Gagging the Truth
Fifteen years ago, I was working under two senior professors who falsified data. I reported it to the university research ethics committee. The committee treated me like I was calling their fathers rapists.
They brought more than one university attorney with them, unbeknownst to me, so I was a lone assistant professor facing twelve people including a legal expert. Despite a two pile of evidence in front of me, they sliced and diced me.
In the end, the committee came back with a ridiculous conclusion — insufficient evidence to determine events. They had plenty of evidence. The only thing I mysteriously could never find was the specific email the senior researchers sent me from Washington, D.C. saying they had done the analysis I was incapable of completing — in their cab — and ordering me as their postdoctoral research assistant to submit an abstract to a conference.
We presented the falsified results from that cab ride at a medical conference. There are still people walking around that believe what we told them. But just like Trump’s power to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, the university had the power to keep me quiet. As a result, science is warped. Science is set back.
I was coerced into signing a nondisclosure agreement. I was referred to a good lawyer who was busy and passed my case off to a horrible lawyer. I was being bullied by the coworkers of the professors I reported. But under my real name, I can’t tell you this story at all. I definitely can’t tell you specific details.
This coerced non-disclosure agreement means the public is being kept in the dark about two questionable researchers and about the falseness of the science we presented.
Obviously, everyone is aware of the many nondisclosure agreements keeping the public in the dark about everything from the Stormy Daniels affair to the White House to #Me,too cases.
It is almost never the case that NDAs are signed without a coercive element. Sign this or you won’t get this money you need to live on now that you don’t have a job. Sign this or you won’t get this job recommendation you need to get a new job. Sign this because our panel of attorneys are just threatening and intimidating compared to your one. Sign this because you don’t have the money to fight it.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that America is full of secrets. I am willing to bet most of them are being kept by groups of people who are being abused in various ways. NDAs are keeping those secrets. Maybe they are not such a good idea?