Retraction Watch readers will likely be familiar with the story of Paul Brookes, the University of Rochester researcher whose identity as the person behind Science-Fraud.org was revealed in January 2013. That revelation — and legal threats — forced Brookes to shutter Science-Fraud.org.
In a new illuminating interview in Science, Brookes discusses the legal threats he faced, how they curtailed his travel, and how his university responded, among other subjects.
The risks faced by whistleblowers are a constant thread on Retraction Watch. So did the site have an effect on his ability to do science?
Q: Did you worry that your blog would cost you your job and career?
P.B.: Yeah, I am still worried. I am 41 years old, so I have another 25 years of this to go before I retire. I have to continue to get grants, to publish papers, and obviously if there are people out there who are upset with me, then maybe they will review my grants badly, maybe they will review my papers badly. The potential for retaliation is there; there is really no way to get around this.
In the past year, it appears that this is not such a big problem as I thought. My R01 grant from NIH [the National Institutes of Health] was renewed, and then just in January we got a second grant renewed. We published papers last year without major problems. In 10 years’ time, when I am trying to publish a paper, maybe I will come across somebody who is still annoyed at me.
Later in the interview, Brookes reflects on lessons learned:
Q: Do you wish you had done anything different with your blog?
P.B.: I probably would have been more careful about anonymity, more careful about security. One of the major problems was the name of the blog; it was a little bit harsh, and also the rhetoric was maybe in some cases a little bit harsh. I am British; we swear a lot. So you will see from the things I am posting, more recently on PubPeer and other places, that I am being more careful with the language.
Read the whole Q&A here.