The Brazilian has been omitted from the article in the journal Science – 30/01/2023 – Science

For any Brazilian researcher, publishing a paper in the journal Science – one of the most prestigious academic journals in the world – is a difficult dream to achieve, even more so when a hitherto unsuspected fourth membrane surrounding the brain is presented. For Santos biologist Anna Xavier, however, it turned into a nightmare.

The paper appeared in Science on January 6, but does not include Xavier 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 excluded.

The study began in 2017, when the Brazilian was sent to the University of Helsinki to master laboratory techniques and collect samples related to the lymphatic vessels of the brain. Differences between hypotheses and experiments led to the idea that there could be a fourth membrane surrounding the brain, in addition to the three known (dura, arachnoid, and pia mater).

Xavier, 40, says he spent more than two years testing to identify and characterize the existence of a mesothelial membrane in the nervous system, comparable to the peritoneum that covers the abdomen. He worked closely with Kjeld Mollgard, a former dean of the University of Copenhagen twice his age.

The study was originally submitted to Nature, a competitor of Science. It ended up being rejected based on the objections and criticisms raised by expert reviewers. Nedergaard then suggested further tests to determine mattress function.

“They were very laborious experiments,” said the postdoctoral student Bed sheet. “With the post-pandemic pressure, in March 2021 I developed anxiety symptoms and took two weeks of sick leave.”

Upon her return, pressure from the boss increased and the biologist took another three months off. The deal was that he would work from home on his return. Other researchers in the team were responsible for the trials, including another Brazilian, Leo Myiakoshi, from the same center in Copenhagen.

In October, Xavier became pregnant and in January 2022, she took maternity leave. At that time there were already discussions about who should be included in the list of authors and in what order (the first name is by convention the main one). Xavier argued that only she and Mollgard shared primacy.

In March, the Brazilian learned that the article had been submitted to Science without citing her. He took the case to the union and social networks. She says she was then offered to share the first paper with three more researchers (including Myiakoshi), a total of five names, which she declined because she felt the dossier would not give sufficient credit to her and the former dean’s more outstanding contribution.

The dispute reached a mediator of sorts at the university, who held meetings trying to reach an agreement. According to Xavier, Nedergard began demanding a series of proofs that he had in fact produced data and analysis that three years earlier had substantiated the finding.

As the Brazilian refused to sign on as first author in the company of four others, the article appeared in Science without her name. He decided to make the case public, and on the 20th, the publication Forskeforum published a report by Lasse Hojsgaard about the episode (another report was published in the university bulletin).

“My opinion is that she [Xavier] To be completely excluded from the article is absurd,” he said Bed sheet Myiakoshi, one of three names listed as first authors. “However, I think Anna could have been more understanding and flexible, to the point of agreeing to share the co-authorship with other people.”

Xavier makes a formal complaint report to the university’s scientific practices committee. In consultation with lawyers, she has been told that these proceedings can be extended for up to two years, but she says she is moving forward, even if the first draft is no longer useful to her.

After the traumatic experience, the biologist with a PhD from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) left academic science, where writing first articles weighs heavily in the curriculum. He agrees to do research in companies or work with education and science communication, but he no longer wants to know about universities.

Your contract with the University of Copenhagen and the associated visa expires in April. She will then have six months to find another job and, in the meantime, she plans to get permission to remain in the country for family reasons (she is the mother of Danish Marvin, who is ten months old).

“The last two years have been exhausting,” he complains. She believes the case will help boost Denmark’s young researchers’ movement against supervisory authoritarianism, which is already fueling debate in Parliament about how to speed up procedures like hers.

“Now there is a window of opportunity to change these things and prevent them from happening again.”


The head of the laboratory claims that there was an anonymous vote and that only one person supported the list defended by the Brazilian (Myiakoshi informed that he voted in favor). Another ten would vote for the relationship that Nedergaard considers the fairest. The Brazilian would have refused to sign Science’s publication license.

“No data from Anna was used. She was offered authorship because she was part of the original study, but did not accept that ten other young researchers generated data that enabled the article to be published.”

Nedergaard claims the pressure Xavier felt came from the Brazilian herself, not from anyone on the team. He says he only asked for help locating data and materials, things that could be resolved with short phone calls.

“Anna has been missing for almost two years. Ask her why she hasn’t reported [à universidade]. She was treated as a respected member of the team and no one supported her complaints.”

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