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The Best Way To Blow the Whistle 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the snitches-get-stitches dept.
bmahersciwriter writes "Helene Hill thought she was close to retirement when, on a whim one day, she decided to check on a junior colleague's cell cultures. They were empty, she says, yet he produced data from them soon after. Blowing the whistle on what she thinks was research misconduct cost her 14 years and $200,000. See how she and other whistleblowers fared in this story from Nature."
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The Best Way To Blow the Whistle

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  • Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ignacio (1465) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:06PM (#45545017)
    Poorly. Rock the boat, and you can expect to be thrown off. It's the Human Way.
    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @01:21AM (#45546365) Homepage

      It doesn't matter which kind of business you are in if you blow the whistle - you will get beaten harder than the offender.

      There are other ways - anonymous leaks to the top brass, press and authorities, "accidents" causing "essential" material to disappear or be destroyed. (oops, I accidentally dropped your PC out the window... Or just a "mix-up" of PC:s at the workplace) At worst a fire cleansing.

      Or you just STFU.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Poorly. Rock the boat, and you can expect to be thrown off. It's the Human Way.

      You would be better off sinking the boat and see who swims.

    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @10:31AM (#45548445)

      No, you have to do it right. She went in and made a stink, made the entire affair about her. That's the WRONG way to do it. I've had to rat some people out in my profession before, and my approach is always the same. Gather clear and obvious evidence. Take it to which-ever superior you think is clever enough to understand it. Then play dumb as a rock... "I ran across this while doing some work... I really don't get what it means. Why would be do this or this? It seems like he intentionally did it but I don't think he'd do that!" then your desire to remain out of the subject, anonymous.

      You've now given the superior permission to take full credit for the discovery. Instead of it looking like YOU are on a witch hunt and personally dislike the target, it's now your bosses show. If they don't follow through or fail in some miserable fashion, you can review their failure or reason for rejecting the idea, refine your approach and go to another superior with new data. Sometimes you don't have enough evidence. That's fine, bad people like to repeat their offenses. Sit and wait and it will happen again, this time you can be ready and collect more data.

      Granted, I'm in IS. So most of my Whistle blowing involves security breaches by upper management, who think security is for us Peons... or rolling out projects with no testing... that sort of thing. So it's in the companies best interest to correct the issue immediately. I've gotten several people in much higher pay scales than I fired and I doubt more than a couple of people in the whole company have any idea I was involved.

      I can't reiterate enough how important it is to remain anonymous. Even if you're successful, you don't want to be "that guy" at work that everyone knows is out to get everyone. Stay quiet, let others take the glory. This kind of glory is tainted, you don't want it.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:07PM (#45545021) Journal

    Unfortunately, the corporate world has become very much like the political arena.

    Honesty is no longer treasured.

    No matter if it's Helen Hill or Edward Snowden, as long as you blew the whistle on wrongdoings of others, you will get punished.

    The world we live in is becoming more and more fake.

    Lies worth much more than truth.

    Fakeries work much better than honesty.

    • by BringsApples (3418089) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:15PM (#45545073)
      Liars only ever trust other liars. To a liar, people that only tell the truth are a burden, and they feel that those people need to stay the fuck out of other people's business.

      Likewise, people that tell the truth only ever like people that tell the truth. They feel that the others are fucking up the world for their own temporary benefit.

      This is probably a fundamental reason behind 'to what degree' whistle-blowers suffer in the world.
      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @10:22PM (#45545503)

        I see you're already up to +5 (for good reason).

        What many would see as the surprising, or questionable, notion, is that liars only trust other liars. What it is though is only trusting people who play by the same set of rules as you, and it's irrelevant that the rules are crooked. Only trust your own kind. Another liar may be your enemy, but at least you understand him. Liars always try to act in their own self-interest, but those honest people are unpredictable, and their motives difficult to understand. How can you trust someone you can't understand, and hence whose behavior is totally unpredictable? It's like being with someone who most of the time is perfectly reasonable, but at unpredictable moments flies into wild irrational rages, screaming about demons seen only by them, like "ethics" and "truthfulness".

        • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @10:47PM (#45545637)

          It's like being with someone who most of the time is perfectly reasonable, but at unpredictable moments flies into wild irrational rages, screaming about demons seen only by them...

          Ahh.. I see you've met my ex

        • Honestly, it's possible that it's as simple as the way each (liar or truth-teller) defines the word 'trust', and the context in which that word arises for them.
        • by Ateocinico (32734) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @02:37AM (#45546707)

          Whole cultures are based on that. The Spanish speaking world, my own, goes by this rule: one thing is what is said and faked and other what is thought and done. And what they hate the most from immigrants and visitors from other cultures is that they take what is said in its strict meaning. Believe it or not.

          • by weilawei (897823) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @07:53AM (#45547753) Homepage
            While politeness may be a useful social lubricant, engendering mental dichotomy on such a scale is simply begging for errors in communication. Perhaps it has "always" been that way, but must it be?
            • by stymy (1223496)
              No, in many cases it's the exact opposite. If you took the stuff people say to each other in Argentina at face value, you'd think the country was made of the most racist and belligerent people on the planet.
        • by slick7 (1703596)

          I see you're already up to +5 (for good reason).

          What many would see as the surprising, or questionable, notion, is that liars only trust other liars. What it is though is only trusting people who play by the same set of rules as you, and it's irrelevant that the rules are crooked. Only trust your own kind. Another liar may be your enemy, but at least you understand him. Liars always try to act in their own self-interest, but those honest people are unpredictable, and their motives difficult to understand. How can you trust someone you can't understand, and hence whose behavior is totally unpredictable? It's like being with someone who most of the time is perfectly reasonable, but at unpredictable moments flies into wild irrational rages, screaming about demons seen only by them, like "ethics" and "truthfulness".

          "Trust and you will be trusted", said the liar to the fool.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        This is why when I hire someone, I bring in the candidates two at a time, and make one of them wear a red sash (doesn't matter who). We've all heard the puzzle, so you can figure out the rest.
      • by thsths (31372)

        If you put it like this, it sounds like the liars have already won. Have they?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, they have. It is considered a significant and important achievement in a child's development when it starts lying, because lying shows that the child understands that other people have different knowledge about the world. Before a child understands this, there's no point in lying: If you believe that everybody knows the same, why tell something that isn't true? The others know it isn't true, right? So lying is an indication that a child has established itself as an individual with different experiences

        • by fatphil (181876)
          No, no, no, no, not at all, far from it. We^H^HThey are almost certainly an insignificant minority, who can't really influence anything.
        • It's not just a philosophy. If everyone raised their children to 'take whatever you can get out of life, regardless how', then would they all win?

          Of course not. I'll share a youtube video with you, I hope I'm not being lame. But in order for everyone to win, we all have to not only be honest, but also respectful. In this way, respect and honesty are directly tied together. And now for the video [youtube.com]
        • by slick7 (1703596)

          If you put it like this, it sounds like the liars have already won. Have they?

          Yes.
          I lied.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:36AM (#45547509)

        what I tell her is this:

        Yes, when you lie, your peers will punish you when they find out. But that's not the real issue.

        When you're a liar, you're projecting a false self as a problem solving tool. This forces you to keep multiple versions of reality in your head.

        Carried systematically across a lifetime, this will cause you to become a person made up of many people, none of whom are you.

        Eventually, you will not know who you are, or what you believe, and when you meet a strong person with integrity, you will be unable to hold a form of your own in their presence.

        This is a road to hell on earth, a hell contained within ones own mind, where the wind can blow your identity to and fro at a moments notice, and you live in a constant state of fearful reactionary adjustment of self.

        What it all boils down to is this: people are not worth lying to.

        http://experiencelife.com/article/walking-your-talk-the-path-of-personal-integrity/ [experiencelife.com]

        http://melodylovesthis.com/parentingohyes/kids-and-lying-why-truth-matters/ [melodylovesthis.com]

    • by Lucky_Pierre (175635) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:16PM (#45545083)

      Corporate world? Hardly. The story is about the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.......that's in the "academic world" .......that beacon of intellectual honesty and moral superiority we're all supposed to bow down to.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My experience in business backs this up. We regularly lied, oversold ourselves, back tracked, broke promises and commitments, weaseled our way out of whatever we could. It was company mandate. It was sad. I feel sorry for all those people trusting us.
      I quite. I never looked back. I hope someday to find something that isn't the same.

    • by oldhack (1037484)

      Nah, you are just getting bit older, more bitter, and perhaps bit wiser. It has always been thus more or less, in the corporate world, academia, or anywhere else.

      20-30 years in the "grown-up" society, more honest/perceptive among us geezers come to recognize our own dirty hands in the messy state of things.

      Wiser still would be to try to make things a tiny bit better for the young'uns...

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @10:35PM (#45545587) Homepage Journal

      Unfortunately, the corporate world has become very much like the political arena.

      Honesty is no longer treasured.

      "Has become"? "No longer"? Look, whistleblowers have always been treated badly. Governmental, corporate, academic--no matter what kind of organization you're in, the organization will react badly to anything it sees as a threat. And the problem gets worse the larger the organizations are. In small groups, human beings act like human beings, but in large groups, they act more like the cells of some vast organism. Imagine how you'd react if some of your muscle cells suddenly started refusing to contract when you told them to, even if by that refusal they were preventing you from doing something you really shouldn't do.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      This was a case of the academic world and also the 14 years and costs were also self imposed on her by her relentless bid to expose the lies. While I applaud her efforts the tone of the summary here is somewhat misleading as it sounded like she was unfairly punished for revealing the truth.
      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @11:26PM (#45545819)

        This was a case of the academic world and also the 14 years and costs were also self imposed on her by her relentless bid to expose the lies. While I applaud her efforts the tone of the summary here is somewhat misleading as it sounded like she was unfairly punished for revealing the truth.

        You are assuming that her claims that her colleague falsified data were valid. She made her accusations and presented her data to numerous people, including people outside her institution. NONE of them agreed with her analysis. It is likely that she was simply wrong. TFA is only telling her side of the story.

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          No I don't assume that. I assume that she actually "believes" it was falsified and is following her moral compass. She may well be wrong, however I didn't read anything that said people didn't agree with her, only that she lacked sufficient proof. If she is wrong and has been shown to be wrong then she should be moved from the category of a moral crusader to a nutbag, but without being familiar enough with the details I can only trust she is at least trying to do the right thing and there was nothing in the
        • I'm surprised that more of the comments here aren't saying exactly that. It smells bad to me, and it's not just mouldy cell cultures. It seems her evidence was so flimsy that it kept falling apart at the slightest touch.

    • How is any of this new? These days you merely get scorned in public, back in the day you simply disappeared never to be seen again. I'd say things are improving.
    • by Desler (1608317)

      When exactly was this mythical time when the truth or honesty ever treasured in either the corporate or political world? It certainly isn't any time in the last 150 years.

    • Unfortunately, the corporate world has become very much like the political arena.

      They've always gone hand and glove.

      Honesty is no longer treasured.

      Was it ever?

      No matter if it's Helen Hill or Edward Snowden, as long as you blew the whistle on wrongdoings of others, you will get punished.

      So don't blow it. Instead, gather and document all of the evidence and keep it secret. That way, when you need to play your get out of jail free card, you can throw that chip on the table. This works best in a mutually assured destruction type scenario where they wont act against you with what they know for fear that you will blow the whistle on them. Actually blowing the whistle is like launching the missiles, neither side really wants to do it.

      The world we live in is becoming more and more fake.

      I think that it

    • by fatphil (181876)
      > Honesty is no longer treasured.

      Not since biblical times, where we were shown that cooking the books was a good thing:
      http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+16&version=NET
    • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @10:58AM (#45548591)

      Unfortunately, the corporate world has become very much like the political arena.

      Well, a corporation is like a miniature communist dystopia (or Soviet-style communist countries are modeled after corporations, whichever one you prefer), complete with internal police, hilariously untrue propaganda, purges, ass-covering, ideologically driven directives, low efficiency that gets hidden by creative reporting or outright lying, etc. Pretty much the only difference is that you get a boot rather than a bullet when it's time to leave. Unless you pissed someone off and they want to make an example of you, in which case things like the summary happen.

      You can't really expect rational behaviour from such an absurd setup, so don't take it so seriously. Sit back, enjoy the farce, and if you want to expose something, make sure the leak can't be traced back to you.

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      Unfortunately, the corporate world has become very much like the political arena. Honesty is no longer treasured. No matter if it's Helen Hill or Edward Snowden, as long as you blew the whistle on wrongdoings of others, you will get punished.

      You list two cases of whistle blowing, one in academia and the other in government. What does that have to do with "the corporate world"?

      When companies develop products, they try to keep their employees from cheating on any results that matter to their bottom line, beca

  • Hmm.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:20PM (#45545109)

    From the slashdot entry at the top: "Blowing the whistle on what she thinks was research misconduct cost her 14 years..."

    From the linked article: "Hill would spend the next 14 years trying to expose what she believes to be a case of scientific misconduct. "

    Reading the slashdot entry, I thought that she went to jail for 14 years, which she didn't. :)

  • Misleading Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:23PM (#45545135)

    Blowing the whistle on what she thinks was research misconduct cost her 14 years and $200,000.

    What actually happened, from the article: she thinks a colleague forged results, and spent 14 years and $200,000 voluntarily pursuing court action, which repeatedly found there was no wrong-doing. She was not fired, was not fined, was not imprisoned.

    The summary's deliberately phrased to be inflammatory, and imply that she was persecuted for whistle-blowing.

    • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:28PM (#45545167)
      Welcome to FoxDot. Flamebait for nerds, news that are fabricated.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I wonder how much she had to pay slashdot or dice.com to get this story posted....

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:36PM (#45545215)

      Quite frankly, that's not whistleblowing, that's an obsession. She even almost admits it. There is a desire for truth, but when you've gathered all the information and the world still doesn't want to hear it, let it go. If you've blown the whistle and everybody tells you to keep the noise down, it's not your fault. At that point, just make sure anybody who looks for the paper also finds the damning analysis, then move on.

      • by afxgrin (208686)

        What I don't understand is why bother even pursuing the researcher, method and results? Just try to reproduce the work independently and publish the results. Hand over the project to someone who has little prior knowledge about the politics behind the topic and let them toil away at it. I'm sure there's plenty of underpaid graduate students willing to step up to the plate.

        “A person has an obligation to do the right thing if they can,”

        If she went about reproducing the experiment the benefits w

    • And the $200,000 was her voluntarily prosecuting a lawsuit based on a law that allows any citizen to sue to recover government money lost due to fraud, in this case an additional grant based on the data.

      Also, boo on those yabbering about corporations -- the two cases listed were both universities. You philosophical underpants are showing.

      The third case was a semi-nut anon reporting about 80% of anon claims of fraud to major journals. They're sometimes right, so they can't be blanket ignored, but the frequ

    • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @10:25PM (#45545525) Journal

      Ok, then. She had an expensive hobby, and it made it into Slashdot. I'm good.

    • The summary's deliberately phrased to be inflammatory, and imply that she was persecuted for whistle-blowing.

      A Google search for "Slashdot" still comes up Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters, but a single story summary this shitty sure puts paid to that aspiration.

      For stories like this one, if my account wasn't a pseudonym I'd have to wear a bag over my face just to post here.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Blowing the whistle on what she thinks was research misconduct cost her 14 years and $200,000.

      What actually happened, from the article: she thinks a colleague forged results, and spent 14 years and $200,000 voluntarily pursuing court action, which repeatedly found there was no wrong-doing. She was not fired, was not fined, was not imprisoned.

      The summary's deliberately phrased to be inflammatory, and imply that she was persecuted for whistle-blowing.

      If you keep reading you will discover that she performed an analysis of data revealed during the lawsuit, and this analysis indicated that the data did not have the statistical properties that it would have if it were collected in an experiment.

      Despite the judge's decision, and everyone elses dismissal of her whistleblowing, the science says something fishy was going on.

      • by 91degrees (207121)
        Thing is, while she's probabl right, when you accuse someone of wrongdoing, you need a much higher degree of proof.

        Sure, she's probably right, but there will be some chance results that will have the same statistical properties and she can't prove that this wan't one of those flukes. Sometimes the guilty get away with it.
    • The procedures she has been in have not found evidence of wrong-doing. That is something different than that it found evidence there was no wrong-doing. It's a lack of substantial evidence proving her right, no evidence proving her wrong has been found. This academical difference is crucial here, since legally she's wrong, but scientifically she can still be right.

      I'd like to see the research she is disputing repeated by independent researchers. If a few repeat experiments are done, we'll get a good idea o

  • explained (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:25PM (#45545147) Journal

    Blowing the whistle on what she thinks was research misconduct cost her 14 years and $200,000.

    This sounds juicy, and if you read the actual article, it is.

    If anyone is wondering why it cost her $200,000 (and doesn't want to read the article, though I couldn't imagine why), it's because after the university committee on ethics determined that there was no evidence of misconduct, she decided to file a lawsuit, which she also lost.

    Even after losing the lawsuit, she is still trying to get her coworker disciplined, which is why the dean warned her that she could lose her job as a result. But she is continuing. Choice quote from the article, in explanation of why she continues the fight:

    “I want to finish,” she says. “It becomes almost an obsession.”

    • I know a guy who was "done wrong" by an academic institution, and he took it to court and won, judgement was that his situation was not handled properly by the Uni... and it made absolutely zero difference in the future of his life, except that he had a judge on his side agreeing with him.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:32PM (#45545181)
    i would most definitely blow the whistle anonymously, maybe post on some forums and upload videos from a public library or public wifi hotspot while using fake names for signing on anywhere
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Also, keep multiple copies of your data in obscure, geographically diverse locations, and *not* in your house, in case your identity *is* discovered.

    • by houghi (78078)

      What would help is:
      1) Fake MAC address
      2) Do it scripted, so nobody sees you typing on anything

      e.g. have a device turn on at a certain moment, automatically make the wifi connection. Do the posting to Usenet (No need for login or pasword for some servers.) that will see to worldwide delivery.

      If you do it automated, you do not even have to be there yourself. Just see that you are able to remove the device once it has done its work or that it is truly untraceable. e.g. hide a device in a toilet and let it run

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:33PM (#45545189)
    to wind up swimming. The vast majority of folks are willing to pipe down in the face of consequences and repercussions. Call the other option what you will: foolhardy, insubordinate, obstinate, or brave... all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It wasn't blowing the whistle that cost her 14 years and $200k, it was her improper handling of the situation and zealotry in pursuing the matter.

    Let's say this was a murder. If I saw you with a dead body, a shovel, lime, rope and bloody knife. After you left, I grabbed the bloody knife and took a picture of it and gave it to the police. The picture of the knife would not be admissible as evidence, the knife itself would, but not a picture of it. Hill was playing private eye, but doing it in a way that she

  • by umafuckit (2980809) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:50PM (#45545295)
    I work in research and I've seen or heard of plenty of misconduct. They don't always get fired. Off the top of my head:

    1. Research assistant at a friend's lab was fabricating data in order to shirk off. They discovered it because the variance of the fabricated data was weird. He admitted it when challenged and was fired.
    2. PhD student I know fabricated data in order to do less work. He did a bad job of it, though, and was easily caught. He admitted it but further action wasn't taken because the lab wanted to avoid a scandal and the results weren't published. Eventually he produced a shitty thesis and was told to re-submit. He failed to do this but is writing on his CV that he has the degree.
    3. Post-doc currently on my floor claimed to have produced a set of data but we all know it's a lie because: a. he didn't us the equipment at any point. b. he doesn't know how to use the equipment. c. he can't show the raw data. Was challenged by his boss and denied it. That was last year, he's still here, he's done no work, he's an arrogant prick, everyone hates him and nobody talks to him any more.
    4. Post-doc in a friend's lab manipulated raw data out of all recognition. He was caught because the raw data looked nothing like his claims. He was challenged and fired.

    I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time.

      Anomalies happen all the time, too.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @10:24PM (#45545517)

      So she said "This data is faked!" the university looked in to it, they have committees for that kind of thing as I'm sure you know, and said that no, they could find no evidence of wrongdoing. So she got the federal Office of Research Integrity involved, they looked in to it, and said "Nope we see no evidence of wrongdoing here." So she took it to court, and lost the case, appealed it, and lost that case.

      This would seem to be a case where she's wrong. She thought she saw misconduct, but she was incorrect, but she's pushing this anyhow.

      Remember that just because scientific misconduct happens does not mean all accusations of misconduct are true.

      • So she said "This data is faked!" the university looked in to it, they have committees for that kind of thing as I'm sure you know,

        Yes, I realise what happened in the case of TFA. I'm just mentioning my experience. In those cases no committees were involved because the issue was uncovered before publication. That usually makes it the job the PI to decide what to do with the miscreant.

        • by Nerdfest (867930)

          ... or she's right, but has no proof. In the end it looks like the same thing to everyone but her and the defendant.

      • There simply does not seem to be enough proof.

        Either she is very crazy or she did see the misconduct and just cannot admit that she can never prove it.

        • There simply does not seem to be enough proof.

          Either she is very crazy or she did see the misconduct and just cannot admit that she can never prove it.

          The other option is to simply repeat the questionable experiment. If the same result is obtained, then at least the literature is correct even if the original study was tainted. If a different result is obtained then follow it up and demonstrate conclusively that the original study was wrong. At least now the incorrect result will be shown for what it is. Duplicating the science seems like a better way of spending your time than pursuing a legal challenge whose outcome depends on hearsay.

    • by rizole (666389)
      The trick to misconduct is hard work and principles.

      Just as I have high standards, integrity and rigor in my professional life I'm also very principled and practice diligence when those standards slip and I have to/want to cut corners.
      If you're lazy and stupid in your work, chances are you'll be lazy and stupid in your misconduct too.

    • In my field (accelerator physics) in 25 years, the only thing resembling misconduct that I've seen is overselling of future applications. By this I mean presenting an overly optimistic picture of future possibilities (typically known as marketing), not misrepresenting any work that was already done. This may be due to the way that most of the field is supported by large grants to large laboratories rather than grants to individual researchers. Might be a useful model to apply elsewhere.

      • I think you're right. Specifically, I think it's because your papers usually require very large numbers of coauthors so the work is inherently cross-checked. I'm in the life-sciences. There are papers in my field which are basically single author (student/postdoc + PI), so it's much easier to pull the wool over people's eyes that way. Even in multi-author papers, often different people do different experiments so it's still possible to have a bad apple in there. In our field grants are often still given to
  • by slinches (1540051) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @09:53PM (#45545315)

    What's the best way to blow the whistle?

    Take a deep breath, put your lips around the whistle's mouthpiece and exhale forcefully?

    Oh, you meant figuratively? I'd say, that the best way is to avoid working with people who are unethical so whistle blowing isn't necessary. If you do happen to end up in a situation that you know something untoward is going on, report it. But only report it to someone you trust will behave responsibly and has the authority to resolve the issue. If that person doesn't exist, start polishing up your resume and look around for a better place to work.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      I like this answer. At some point you have to just walk away.

      • by Kardos (1348077) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @11:03PM (#45545703)

        Yeah sure. How many tenured profs who notice misconduct are going to walk away from their post?

        • by slinches (1540051)

          If they notice serious misconduct and have no recourse to safely report it, is it really wise to stay? Sure they may have to give up tenure, but if the entire organization is corrupt and dishonest something is going to happen and there's a good chance that they will be considered a party to it. Which is really more important, tenure or maintaining integrity and a good reputation?

          • by thsths (31372)

            Tenure pays the bills, integrity doesn't. At least in the current climate, but I would guess this has always been the case.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Tenured professors fall into two categories. Either they are in charge of everyone in their lab/research project, or they work with at least one other researcher who they are not in charge of (e.g. another tenured professor).

          If you're in the first category, you are responsible for handling any misconduct in your own lab, since you're the Big Boss. The correct action is not to leave, but to prevent the misconduct (i.e. announce your finding of misconduct, fire the guilty parties, retract any papers with frau

  • Apart from the inflammatory article, I believe there is a valid question to be asked here: how does one identify and catch/correct errors?

    In experimental fields, if a result is interesting enough, there will be people who will verify it by trying to repeat or improve the results. However, in more theoretical fields (where computer simulations are the norm), I wonder how well vetted the results are. Especially since many people don't release the source code, and even if they do, it is too large to actually g

    • by Kardos (1348077)

      Verifying each line is not really a goal worth pursuing. A robust (real) simulation result will be reproducible across various numerical methods. Computers are commonplace, anybody with a computer (or a cluster) can redo your numerical experiment provided that you described what you did. Lab work is much more specialised, there aren't millions of similarly equipped labs kicking around, so the pool of people who can check your result is much smaller. In my opinion, this makes it less likely for one to report

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Take a look at the Prof Sanna's ratings as a teacher [ratemyprofessors.com]: sounds like a real asset to the faculty, right?

    Now notice when most of the flattering reviews were posted.

    Now look at when Sanna resigned. [nature.com]

  • Whistleblowers, we need to take care of them, like I said the other day. It's going to be tough. Maybe at least give some
    thoughts to Snowden these days, but think hard about how we could give one of our own safe harbor. It's a tough problem
    because us geeks live mostly in a virtual word, and this here is a very physcial problem. Though maybe the solution is
    somewhere on the tangent where the physical meets the virtual. Snowden's doomsday docs may be a starter idea.

    Now the thugs: toss some of their own stu

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Beware that whistleblowers are almost always retaliated against. If you approach the media take great care in picking a journalist:

    http://victimsofdsto.com/guide/whistleblowers_guide_to_journalists.pdf [victimsofdsto.com]

    http://victimsofdsto.com/guide/whistleblowers_guide_to_journalists.html [victimsofdsto.com]
  • Before you blow the whistle you need to contact a quality lawyer and be advised. You may need to file a report with an outside agency in order to get whistle blower protection in the courts. If you work with any kind of in house security or internal affairs you may gain extra protection if you are a paid informant. That pay could be one penny or one dollar. Also the timing of blowing the whistle could be vital. For example getting a review and a raise and blowing the whistle just afterward make sit har
  • In a prelude to the more recent gross attacks on democracy, the US and UK have both been consistently shitting [huffingtonpost.co.uk] on [pbs.org] whistleblowers [newstatesman.com] for many decades.

    Snowden's [net-security.org] method [theweek.com] will probably only work if your leak will make you famous. For everyone else, anonymity would be advised.

    The author of Spyblog [spyblog.org.uk] has been documenting the progress of the UK's seemingly-inexorable descent into a Stasi police state for about 10 years.

    In 2006, he started posting tips on whistleblowing. This has since evolved into a more comprehensive

  • I would recommend blowing it in the tranditional way: You put it in your lips breath deep in and blow as hard as you can.
    It usually works, at least for me!

  • it's the only way to be sure.

"If value corrupts then absolute value corrupts absolutely."

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