Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 813–819 | Cite as

No One Likes a Snitch

  • Barbara RedmanEmail author
  • Arthur Caplan


Whistleblowers remain essential as complainants in allegations of research misconduct. Frequently internal to the research team, they are poorly protected from acts of retribution, which may deter the reporting of misconduct. In order to perform their important role, whistleblowers must be treated fairly. Draft regulations for whistleblower protection were published for public comment almost a decade ago but never issued (Dahlberg 2013). In the face of the growing challenge of research fraud, we suggest vigorous steps, to include: organizational responsibility to certify the accuracy of research including audit, required whistleblower action in the face of imminent or grave harm to subjects, strengthened legal protections against retaliation including prompt enactment of Federal whistleblower protections and consideration of criminalizing the most egregious cases of research misconduct.


Research misconduct Whistleblowers Research ethics Fair 


  1. Code of Federal Regulations 42 CFR Part 93 2005.Google Scholar
  2. Dahlberg, J. (2013) Email correspondence to the author 12/19/13.Google Scholar
  3. Dahlberg, J., & Mahler, C. (2006). The Poehlman case: Running away from the truth. Science and Engineering Ethics, 12, 157–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dal-Re, R., & Caplan, A. (2014). Time to ensure that clinical trial appropriate results are actually published. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. doi: 10.1007/s00228-013-1635-0.Google Scholar
  5. Gewith, V. (2006). Uncovering misconduct. Nature, 485, 1137–1139.Google Scholar
  6. Goldenring, J. (2010). Innocence and due diligence: Managing unfounded allegations of scientific misconduct. Academic Medicine, 85, 527–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Handling Misconduct NPRM-Regulation, 65 Fed Reg 70830 and Fed Reg 82972, (Nov 28, 2000). May be obtained on ORI’s web site.Google Scholar
  8. Interlandi, J. (2006). An unwelcome discovery. New York Times, October 22, 2006.Google Scholar
  9. Kohn, S. M. (2011). The whistleblowers handbook. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press.Google Scholar
  10. Kornfeld, D. S. (2012). Research misconduct: The search for a remedy. Academic Medicine, 87, 877–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Pascal, C. B. (2006). Complainant issues in research misconduct: The Office of Research Integrity experience. Experimental Biology in Medicine, 231, 1264–1270.Google Scholar
  12. Redman, B. K. (2009). Research misconduct and fraud. In V. Ravitsky, A. Fiester, & A. L. Caplan (Eds.), Penn center guide to bioethics (pp. 213–222). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. Redman, B. K., & Caplan, A. L. (2005). Off with their heads: The need to criminalize some forms of scientific misconduct. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 33(2), 345–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Research Triangle Institute. (October 30, 1995). Consequences of whistleblowing for the whistleblower in misconduct in science cases. ORI Website.Google Scholar
  15. Richman, V., & Richman, A. (2012). A tale of two perspectives: regulation versus self-regulation, a financial reporting approach (from Sarbanes-Oxley) for research ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics, 18, 241–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rothschild, J. (2013). Rising in defense of nonprofit organizations’ social purposes: How do whistle-blowers fare when they expose corruption in nonprofits? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Smith, R. (2005). Should scientific fraud be a criminal offense? British Medical Journal, 331, 288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sovacool, B. (2005). Using criminalization and due process to reduce scientific misconduct. American Journal of Bioethics, 5(5), W1–W7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Titus, S., Wells, J., & Rhoades, L. (2008). Repairing research integrity. Nature, 453, 980–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wadman, M. (1996). Hostile reception to US misconduct report. Nature, 301, 639.Google Scholar
  21. Wright, D. E. (2013). Guest editorial. Accountability in Research, 20, 287–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yong, E., Ledford, H., & Van Noorden, R. (2013). Three ways to blow the whistle. Nature, 502, 454–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Medical EthicsNYU Langone Medical CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Drs. William F and Virginia Connolly Mitty Chair, Division of Medical EthicsNYU Langone Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations