Dr. Ranjit Kumar Chandra spent almost three decades working at Memorial University before one of his secrets was finally revealed. A study he'd conducted on multivitamins was clearly a fake. No doubt his employer breathed a sign of relief when Dr. Chandra chose to retire quietly and move away.
Memorial had a secret of its own. It had never told the scientific world that this was not the first time nor even the second time that Chandra had committed scientific fraud.
"How can you question this guy: He's world famous, he's published dozens of studies and there were claims that he had been nominated for a Nobel Prize and he had been selected by the United Nations to set up a nutrition immunology centre in Newfoundland," Masor says. "He was the pride and joy of Canada. I mean this guy had a real reputation. So for anyone to challenge him and go against that reputation, I think, was pretty daunting."
Nurse Marilyn Harvey paid the price when she blew the whistle on Chandra. It was back in the early '90s when she told her employers that he was making up results on a baby formula study. The university investigated, but then let him go. And once they did, Chandra turned around and sued Harvey.
"In July of 2000, a knock came on my door and a sheriff delivered me papers [that said I was being] sued by him for stealing data from another study that was done in his department," Harvey says. "We know why he would have sued me. He would have wanted basically, I guess, just to get me back and he wanted to make my life miserable."
Chandra eventually dropped the lawsuit a few months after Harvey proved his claims were bogus. But she says the experience of being a whistleblower is a lonely one.
Right now in Canada, there's no legislation in place to protect whistleblowers like Harvey and, because of that, fraud artists seldom have to worry about someone turning them in.
Berkeley University Prof. Seth Roberts says even if whistleblowers want to come forward, they often decide it's just too risky.
"It's extremely dangerous," he says. "You could easily lose your whole career. Many people have and so, if you're a wise person, you basically don't do it. It's just too dangerous. I know several people who've [done it], their career was destroyed after they blew the whistle."