The University of WA has shut the world-renowned research organisation set up by acclaimed water expert Jorg Imberger as part of an increasingly bitter dispute between the pair, a leading academic has claimed.
More than four months after UWA's management stood down Professor Imberger amid a probe into his conduct, it has emerged that on Friday the university closed the Centre for Water Research he started 33 years ago.
The decision, which UWA refused to comment on yesterday, has sent shock waves through the academic community locally and overseas, and prompted a fierce defence of Professor Imberger's record.
In an email sent by Christopher Brennen, a retired emeritus professor from the California Institute of Technology, UWA's decision was described as inexplicable and "self-destructive".
Professor Brennen's email, a copy of which has been obtained by _The West Australian _, also suggests Professor Imberger was notified of the decision during a meeting with UWA Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson. It claimed the decision was to take effect "permanently" and "immediately", with Professor Imberger and Associate Professor Clelia Marti to be moved to an existing academic department at the university.
"The reason he (Professor Johnson) gave for this action was that the centre was 'not sustainable'," Professor Brennen wrote.
"It seems that the numerous letters he received from all over the world lauding the work of CWR were not sufficient to demonstrate to the vice-chancellor the enormous value of the centre and its work to one of the most important environmental problems of our time and, in particular, the contribution of the centre to the international reputation of UWA.
"Why he would take such self-destructive action is beyond me."
Claims the centre was not sustainable come despite a submission Professor Imberger is believed to have made in which he said the centre had brought in $350 million of funding to UWA since 1982.
Revelations of the centre's closure also come ahead of a review by a panel of academic peers scheduled to take place today that will look at the findings of the university into complaints made against Professor Imberger.
The former WA Scientist of the Year was stood down on full pay in November after UWA initiated an investigation into serious misconduct allegations against him.
Professor Imberger, who has worked at UWA for 50 years, has launched Federal Court proceedings under fair work laws, alleging the university has denied him procedural fairness and contravened the Fair Work Act.