Engineer's seven years of misery for telling truth: The American Association for the Advancement of Science

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The Independent Online
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AN ENGINEER who spoke out over technical problems with the space shuttle Challenger said it had taken him seven years to recover from the ill effects his 'whistle-blowing' caused him.

Roger Boisjoly warned delegates of the personal and professional risks 'truth-tellers' take.

Speaking at a session on ethics in science, Mr Boisjoly said his life changed radically the instant he testified to the Presidential Commission set up to examine the Challenger disaster. Mr Boisjoly was an engineer at Morton Thiokol, the contractor for the solid rocket fuel booster whose failed O-ring joint led, in part, to the shuttle disaster.

He told the meeting that his life was made a misery. At work colleagues spurned him and he was kept away from important projects. He also suffered classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome, including a serious heart condition, double vision, anxiety and depression. He was not able to work for five years, but now runs his own engineering consultancy and acts as an expert witness on technical issues in court.

Robert Sprague, another speaker at the conference, said he too had suffered since blowing the whistle on a colleague.

The colleague, Stephen Breuning, was later found guilty of scientific misconduct after dosing mentally ill patients with psychoactive drugs. 'I have been trailed at conferences, and my speeches 'corrected'. I have had research grants refused time and time again,' he said.

Mr Boisjoly advised potential whistle-blowers to think carefully before going ahead: 'You must be aware that you will have to pay a very high price,' he said.