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Whistle-blowing: an act of - courage or foolishness

whistle-blowing, whistle-blower, courage, diplomacy, wrong-doers, foolishness

Whistle-blowing refers to bring into public whatever wrong is going inside one’s institute or company. Whistleblowers may be found anywhere- in government organizations, private companies or academia. However this article restricts itself to the whistle-blowing in institutes of higher education and/or research.

Whistle-blowing is simply raising one’s voice in public against one or more wrong / unethical practice(s) going on at one’s workplace. Malpractices prevalent in academia may include following: plagiarism, turning students against a particular faculty, biased evaluation during exams, creating hurdles in other’s research work, misuse of institute’s resources, promoting indiscipline or unionbaji for satisfying vested interests, etc.

Majority of the people try to be ‘diplomatic’ while dealing with any of such malpractices listed above. They take care of themselves not being harmed, but at the same time avoid direct clashes with the wrong doers. In worldly sense such people are called ‘wise’ and ‘diplomatic’. Arguably this ‘wisdom’ may well be labeled as cowardice, because not opposing the wrong is simply promoting or protecting it. However few people find enough courage to oppose the wrong and the wrong doers, while they themselves may or may not be harmed directly by the wrong practices. These courageous people fight the wrong for the overall good of their employing body. They are likely to do so purely out of loyalty to their employing institute.

Almost with no exception whistle-blowing brings bitter consequences for the person who blows the whistle. There are all probabilities of him/her being attacked from all corners, by them whose dirty realities come into light by the blower’s act. In few cases however the blower may get support and be successful in eradicating the malpractices.

Whenever the whistle-blowers suffer, they are called fools for inviting troubles by starting fight against powerful lobbies. Certainly by doing the act of whistle-blower any person puts himself at odds with dirty but powerful lobbies. What is the role of society after the whistle-blower has done his job? Answer is clear. Society need to act fast, first for ensuring credibility of the ‘whistle-blower’, and then removing the evils pointed out by him from the institute or company in question. Of course protection of the whistle-blower has to be made sure (framing ‘whistle-blower protection act’ helps, but alone is not sufficient), if society wants to keep the tradition of whistle-blowing live, which is very much essential to the maintenance of honesty and morality at large.

Does society meet its obligation fully? Perhaps not. We know not all plagiarists are punished (some even reach high positions in their area !), not all honest and courageous are rewarded. Whistle-blowing, though not a smooth operation, will be required till the time, most people start respecting the concepts of ‘academic honesty’, and ‘good scientific practice’.

Let us learn to respect the selfless whistle-blowers, they may be fool enough to create multiple enemies, but they are courageous enough to be saluted and admired.
Published: 2009-11-05
Author: vijay kothari

About the author or the publisher
I am a microbiologist, acting as an Assistant Professor in Science with Nirma University. My current research is focused on natural products.

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