A surprising development

A few days ago, I mentioned that Christian Ott, who lost his Caltech position for sexual harassment, had landed a new research position in Finland. We could argue endlessly about whether it’s appropriate for him to return to academia at all, whether there should be a path for rehabilitation, etc., etc., etc., but now it is all moot: the University of Turku has made a surprise announcement.

The University of Turku has decided to terminate the employment contract of Dr Christian Ott on 7 February 2018. Dr Ott’s fixed-term employment relationship of two years as a senior researcher was to start at the beginning of March.

​– I have considered the matter and decided that the employment of Dr Christian Ott to the University of Turku will be cancelled. I came to this conclusion after extensively hearing the science community, says Rector Kalervo Väänänen of the University of Turku.

Well alrighty then. Maybe something really is changing in the world of 2018. Maybe the powers-that-be are finally having to listen.

I hope Ott has some other skills for a backup career. I hear refrigeration repair has excellent job prospects, carpentry is always useful, and that coal mining is making a big comeback.


  1. Saad says

    The poor harasser!

    Is it too unreasonable to ask that a man establish a problematic reputation for himself through his own deliberate actions at his workplace and still continue to find work in his profession?!?!

  2. jerthebarbarian says

    I wondered how long this would last when you posted the original story. I don’t understand how anyone in any scientific field could be a “senior researcher” at a university these days and have zero people working for them. Maybe astronomy is quite different, but most of the research I’ve been aware of only happens because a team of people under the senior researcher (grad students, post-docs, sometimes undergrads) are putting in a hell of a lot of work on the project. From what I’ve seen the senior researcher often has less time to research than the rest of them because they have to chase funding via the grant process and fulfill teaching and service duties that the folks working under them don’t have. (Taking away the teaching duties removes part of that commitment, I guess).

  3. richardemmanuel says

    Whoa, careful with the ending tone of that tune there, PZ. That refrigeration repair, carpentry, coal mining – whatever other casual lazy triplet came to mind – might be a fitting punishment for a criminal. And that it is inherently better to be at Caltech. That really came across awfully. That this sentence would really be some kind of Fall of Man.

  4. thirdmill says

    Richard, No. 4, I didn’t read it that way. Given a choice, would you rather spend your working life doing research at CalTech or mining coal? It’s not that coal mining is inherently less valuable or that the people who do it have less dignity; rather, the working conditions suck, the pay is less, and your risk of dying at a young age is greatly enhanced. It’s possible to acknowledge that all honest work has inherent dignity, while at the same time acknowledging that some jobs are more desirable than others.

    And I think it’s important to distinguish punishment from natural consequences. It would be cruel and unusual punishment for a court to sentence a drunk driver to being turned into a quadriplegic, but if that drunk driver slams a car into a tree and ends up in a wheelchair as a result, well, that’s an unfortunate example of cause and effect.

    I would like to see a path back for the truly repentant — even most murderers eventually get out of jail — but that requires a hell of a lot more than just saying sorry. Let him demonstrate a changed life over a period of time.

  5. Elladan says

    If he can’t treat other people with respect as a researcher, why would he be able to treat other people decently as a carpenter or repairman? Both of those jobs involve autonomy, working with other people, and personal integrity.

    Unless he changes his ways (and really, who’d trust him?) he really should stick to jobs with close direct supervision. Fast food perhaps? But then he’d be working with the public… it is a quandary!

  6. Rich Woods says

    Maybe something really is changing in the world of 2018. Maybe the powers-that-be are finally having to listen.

    It’s Finland. They’re pretty strong on equality.

  7. thirdmill says

    Elladan, No. 7, he could get a job with the Trump administration. He’d fit right in.

  8. zetopan says

    “… coal mining is making a big comeback”

    How could you have so thoroughly forgotten the newly emerging field of coal *cleaning*? Although at this time we don’t yet know if the workers will have to provide their own toothbrushes for the cleaning.

  9. jack16 says

    I’d hoped for a reasonable redemption in Finland. A country for which I’ve admiration.

  10. says

    I’m a carpenter.

    No one at any site I’ve worked on would have a scumbag like that around.
    The perception that we common, dusty tradespeople are cool with sexist crap already exists, so we’re not keen on adding that asshole to the ranks.

  11. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    He could head up the ethics division of the Republican Party. That would give him plenty of time to stare into space.

  12. pipefighter says

    @billygutter01 I second that. I’m a steamfitter. Why should we be stuck with them?

  13. stormfield says

    I too have been a carpenter and I wouldn’t want him around my customers. There is currently a job posted here for a technician to pump out portable sanitary conveniences. Could be something he could aspire to.