A number of scientists and research institutions continued to maintain links with convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein after he was sentenced to prison in 2008, BuzzFeed News reported yesterday (August 26). While some of the payments and meetings he had with members of the research community were already public knowledge, others were identified by the news site through public records requests.
Epstein died by suicide earlier this month while awaiting trial for fresh charges of sex trafficking underage girls. After being convicted for paying an underage girl for sexual acts in 2008, he spent 13 months in prison in Florida.
Some scientists refused to continue associating with Epstein after his conviction. Harvard University’s Howard Gardner, a cognitive scientist who mentioned his “valued friendship” with Epstein in a 2005 book, tells BuzzFeed News: “I told JE explicitly that I could not and would not accept any further support from him.”
But others continued to accept funding from Epstein, BuzzFeed reports. Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, who retired from Rutgers Universty in 2017, told Reuters in 2015 that he had accepted $40,000, and defended Epstein by saying that girls mature earlier now than they used to—comments he walked back in a tweet published this July.
Still others continued to facilitate meetings between Epstein and members of the research community. Martin Nowak, a mathematician and evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, arranged a get-together in 2012 between Epstein and scientists at MIT and Harvard. Nowak tells BuzzFeed he’d received no funding from Epstein since the latter’s conviction, although he continued to thank him in scientific papers published up until at least 2012.
Several institutions accepted money from Epstein after his conviction. Mount Sinai Health System in New York City received $10,000 from Epstein via his foundation Gratitude America in 2016, BuzzFeed reports.
“[W]e will be contributing a sum equal to the donations we received from Mr. Epstein and his foundation to a charity focused on preventing human trafficking and sexual exploitation, as well as providing financial support for the work of our Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program,” Mount Sinai tells BuzzFeed in a statement.
The Sante Fe Institute in New Mexico, which received $25,000 from one of Epstein’s organizations in 2010, also tells BuzzFeed it will donate the same amount of money to “an appropriate cause.”
Other institutions receiving money from Epstein’s foundations since 2008 include the University of Arizona and the University of British Columbia. Both tell BuzzFeed that they had been unaware of Epstein’s involvement.
Catherine Offord is an associate editor at The Scientist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.