Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

After careful consideration and intensive correspondence with the Max Perutz ECA Prize Committee and the ECA Executive Committee, I have come to the conclusion that I must rescind my acceptance of the Fourth Max Perutz ECA Prize. I feel that I owe the crystallographic community an explanation for this decision, and am therefore writing this letter.

In my mind and in my heart, I accepted this prize as a representative of the research partnership I have enjoyed with Christian Baerlocher for the last 20 years. In my award lecture in Istanbul, I tried to make it clear that I shared the prize with him and that the achievements for which the prize was awarded were the result of the synergy of our long-term partnership. At the conference, however, it became obvious that this was not the way the Max Perutz Prize Committee and indeed the crystallographic community perceived the award. As the recipient of the prize, I was taken to be the leader of the team, even though neither one of us has ever assumed such a role.

In an attempt to correct this misconception, I asked John Helliwell, as president of the ECA at the time of the award, if the award could be changed officially to include both of our names or, if that was not possible, to change the wording of the text associated with the prize to reflect the true situation. He then referred this request, which was supported by the nominating person and by many researchers who had originally endorsed my nomination, to the Max Perutz ECA Prize Committee and the ECA Executive Committee. The award committee has now come to the conclusion that no changes should be made either to the recipient of the prize or to the wording associated with the prize on the ECA website, and the ECA Executive Committee has agreed.

I now understand that the Max Perutz ECA Prize is awarded to a person who has led a significant research effort in the field of crystallography rather than for the scientific contributions themselves. It appears that the final decision of the committee was made on the assumption that I am the leader of our team. As this is not and never has been the case, I see no option but to rescind my acceptance of the prize. I do not do this lightly, but cannot justify either to myself, to Christian or to the crystallographic community taking full credit for work that is only half mine.

I apologize to the Max Perutz Prize Committee, the ECA Executive, and, above all, to the other nominees for not appreciating the nuances of the award rules sooner. I realize only too well, that a correction after the fact is almost impossible. Nonetheless, I hope that these bodies and my crystallographic colleagues can understand my position and accept my decision.

Lynne McCusker