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WHISTLING AT THE FAKE
PODCAST
The Value of Truth in Science

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In this episode, Dr. Dawn Carpenter is in conversation with Dr. Elisabeth Bik and Dr. Ivan Oransky.
 

Dr. Elisabeth Bik is a microbiologist and scientific integrity consultant who has worked to call out fraudulent scientific papers. She became renowned for her fight against the bad science behind hydroxychloroquine as an effective therapy against COVID-19 that resulted in a global Twitter assault.
Dr. Ivan Oransky is an accomplished journalist, editor, and educator who founded Retraction Watch, the world’s only aggregated database of scientific retraction. 

This episode has been produced by What Does It Profit? as part of "Whistling at the Fake: The Crucial Role of Whistleblowers in Countering Disinformation," an international research project funded by NATO's Public Diplomacy Division as part of its resilience projects. The project aims at addressing the gap of citizen comprehension of the forms, means, and impacts of misinformation and disinformation, and empowering the general public with the tools through which to identify fake news, including appropriate responses to such behaviors. The project focuses on the crucial role whistleblowers and other knowledgeable insiders play in exposing misleading and hostile information activities and increasing public resilience to acts of this nature.

 

The project is managed by Manchester Metropolitan University and coordinated by the Principal Investigator Dr. Costantino Grasso, who serves as Associate Professor in Business and Law at Manchester Law School.

Suggested Citation

APA: [Speaker's surname, initial(s)] (2022, March 9). What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“. Audio recording at 00:00. Retrieved from https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

HARVARD: [Speaker's surname, initial(s)] (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 00:00. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

OSCOLA: [Speaker's name and surname] ‘What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“’ (Corporate Crime Observatory, 09 March 2022), audio recording at 00:0, <https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science>.

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Whistling At the Fake: The Value of Truth in Science Dr. Dawn Carpenter with Dr. Elisabeth Bik and Dr. Ivan Oransky
00:00 / 35:53

Overview

The Whistling at the Fake project, in conjunction with the What Does it Profit? podcast hosted by Dr. Dawn Carpenter, has taken the opportunity to discuss matters of misinformation and disinformation in science, and the moral value of truth with Dr. Elisabeth Bik, and Dr. Ivan Oransky.

 
Principally, the discussion turns to what does it mean to be a whistleblower, with Dr. Oransky explaining whistleblowing may be understood as an act, to reveal, uncover, or otherwise demonstrate a problem. This may be either within the private corporate sphere or the public governmental space. 


Dr. Oransky takes the opportunity to differentiate between what he considers a ‘lowercase w’ whistleblower, and a ‘capital W’ Whistleblower. The salient distinction between what may be understood as these two acts is the role of the person performing them, with the ‘lowercase w’ being a person who discloses what they understand to be wrongdoing in order to alert to it but is not necessarily an institutional insider, and those who are ‘capital W’ Whistleblowers belonging to the organization from which the perceived wrongdoing emanates, and as such, may be recognized as making a disclosure with a level of protection under the law.

 
This distinction, Dr. Oransky explains, is of importance as often people wish to make disclosures of wrongdoing but are unaware of how much protection they have, or do not have, and are therefore vulnerable to acts of retaliation without appropriate recourse. 


Along with this distinction, Dr. Bik considers herself a whistleblower from the outside, or a ‘lower case w’ whistleblower, in her role identifying falsified or otherwise problematic scientific academic papers.  Within this capacity, Dr. Bik is able to provide interesting insights into the dynamics that affect not just drawing attention to wrongdoing or fraudulent claims, but the distinction in these claims being brought by a woman, and the shifting nature of retaliatory claims that focus on personal aspects such as appearance, as opposed to defending the science or rebuffing the claim.

 
Echoing this, Dr. Oransky identifies a situation where a group of individuals made a disclosure, and the levels and forms of retaliation and reaction were different depending on gender and ethnicity, with women from ethnic minorities being treated disproportionately harsher.
Briefly considering the ability to make disclosures, and disincentives to disclose, Dr. Oransky draws attention to an individual’s prospects being the hands of the person who is subject to the disclosure – that if you are blowing the whistle against someone who is able to approve or otherwise a promotion or workplace activity, there is provided an added hurdle to highlighting wrongdoing, and it is in this context that outsider whistleblowers free of these constraints or considerations provide added value.


The discussion then turns to specific reactions and experiences of retaliation resultant of disclosures, and the important impact this potentially has when attempting to bring wrongdoing to attention, or highlight fraudulent and problematic behaviors, including harassment, reputational damage, and threats.


Following this, the guests then address the importance of accurate and rigorous scientific knowledge when it is at the forefront of public policy decision making, by example during instances such as COVID-19. Considering this, it is highlighted that science may be misconstrued or otherwise cherry-picked in order to lend scientific legitimacy to political and public policy aims, and as such completely disregards the scientific method in order to spread misinformation and disinformation.

One of the significant driving factors in the creation of poor-quality scientific information is the institutional pressure placed upon scientists to publish academic papers, whereby this creates perverse incentives to distribute information that may not be accurate and supports the spreading of misinformation and disinformation.

 
When asked the quintessential question of the What Does it Profit podcast, why do you do what you do, Dr. Bik locates the value in her work as facilitating effective future research based on the best available scientific knowledge at the time, as opposed to being tainted by information that is problematic or otherwise fraudulent. Doing so provides value to future generations, impacts policymakers, and lessens the effect of disinformation. 

Select Opinions and Arguments

Whistleblowing may be understood as an act, something someone is doing to reveal, uncover, or otherwise demonstrate a problem. Perhaps a very serious problem. This may be either the way a company is conducting its business, the government is conducting its business, or the way a scientist is conducting their business.

Suggested citation: Oransky, Ivan (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 03:54. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

Often there is a great personal risk to being a whistleblower, be it losing their job, and having their personal information disclosed, or physical retaliation, and it’s important that people are aware of these risks before they make a disclosure. The effect is, unfortunately, that people often choose not to make the disclosure.

Suggested citation: Oransky, Ivan (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 05:00. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

 

The retaliation faced by virtue of being a female whistleblower includes an added personal dimension with a focus not on the claim itself, but on intentions to discredit qualifications and attacks on personal appearance, amongst other things.

Suggested citation: Bik, Elisabeth (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 06:51. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

 

In an environment where groups of individuals have made a disclosure, resultant retaliation has been much more keenly felt and harsher against women and ethnic minorities, as opposed to white males.

Suggested citation: Oransky, Ivan (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 10:55. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

 

What has made a significant difference in the willingness to continue to identify and highlight wrongdoing in the face of retaliation is the support of others who continue to call out those retaliating, and those who lend moral support.

Suggested citation: Bik, Elisabeth (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 15:55. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science

Within the context of COVID-19 much public policy is being made on the basis of science, however, this requires the science to be rigorous and high quality, but rather, what is being experienced is poor public policy decisions based on cherry-picking or ignoring scientific results in order to achieve political aims.

Suggested citation: Bik, Elisabeth (2022) What Does It Profit? - Whistling at the Fake - Podcast “The Value of Truth in Science“ [Online]. Audio recording at 20:12. Available at: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/podcast-the-value-of-truth-in-science