Research ethics

Whistle-blowers have a tough time

Whistle-blower cases that go on forever are not uncommon (see Nature 503, 454–457; 2013). The cold conclusion is that the whistle-blower may survive, but the odds are against him or her.

I have worked with whistle-blowers for more than 35 years as an expert witness in court cases and as author of the forthcoming book Don't Kill the Messenger (see, and find that they are hard to silence. The truth-telling part of their brain seems to override the health and safety part, so they will endure all forms of retaliation for the sake of truth.

Institutions can also be very slow to admit to any mistakes on their watch. This factor delays adjudication and makes it harder for the whistle-blower to prove anything in court.

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Correspondence to Don Soeken.

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Soeken, D. Whistle-blowers have a tough time. Nature 505, 26 (2014).

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