First she was his student, a medical resident working under an internationally recognized expert in the field of nuclear medicine. Then she was his academic and clinical colleague, making her way as a re spected scientist. Finally, after 10 years m the lab, Heidi S. Weissmann became the plaintiff, and Leonard M. Freeman the defendant, in a bitter and costly legal dispute that touches on one of the pillars of the research enterprise: assigning credit for original work.

In February, weissmann gained the advantage after a three-judge appellate court reversed a lower court decision that denied her claim of authorship on a disputed paper. At this point, Freeman is hoping to persuade the appellate court to review the case; if he succeeds, the 18-monthold case could be extended for several more months.

But Weissmann v. Freeman isn’t simply a spat within a department of academic medicine, or even one more...

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