Geoff Marcy is a superstar astronomer, by any measure. He is a major figure in the exoplanet revolution, which has transformed our view of the universe so profoundly, that some have compared it to the revolution kicked off by Copernicus. Many of the first thousand planets observed circling other stars were detected by teams Marcy led. When history books about early-21st-century science are written, Marcy's name will be in them. Indeed, many wondered whether his name might be called earlier this week, when the Nobel prizes were announced.
Instead, Marcy found his way into the news for a different reason. On Friday, BuzzFeed published details from an investigation conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, into repeated complaints that Marcy sexually harassed students:
After a six-month investigation, Geoff Marcy ... was found to have violated campus sexual harassment policies between 2001 and 2010. Four women alleged that Marcy repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behavior with students, including unwanted massages, kisses, and groping.
As a result of the findings, the women were informed, Marcy has been given “clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students,” which he must follow or risk “sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal.”
The Harvard astronomy professor John Asher Johnson, a former graduate student of Marcy’s, followed up with a blog post explaining that Marcy’s penchant for these sorts of behaviors was well known in the field of astronomy. “Geoff's inappropriate actions toward and around women in astronomy is one of the biggest open secrets at any exoplanets or AAS meeting,” he wrote. “Underground networks of women pass information about Geoff to junior scientists in an attempt to keep them safe.”