Even as the University Tribunal deliberates on his employment status and a federal judge considers his impending prison sentence, Antonio C. Lasaga will continue to receive acclaim for his work, with two papers of his research expected to be published by a leading geochemical journal.
The likely publication of Lasaga’s papers in Geochimica et Consmochimica Acta comes amid highly polarized debates among both the scientific world and the Yale community as to how much Lasaga’s personal record should influence the regard for his professional work.
Lasaga, the geology professor and former Saybrook master on leave from Yale since he was arrested in 1998, pleaded guilty to two federal child pornography charges last February, but filed a motion to dismiss one charge on constitutional grounds. Judge Alvin W. Thompson has yet to issue a ruling.
The decision of the journal’s editors to push Lasaga’s papers into the peer-review stage, which virtually guarantees publication, represents a reversal of a decision by the journal’s editor, Frank Podosek, to reject all of Lasaga’s work because of the charges against him.
“How can we say, ‘If you fudge [data] we’ll ostracize you and not publish your work, but if you’re a child molester it’s no big deal?'” Podosek told the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Podosek’s objection to Lasaga’s paper and the consideration of Lasaga’s work on non-scientific grounds signals a dangerous move toward imposing potentially misinformed values on research, said Hiroshi Ohmoto, who along with Rice University geology professor Andreas Luttge co-authored the papers with Lasaga.
“Many people including myself feel that once editors impose their own philosophical or religious views, then we will be on a slippery slope so the next time the editor may say, ‘I don’t like somebody who has divorced his wife or who had a parking ticket,'” said Ohmoto, a geology professor at Pennsylvania State University.
While Ohmoto said some scientists lean towards Podosek’s position, many more favor keeping personality out of the debate.
“The majority of scientists think publications of papers in scientific journals should be based strictly on scientific merit,” Ohmoto said. “If the paper involved scientific fraud or forgery, it should not be published, but if the paper is in high quality it should be published regardless of who authors it.”
Luttge declined to comment on the matter.
Though Lasaga’s attorney William F. Dow III declined to comment, Ohmoto, who has known Lasaga since his freshman year in college and continues to collaborate with him on research, said Lasaga remains hopeful his work will be judged on its merits.
“I know he’s shared the same philosophy with me,” Ohmoto said. “He is not as bitter as many people would like to think and he understands how people will react. But beyond that I don’t think he had very strong negative feelings about the whole issue.”