Let us say that someone has been aware of scientific and professional misconduct in academia. They blew the whistle, and they were heavily retaliated against. A multi-million dollar grant was involved. Also, the Feds are involved to some extent.

To my knowledge, it isn't libel if it is true. I do know that going public would void any further investigations. But what are the legal ramifications of going public with serious forms of corruption at this particular university?

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    That sounds awfully broad. You cryptically mention that "going public would void any further investigations." That sounds like a ramification. You also ask about "this particular university" without naming it. So in its present form it's logically impossible to answer, and even if it were it's unclear what you're asking. – feetwet Oct 13 '16 at 15:47
  • Let me mention that this is about a professor and their management of a high profile grant. The actual misconduct was committed by a post-doc, but the professor did little to correct it. If the feds are involved, one can imagine this isn't just about whiny graduate student. If the whistleblower were to write a book about these events, what could happen to the whistleblower? – M11293 Oct 13 '16 at 16:22
  • So you're not asking about legal ramifications, but rather consequences for whistleblowing? If the whistleblower is an academic, presumably you'll get better answers at Academia. – feetwet Oct 13 '16 at 16:36

There are no negative legal consequences for the person writing about these acts, assuming that what is written is true, and also assuming the writer is in the US or similar nation where First Amendment protection exists. If the statements are false, then the author is liable under a defamation suit, and the author would want to consult with an attorney to be sure that innuendo about the professor (or post-doc, or the university) did not cross the line and become defamatory. An exception would be if the book reveals classified information, so while it would be legal to imply that there is a classified fact involved, you can't actually reveal that fact. Another potential exception would be if the book unnecessarily revealed specific information that constituted a "trade secret", in which case the author could be liable in a civil suit. A third theoretical avenue for suppressing such a book would be if there were an NDA between the author and the university, and the author learns of the inculpatory facts via a relationship to the project, which he is obligated per the NDA to keep secret. However, the chances that a university would sue for violating such an NDA are nil, and even if they did, the courts would almost certainly toss out the NDA (see this Q&A).

  • Whatever protection other countries may have for freedom of speech, that protection is not First Amendment protection. – phoog Oct 13 '16 at 19:48
  • Yeah, okay, it's not called that but the substance is the same. – user6726 Oct 13 '16 at 19:52
  • The substance may be the same, but in practice the implementation can be quite different. The line between the right to freedom of speech and competing rights and obligations is generally drawn very differently in other jurisdictions. Certain expressions associated with Nazism are banned in parts of Europe, for example, and (more pertinent to this question) defamation law is rather different in the UK compared to the US. – phoog Oct 13 '16 at 19:56

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