Book review: Scientific Misconduct and Its Cover-Up - Diary of a Whistleblower.

i-326ed8d044454b11d23460b4874e3b8e-WhistleblowerDiary.jpg I recently read a book by regular Adventures in Ethics and Science commenter Solomon Rivlin. Scientific Misconduct and Its Cover-Up: Diary of a Whistleblower is an account of a university response to allegations of misconduct gone horribly wrong. I'm hesitant to describe it as the worst possible response -- there are surely folks who could concoct a scenario where administrative butt-covering maneuvers bring about the very collapse of civilization, or at least a bunch of explosions -- but the horror of the response described here is that it was real:

The events and personalities described in the following account are real. Names and places were changed to protect the identity of the people who took part in this ugly drama ...

I wish I could say that the events described in this book came across as unrealistic. However, paying any attention at all to the world of academic science suggests that misconduct, and cover-ups of misconduct, are happening. Given the opacity of administrative decision making, it's impossible to know the prevalence of the problem -- whether this is just a case of a few extraordinarily well-connected bad actors, or whether the bad actors have come to dominate the ecosystem. In any case, an inside look at how one university responded to concerns about scientific integrity gives us some useful information about features of the academic culture that can constrain and impede efforts to hold scientists accountable for their conduct.

The events center around an associate professor who discovers that research she has planned has been stolen by her department chair and the vice chair of another department. The two have written -- and received funding for -- a grant proposal resting on published work and preliminary experiments by the associate professor. As it turns out, the grant proposal also plagiarizes heavily from the doctoral thesis of an uncredited graduate, falsifies data, and even falsifies biographical information about the proposing authors.

In short, it's a very problematic grant proposal, but the people who have secured it have significant power in their departments.

What follows is the agonizing attempt of the associate professor's confidant in another department to get the system to work in investigating and punishing the misconduct. At every turn, we see university officials shrinking from the daunting task of reigning in successful and well-funded scientists. Panels are formed and charged, yet they seem constitutionally unable to work within the time frame specified by the university's policies, and end up spinning their wheels trying to determine precisely whose official definition of plagiarism is binding. University administrators throw their weight around to pressure panels to change the judgments at which it took them so long to arrive in the first place.

And, retaliation is exacted.

I probably don't need to tell you that there's not a triumphal happy ending here.

As you might guess from the title, the story is told primarily from the point of view of the whistleblower. Rivlin conveys vividly the difficulty of painstakingly sifting through evidence and policy to present a case only to see various factions at the university ignore both evidence and policy when to do otherwise would be inconvenient. A significant portion of the book is told through letters, memos, and official policy statements -- the sort of thing that might scare away a reader who hasn't tried to navigate the bureaucracy of academia. Since I'm a denizen of the academic world, I was taken not only by the tortured official language of these missives, but also by the clear -- and depressing -- subtext they conveyed. Indeed, I found myself wondering how much a certain kind of academic double-speak enables a broader academic culture where one can't count on truth even from one's colleagues.

There were some features of the book I found a bit distracting. One of these was set of names assigned to the characters to disguise the identities of the real-life participants in the situation: Dr. Frank I.M. Moral and Dr. Christian C. Heat are the authors of the problematic grant proposal, Jeremy M. Artyr is the guy from whose dissertation they plagiarize, Donald V. Icedean is the Vice Dean, and so on. What bothered me wasn't so much that the names were cutesy, but that they tip the reader off immediately to the kind of character they're dealing with. In real life, we don't have such obvious clues as to who will be courageous and who will be cowardly, who will be honest and who will not.

Related to this, I had some trouble with the few sections of the book that purported to show us something about the internal mental states of the characters other than the whistleblower -- especially the parts trying to put us in the minds of the wrongdoers. Perhaps it's because I have limited faith in my own ability to really get inside someone's head (and limited patience with others trying to tell me what I think). The narrative voice of the whistleblower -- especially in his letters -- is so strong and clear that I wish that the book had actually been structured as a diary. Then, we might have seen the whistleblower not only struggling with bureaucracy (and the slowness of the process), but also trying to figure out for himself in the absence of full information about the mental states of others what could motivate scientists and administrators to abandon ethical standards and scientific truth.

All this is to say that you shouldn't expect Scientific Misconduct and Its Cover-Up: Diary of a Whistleblower to read like a novel. Then again, Rivlin is not a novelist but a scientist who watched the system fail the truth from inside the ivory tower. His careful documentation of this incident might well help others figure out ways to avoid the same depressing outcome elsewhere.

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it's a very problematic grant proposal


Why conceal the identity of those involved?

By hip hip array (not verified) on 26 Jun 2007 #permalink

Sorry, should have written "identities".

By hip hip array (not verified) on 26 Jun 2007 #permalink

What documentation is there that anything in the book actually occurred, as claimed in the Preface (available free on-line)?

By PhysioProf (not verified) on 26 Jun 2007 #permalink

I'm assuming the big reason to anonymize identities in the telling is to avoid lawsuits (which could be expensive and time-consuming even if one has the facts on one's side).

And, given the concealment of the true identities, of course the reader isn't in possession of documentation that it all happened as described. To my mind, even if we assume it's all fiction, it's a worthwhile examination of how the interests of administrators don't always pull in the same direction as the interests of those committed to doing honest science -- and of how those tensions could lead to particular consequences.

I will say, though, if those committee reports and letters are completely fictional, they're dead-on in capturing the language of the real thing.


The scenario that Rivlin portrays is hardly unique, as you well know.

Such lapses of ethics (and morality) have been rife since the times of the early Greeks (when philosophers took the work of their peers and predecessors and pretended it was their own).

What's to be done? Outing the rascals doesn't seem to stem such behavior, and criminal penalties are not in the cards.

Academia has its share of scalawags, just as does any other human endeavor.

One can either take the route of Melville's scrivener (Bartleby) or one can do as Rivlin has done and showcase the injustice and "crime(s)."

But that isn't enough, surely.

There must be a venue or a group willing to make the most of such "illegalities" -- in a public forum -- that catches the eye of those who shelter or ignore such "crimes."

It's only by the kind of shunning that Tocqueville discussed in "Democracy in America" or that "A" of Hawthorne's which will curb some of the affronts Rivlin recounts (and you note here often).

Rich Reynolds


Thank you for reading the book and for the honest and straight forward review of it. You are also right when you explain the reasons for hiding the real identities of the characters. Threatening with law suits actually occured even before the case was brought to an end at the university, long before the book was written. I consulted with an expert on plagiarism and university investigations, who was herself invloved in such a case at the University of Michigan. She won her law suit against her mentor who plagiarized her thesis and against the university. Her advice was to change every name, locale and date in the book to avoid any possibility of a law suit by those who have the most to loose and yet, have the most money to spend on attorneys. The "cute" names I chose have made the writing a bit easier (when you cannot use the real names). While the names may disclose some information about the character's personality, one should also understand that many of the participants and their personalities have been known to me prior to the discovery of the misconduct, especially the two culprits who committed the misconduct and the two deans of the Medical School who each in his own turn, tried to burry the investigation or punish me for blowing the whistle.

You are absolutely correct about the real purpose of the book, which is to afford scientists who stumble on a case of scientific misconduct a guide for possible hurdles and problems a whistleblower may face.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink


I gather you are the skeptic type, which is alright. Since I am about to retire, I suppose I can be less secretive. Moreover, The case dates back to 1997-1998. Thus, if you are really interested in verifying the credibility of the claims, here's a detective job for you. I will provide you with some initial hints that should help you start your own invesigation into my claims and we'll see how you use your investigative skills to verify or rebut my claims.

Hint #1: The Courier-Journal, April, 1997

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

S.Rivlin: No offense intended, really. But because you link to "buy my book" so much in commenting you come off a bit more as a shill for your book than as a provider of insight. Simply linking to the published news accounts and then commenting on those would be pretty simple, no?

(Dr. Free-Ride, I note you simply say "read" the book not "purchased". Review copy provided by ...? :-))

By Drugmonkey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

Figured you did but was making a point. Not to get too meta but this gets back to a previous set of comments from S.Rivlin about "you are either ethical or not". It is easy to start a whisper campaign or to cast doubt on someone's integrity. Scientists (the well meaning ones anyway) might overlook disclosures, pertinent or otherwise, for all sorts of defensible reasons. This little disclosure goofcould have been unintentional. But as the story developed another picture emerged.

This is what makes science ethics so difficult. Lots of bad behavior can initially appear like normal behavior even if the latter doesn't satisfy S. Rivlin's black/white approach to the world...

[My Nemeroff example was not the best of course because in the first instance, it is hard to buy that a journal editor with a disclosure policy (not to mention it was the society journal of a society with a strong disclosure policy necessitated by lots of interactions with Big Pharma) would try to excuse nondisclosure with "but that journal didn't require it of me). ]


The linking to my book has always intended for purposes of showing to those who believe in the purity of scientists how wrong they could be. Providing the link to the story as an example for "bad scietists" is always better than describing what happened in a very long post on this blog. If you have attempted to insinuate in your comment that the purpose of the repeated linking is to swell my bank account, let me assure you that over the past three years I received from the publisher enough money to cover about 3% of my attorney fee during the ordeal. The presence of my attorney during the grievance procedures against me by members of the department of the plagiarist was the only way I could send a message to the university administration not to play with fire. It was money well-spent, but it was painful. The publisher will have to sell about 20,000 copies of my book just for me to break even. And with potential readers like you, I have a long way to go.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

S.Rivlin: I was insinuating nothing merely commenting on how you come across, perhaps in part to try to explain why someone like PhysioProf may take a skeptical stance. Surely you understand that an appearance of trying to gain instead of contributing to a conversation results when you put teasers in your comments ending with a "go buy my book" link at the end? It just seems self-interested. As I said before, a few links to the news reports would easily suffice to get a casual reader up to speed on any comments you might offer to a topic at hand.

I did go and read the on line Preface at one point but was very put off by the cutesy names. Made it sound like it was going to be a tedious axe-grinding recitation of poorly-disguised facts of your case rather than an interesting work of historically-based fiction or exploration of science ethics. and frankly your black/white view of science ethics that comes across in comments did little to suggest the novel was going to be nuanced. black hat / white hat narrative went out in the 50s, didn't it?

to return to my usual point, the bad behavior of bad actors isn't really that interesting. what is interesting is how they became bad actors in the first place. and practically speaking, how we can minimize the process if there are systematic parts of, say biomedical science, that encourage ethical lapses.

Drugmonkey, when there are numerous participants in any case, as much as their names are recognizable to the writer of the story, an outsider would be completely lost if regular names are to be used as they mean nothing to him. The choice of names in the book was done, as I mentioned earlier, to make the recognition of the characters easier.

My view of ethics in science today is not exactly black and white, though it is dark. This is not necessarily due to the sheer number of bad apples, but because it does not take many of them to spoil the whole basket. My experience during my ordeal and throughout the 10 years since it ended has taught me that the basket is in real danger and that bad apples exist in other places where they are also protected by unethical administrations. It is surprising how poeple with just little detective work could find me and contact me once they read the book. Several did and the stories they have told me are not that different of my own. I want to believe that my book, more than anything else, afford potential whistleblowers an understanding of the risks involved, while demonstrating to them that there are others in their position who dare to blow the whistle. The book also exposes how reluctant are scientific societies do deal with scientific misconduct committed by their own members. I believe that the story I told in the book is a pretty good reflection of similar stories in many other institutions. I mentioned the case at the University of Michigan. I subsequently learned of a similar case at Washington University in St. Louis, a case a Cornell and many more. In all those cases, grant money usually protected the culprits with the help of the administration.

I also tried to expose some of the history of the bad apples, arguing that their badness has been there all along, but they were never caught or exposed until I blew the whistle. I am not a psychologist, though I think that there are certain traits that predispose poeple to commit scientific misconduct and to repeat it brazenly until they are caught, if ever.

And I do offer in the book some possible steps to fight the growing problem of scientific misconduct.

I cannot recall specifically suggesting to buy my book, however, if I did, and it is possible, I agree it was in poor taste. Shortly after the book was published (July 2004) I was involved in promoting it, not for profitability, but to raise attention to a problem that most of us prefer to deny exists. Adding the link to my comments aims to achieve the same.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink


To hell with DrugMonkey (the epithet says it all).

People should buy your book -- you worked hard on it, and you should be compensated.

It's not "self-interest" that comes off in your presentation but, rather, a subtle outrage, and you should be applauded for the expose -- and you should get recompense.

Some of us admire academic muckraking. It's an honorable endeavor.



Thanks for your supporting words. You, of course, are correct about the outrage. And it is not a subtle one. It is a continuous outrage at administrators and especially at peers who never have found the courage to stand up to a corrupted chairman. These peers not only kept silent, they have chosen to support the plagiarist by filing a class-action grievance against me only to be on their boss's good side. This, I believe, is the real danger of scientific misconduct, especially when committed by a high ranking scientist with a power position and lots of funding; the subordinates of such a figure, out of fear for their own careers, are either keep silent or support the culprit in public. In my eyes, those who cowardly choose to do so are committing scientific misconduct on their own.

Funny how several of those who took part in the class-action grievance against me tried to smooth our relationships after the grievance committee found their complaint baseless. Others even sent me annonymous letters congretulating me on the book and explaining that, though they knew all along that I was speaking the truth about their boss, they could not afford to endanger their careers by supporting me openly.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink

Rich, Solomon: I think you misunderstand DrugMonkey. He is blunt, but that is merely his habit in comments everywhere, and on his own site. He means neither insult nor harm, if I read him aright, but rather is pointing out how Solomon comes across to potential readers.

I happen to agree with DM here, which may be why I view his comments in this light. There's nothing subtle about Solomon's outrage; his bitterness and anger are palpable. He's entitled to both, of course, as well as to compensation, if his case is proven. (I've argued elsewhere that whistleblowers should be afforded significant financial protection and compensation, and be treated with respect and gratitude by the community at large.)

It's frustrating to me, though, to be presented with teasers in the form of angry blog comments and links to a "fictionalization" of the case. "Hints" that date back further than the search function on the newspaper's website are even more frustrating, and most annoying of all is the insinuation that it's somehow up to interested readers to play detective and uncover the facts of the case.

The alleged misconduct in question appears to be the passing-off of the work of one Madhu Gupta as belonging to Fred Roisen. (Solomon was not always so shy about names.) That, however, is all the "detective work" I am willing to do here.


Solomon Rivlin is not always shy because Solomon Rivlin is a pseudonym. Your detective work will suffice for those who want to know more about the players, their playground and the toys they are playing with.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink

Solomon Rivlin is a pseudonym

Ah yes, the rabbi. So, may I call you Avital? (You must be aware that casual investigation will link you and that gentleman, and lazy investigators will simply assume that you are he.)

As for my detective work, it will not suffice in the least. Those of us interested in scientific integrity are left with nothing but the names, which are useless. I found no record, official or otherwise, of any investigation into Roisen's conduct. The grant on which he allegedly falsified data is not in CRISP, so I don't know how I could get hold of that. "Madhu Gupta" is a bit like "John Smith", so I cannot readily follow that line.

I would read a court or committee transcript, or any detailed recounting of facts, but I won't read a half-novel, half-diatribe and try to sort out or track down which bits are fact. I fear you do more harm than good to the whistleblower cause with your half measures.


You are, so it seems, the type who prefers to dig information about the messanger rather than spend your time looking into information about the culprit. That is OK with me, since I am used to this approach by those who chose to shield the scum that hurts science. One of the reasons you won't find much information about Roisen or Gupta is due to the cover-up. The details of the investigation and the findings of the different committees were never released to the public. I guess if a journalist would show interest in the case s/he might be able to get the information, but no one has shown any interest. Roisen's main project today ( was Gupta's project (Brain Res. 1995 Dec 8;702:37-48). Get the paper on PubMed and see whose grant funded the project (Gupta's grant). Gupta sued Roisen, the Dean of the School of Medicine and the University of Louisville. The university spent several hundered thousands dollars on attorney fees alone before deciding to settle with Gupta for an undisclosed amount. The main reason for their decision to settle was my own deposition in which I clearly demonstrated to all involved (attorneys and university administrators) not only how Roisen plagiarized pages on pages from Gupta's graduate student's thesis (Sosnowski) into a local foundation's (Alliant) grant proposal, but Roisen's falcification of data in that grant as he created "new preliminary data" by combining two sets of data from Sosnowski's thesis. Roisen was a member of Sosnowski thesis committee along with the other culprit, another member of Gupta's department and myself. Gupta left the university to pursue a different career and the world of science had lost a great scientist in the field of Parkinson's disease. Since Roisen survived thanks to cowards who protected him, he is now exploiting the project he stole from Gupta mainly to improve his own personal finances.

In my possession I have all the documents (originals) cited in my book. I will be more than happy to share them with you (to save you "detective" time) or you, the great defender of the whistleblower cause, can simply kiss my behind.

BTW, the local foundation (Alliant Health Systems Community Trust) that funded Roisen's grant application, decided to stop all funding to University of Louisville School of Medicine faculty members after Roisen's misconduct was exposed by me in 1997.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 29 Jun 2007 #permalink

You are, so it seems, the type who prefers to dig information about the messanger rather than spend your time looking into information about the culprit. That is OK with me, since I am used to this approach by those who chose to shield the scum that hurts science.

Dude, fuck you very much. I spent 5 minutes on Google following your little "hint" in order to see if there were any facts about the case to be had. I found nothing but traces of your loud mouth, but not because I was interested in you -- I was looking for independent corroboration of your claims.

You say "if a reporter took interest" -- what's to stop you freelancing? You have all these documents -- what's to stop you uploading scans of them? There was a court case -- even if some aspects are confidential, presumably there are official records you could dig up and provide.

Come to that, why in hell haven't you just said upfront it was the Gupta/Roisen case you were writing about? You say it's to avoid a lawsuit, but you've made it clear in this thread and elsewhere just who you're talking about so I don't see what the point of changing all the names was. If you were going to slyly "leak" the information that it was the Roisen case, why not just write the damn thing as a straight-up nonfiction investigative-journalism book?

Why aren't you doing any of these things? If you're afraid of legal action, OK -- then shut up. Either make your case or don't; a "fictionalized" spitefest and a couple hundred coy allegations on blogs doesn't help anyone -- though I'm sure it settles those Noble Martyr robes a bit more comfortably around your shoulders.

Piss or get off the pot, brother. Either you have a case, or you don't. Either you can put the facts together and build a web page (/newspaper feature/whatever) to let the world know Roisen is a scumbag, or you can't. I'm well aware that if you can't, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are not telling the truth. Sometimes it just shakes out that way, bad guys get away with the bad stuff they do. But by turning your case into a half-assed smearfest and getting all bent out of shape every time anyone asks to see the evidence, all you are doing is making it harder for the next whistleblower to mount a real campaign.

OK, it's time for me to butt in to this conversation and remind the participants that largely, you are on the same side here.

Cheaters suck. It would be nice to have them clearly labeled with radio isotopes or vapor trails emanating from their cheating asses.

Yet, cheaters have the same rights of due process as everyone else and they also frequently have lawyers.

Scientists like to see piles of data to back assertions. Scientists have been trained toward skepticism, and they like to be able to work through chains of reasoning themselves to be sure they agree with them.

Lawyers can sometimes make it a pain in the butt to point people toward some of the evidence. They are engaged to further their clients' interests, not to establish objective truths.

The challenging question is how, within a litigious environment, to deal with people one has reason to believe to be bad actors. When making the persuasive evidence widely available is not a practical option, do you just let it go? And doesn't that feel almost like doing nothing (as far as protecting others in the scientific community from being screwed over by the bad actors)?

Kids, I don't know the optimal solution in this particular case, and I can't help but feel that it would be more productive to put our heads together and strategize so that the next case of this sort has a more satisfying resolution.

Bill, I doubt you were ever involved in a case where the whole system stacks against you simply because you dared to declare "The Emperor is Naked." What's stop me from scanning the documents and post them on the internet is the fact that my real name is on them, exopsing myself to lawsuits of all kind by shmocks who have unlimited resources to take the little that I have saved during my career as a scientist. As long as I use my pseudonym, even if you can make the connection with my real name, I am protected because the pseudonym is registered as an LLC (thank to the advice of people who care about the the well being of whistleblowers). Even if I would blackout my real name on the documents I have, it would be very easy to trace their source. There was no court case. There were legal negotiations and hearings between Gupta's and the University's lawyers, which at the end, the university decided against a trial for the fear that its protection and support of a fraudster would be exposed for the whole community to see. The administration made a decision to pay a low 7 figure amount of money and get an agreement from Gupta not to talk about the case or reveal the amount of money she was paid.

Janet, one very important act that all universities must enact is total protection of whistleblowers against any type of retaliation or retribution. Another step that can improve the outcome of investigations of scientific misconduct is to keep administrators out of the picture, at least until the investigation is completed by an investigative committee of academicians only. If misconduct has committed, the administration must be forced to follow the recommendations of the committee and cannot sweep it under the rug. In the case described in my book, the administration of course ignored the investigative committee's recommendation and declared that there was no palgiarism.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 29 Jun 2007 #permalink

I would like to thank Bill (whoever you are) for doing for my book what Ann Coulter has done for John Edwards's fund-raising campaign. Sometimes, the loudest and crudest detractors push things in the opposite direction to the one they intended.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 30 Jun 2007 #permalink

"Whoever you are"? I'm not the one cowering behind a pseudonym and then sneaking out to fling accusations of misconduct. My name on every comment here links to my site, and I'll save you the one extra click: my bio.

Look, I have no problem with the pseudonymity per se, but I fail to see how you are protected from anything when it is a matter of five minutes on Google to link your "real" identity and Roisen's to your accusations against him. If you had stuck to the pseudonym it would be one thing, but slyly dropping hints all over the web to make sure your target gets nicely smeared is a whole different kettle of fish. By association with you and your tactics, the word "whistleblower" starts to smell.

Either you have a case (further, that is, to the one that -- according to you -- Gupta's and the University's lawyers have already settled to the apparent satisfaction of all parties actually concerned), or you don't. If you have a case but discretion must be the better part of valor, I don't blame you -- but then, suck it up. Stew in silence, the silence you chose when you decided not to pursue overt action against Roisen. You are not helping anyone by trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Bill, you still do not get it. I pursued the case against Roisen. I have done everything I could within the university to out the guy and his deeds and I did out him. Yet, he is still serving as a chair of his department and still using the same tactics he used against Gupta with other members of his department, all because the university administration decided to cover-up his antics. Personally, I have no beef with him - he did not plagiarize my work, he did not falsify my data, even in the grievance against me by his cronies, he made sure to keep himself out. I am doing what everyone who has information about a dirty scientist should do i.e., expose him because he is still active. I am not that stupid to smear someone's reputation and risk a lawsuit simply because I enjoy smearing his reputation. I do it because scumbags like him are ruining science. Even if the connection between the pseudonym and my real identity can be made, I have exposed the culprit while using the pseudonym (which does provide me with some protection). I guess that if Roisen had a case against me he probably would sue Solomon Rivlin LLC by now for spreading lies about him.

Anyhow, I thank you for the advice to stew in silence, even if it is the wrong one. Scumbags like Roisen are surviving because of the unspoken Code of Silence, which you appear to favour.

Nonwithstanding, I will consider your advice to post some of the documents I have for everyone to see. I need some time for more reliable consultations than your high volume cries when taking into account the ramifications of such an action.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 01 Jul 2007 #permalink

Bill, you still do not get it.

I've been thinking, and I'm starting to think you're right.

I've been saying that you're making things worse for future whistleblowers (which is, given your situation, a very harsh thing to say), but I have only proposed a weak mechanism -- "association with you and your tactics". That argument is not worth much unless Roisen is innocent, and if that were so why would you do this? As far as I can tell, you have gained nothing and risked much.

I think that I have been overcompensating in Roisen's favor (because I am in fact inclined to believe you), and it has led me further from the objectivity I sought than simply taking your words at face value would have.

I have been saying that you should pursue an open case, or stew in silence -- but what exactly do I want from you here? I cannot see how you have a basis for legal action, which leaves the academic avenues for complaint -- and if I had read more than the free download sample of your book, my guess is that it would be clear that you have exhausted those.

The combination of pseudonym and revealing Roisen's name through hints and blog comments still bothers me. It seems underhanded. (On the other hand, maybe it is, shall we say, ethically less than optimal, but still better than the alternative -- silence. Life does not always present choices between good and bad; sometimes it's between bad and worse.)

I think the "sneakiness" issue and my frustration at not being able to see all the facts of the case (once again, a certain book does come to mind...) accounts for most of my animosity in this thread. I would say "you started it" but that stopped working when I was about six. Besides, you have a decade's worth of reasons to be sensitive on this topic, and I could have said the same things without being hostile. So for my rudeness above, I apologize -- both as a matter of simple respect and because the thread would have been more productive without that distraction.

I just bought your book. I'll post my own review on my own blog, and leave a note in this thread, when I've read it. I have a feeling I will have to start with a large helping of crow.

Bill, I never worked so hard to sell a single copy of the book! ;)

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 01 Jul 2007 #permalink

I read it and thought the book important.

I posted a "review" of sorts here…

As Janet says the language is fascinating. There may be some merit in having a linguist extract the common threads of several of these problems.

As scientists we should learn from the outcome of past experiments. The nul hypothesis is that these sorts of problems are near impossible to raise, and that the chance of a plausible examination is practically zero. There are innumerable cases that tell us that the nul hypothesis is not disproven (with very tight confidence intervals around zero). As such criticism of the mode of raising seems inappropriate. One does what one has to do.

Aubrey Blumsohn