Academic Bullying: A Serious Threat for Free Speech & Open Scientific Debate

Reblogged: Originally Posted on December 24, 2014

Elliott Carl. The truth about drug companies (again).

“We already know that big pharma is dirty business, but with his latest book Ben Goldacre mobilises his charisma to effect change, writes Carl Elliott”

“At this stage in the game, the crimes and sins of the pharmaceutical industry are not really in serious dispute any more. Thanks to the hard work of government prosecutors, muckraking reporters, and whistleblowing employees, we know that big pharma rigs clinical trials, hides unfavourable results, ghostwrites journal articles, manipulates professional bodies and regulators, bribes physicians, bullies its enemies, and engages in spectacularly inventive public relations schemes to increase sales of drugs that it knows to be dangerous or worthless. All of this harms patients, by crooking the regulatory process and distorting the medical literature so that doctors unwittingly end up making bad clinical decisions.”

Wood Diana F. Bullying and harassment in medical schools

“Still rife and must be tackled”

“Bullying and harassment occur in all organisations, although rates seem to be higher in healthcare institutions,23 and such behaviour may be more common in medical faculties than in other higher education departments.4 Many definitions of bullying and harassment exist,56 and can be categorised into threats to professional status, threats to personal standing, isolation, overwork, and effects on self confidence. In all cases bullying behaviour is persistent, malicious, and undermining. It has important effects on the psychological wellbeing of the bullied and harassed person in terms of future performance, career choice, and retention within the profession.

Quine Lyn. Workplace bullying in NHS community trust: staff questionnaire survey

“Bullying is a serious problem. Setting up systems for supporting staff and for dealing with interpersonal conflict may have benefits for both employers and staff.”

Godlee Fiona. Secrecy does not serve us well

“Science thrives on open challenge and objective debate. Patients will not receive safe and effective care in an environment characterised by commercial secrecy, bullying of academics and journal editors, or reliance on overstretched regulators.”

“Several aspects of academia lend themselves to the practice and discourage its reporting and mitigation. Its leadership is usually drawn from the ranks of faculty, most of whom have not received the management training that could enable an effective response to such situations.[4] The perpetrators may possess tenure — a high-status and protected position – or the victims may belong to the increasing number of adjunct professors, who are often part-time employees.”

Bullying in academia: ‘professors are supposed to be stressed! That’s the job’ – The Guardian

“He cancelled meetings, piled on additional work and refused to offer any support. I started to drink more – and at 48 – took voluntary redundancy to escape my bullying line manager”

Culture of cruelty: why bullying thrives in higher education – The Guardian

“In an environment where discussion, debate and criticism are encouraged, undermining behaviour can flourish”

academia_Workplace_bullying (download slides) –By Bridget DeFalco & Dr. Peter Crabb
Pennsylvania State University, Hazelton.
Download is also available via files ADVANCE Keashly_Bullying.pdf

Bullying in medicine

BMJ 2002;324:786. 10.1136/bmj.324.7340.786/a

Hedda – Higher Education Development Association.


“A sociology professor at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, Kenneth Westhues, has researched a workplace bullying phenomenom called “mobbing.”

Westhues defines “mobbing” as, “an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker.” The term has gained international recognition, in Europe the term “mobbing” has become a common phrase and France has even passed anti-mobbing laws. Despite anti-mobbing/anti-bullying policies, Westhues’ research shows that the phenomenom is still alive in academia today. A group of European academics host a mobbing blog for academics to discuss the issue as well as serve as a forum for academics who have personally experienced mobbing.
How does the academic culture and institutional practices allow mobbing to develop and persist in the world of higher education?

From The Unkindly Art of Mobbing, by Ken Westhues:
“At a practical level, every professor should be aware of conditions that increase vulnerability to mobbing in academe. Here are five:
• Foreign birth and upbringing, especially as signaled by a foreign accent
• Being different from most colleagues in an elemental way (by sex, for instance, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, class origin, or credentials)
• Belonging to a discipline with ambiguous standards and objectives, especially those (like music or literature) most affected by post-modern scholarship
• Working under a dean or other administrator in whom, as Nietzsche put it, “the impulse to punish is powerful”
• An actual or contrived financial crunch in one’s academic unit (According to an African proverb, when the watering hole gets smaller, the animals get meaner)
Other conditions that heighten the risk of being mobbed are more directly under a prospective target’s control. Five major ones are:
• Having opposed the candidate who ends up winning appointmentas one’s dean or chair (thereby looking stupid, wicked, or crazy in the latter’s eyes)
• Being a rate buster—achieving so much success in teaching or research that colleagues’ envy is aroused
• Publicly dissenting from politically correct ideas (meaning those held sacred by campus elites)
• Defending a pariah in campus politics or the larger cultural arena
• Blowing the whistle on, or even having knowledge of serious wrongdoing by, locally powerful workmates”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  ― Winston S. Churchill

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
Jim Morrison

Disclaimer (updated)

Disclaimer   COI   Chaotic Pharmacology
See more at

  1 comment for “Academic Bullying: A Serious Threat for Free Speech & Open Scientific Debate

  1. January 23, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Reblogged this on theperfectprescription2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: