Responsible Whistleblowing: A Whistleblower's Bill of Rights
a. Communication: Whistleblowers are free to disclose lawfully whatever information supports a reasonable belief of research misconduct as it is defined by PHS policy. An individual or institution that retaliates against any person making protected disclosures engages in prohibited obstruction of investigations of research misconduct as defined by the Commission on Research Integrity. Whistleblowers must respect the confidentiality of sensitive information and give legitimate institutional structures an opportunity to function. Should a whistleblower elect to make a lawful disclosure that violates institutional rules of confidentiality, the institution may thereafter legitimately limit the whistleblower's access to further information about the case.
b. Protection from retaliation: Institutions have a duty not to tolerate or engage in retaliation against good-faith whistleblowers. This duty includes providing appropriate and timely relief to ameliorate the consequences of actual or threatened reprisals, and holding accountable those who retaliate. Whistleblowers and other witnesses to possible research misconduct have a responsibility to raise their concerns honorably and with foundation.
c. Fair procedures: Institutions have a duty to provide fair and objective procedures for examining and resolving complaints, disputes, and allegations of research misconduct. In cases of alleged retaliation that are not resolved through institutional intervention, whistleblowers should have an opportunity to defend themselves in a proceeding where they can present witnesses and confront those they charge with retaliation against them, except when they violate rules of confidentiality.
Whistleblowers have a responsibility to participate honorably in such procedures by respecting the serious consequences for those they accuse of misconduct, and by using the same standards to correct their own errors that they apply to others.
d. Procedures free from partiality: Institutions have a duty to follow procedures that are not tainted by partiality arising from personal or institutional conflict of interest or other sources of bias. Whistleblowers have a responsibility to act within legitimate institutional channels when raising concerns about the integrity of research. They have the right to raise objections concerning the possible partiality of those selected to review their concerns without incurring retaliation.
e. Information: Institutions have a duty to elicit and evaluate fully and objectively information about concerns raised by whistleblowers. Whistleblowers may have unique knowledge needed to evaluate thoroughly responses from those whose actions are questioned. Consequently, a competent investigation may involve giving whistleblowers one or more opportunities to comment on the accuracy and completeness of information relevant to their concerns, except when they violate rules of confidentiality.
f. Timely processes: Institutions have a duty to handle cases involving alleged research misconduct as expeditiously as is possible without compromising responsible resolutions. When cases drag on for years, the issue becomes the dispute rather than its resolution. Whistleblowers have a responsibility to facilitate expeditious resolution of cases by good-faith participation in misconduct procedures.
g. Vindication: At the conclusion of proceedings, institutions have a responsibility to credit promptly--in public and/or in private as appropriate--those whose allegations are substantiated.
Every right carries with it a corresponding responsibility. In this context, the Whistleblower Bill of Rights carries the obligation to avoid false statements and unlawful behavior.