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This role-play focuses on a whistle-blowing scenario involving data management issues in a research lab, complicated by uncomfortable personal relationships. Whistle-blowing involves raising concerns or allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct. There is an obligation for whistle-blowers to do so in good faith, which means based on reasonable belief or facts. Suspecting that someone has engaged in research misconduct is one of the most difficult situations researchers face. This is especially true when relationships are strained for other reasons.

If you have the suspicion of research misconduct, the possible consequences for all involved can be serious. To handle the situation responsibly and in the best possible manner for your career and the other people involved, you should move deliberately and carefully.

Universities are required by the federal government to have procedures for protecting whistle-blowers against retaliation and for reporting misconduct. Inform yourself not only of the formal rules (see your university’s policies) but you should also inform yourself of the informal rules for having a dispute in a professional manner while protecting yourself and your career. See the paper on how to report research misconduct and still have a successful career afterwards (Gunsalus, 1998). Also, any paper discovered to have incorrect information should be retracted and errata should be issued for the benefit of other researchers.


Social Dimensions of Ethical Behavior, Whistle Blowing

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Teaching Module

Research Area

Engineering | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Supported by the National Science Foundation under grant EEC-0628814. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Illinois or the National Science Foundation.

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