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Statement by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory addressing remarks by Dr. James D. Watson in “American Masters: Decoding Watson

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics during the PBS documentary “American Masters: Decoding Watson” that aired January 2, 2019. Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students. The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.

When Dr. Watson expressed offensive views in 2007, CSHL’s Board of Trustees took immediate action to relieve him of all administrative duties at the Laboratory and terminated his status as Chancellor. Dr. Watson has not been involved in the leadership or management of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for more than a decade and he has no further roles or responsibilities at CSHL. In response to his most recent statements, which effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr. Watson made in 2007, the Laboratory has taken additional steps, including revoking his honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and Honorary Trustee.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory acknowledges and appreciates Dr. Watson’s substantial scientific legacy, including his role as founding director of the Human Genome Project and his critical leadership in the development of research and education at the Laboratory during his prior tenure as Director and President. Nonetheless, the statements he made in the documentary are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values, and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory respects and upholds the rights, abilities, and potential of all human beings. With this commitment to respect and equality, CSHL will continue its mission to advance the frontiers of biology through research and education programs for the benefit of humanity.

Marilyn Simons Ph.D., Chair of the Board of Trustees
Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., President and CEO

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