated the finding. As the Brazilian refused to sign as the first author at the company, the article appeared in Science without her name.

"No data from Anna was used. Authorship was offered to her because she was part of the initial study, but she did not accept that ten other young investigators generated data that made it possible to publish the article."

Xavier is making a formal grievance report to the university's scientific practices committee.

Translated by Cassy Dias

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