CSE4317 Individual Presentation Topics

Whistle Blowing [Bowyer, Chapter 7]

  1. The Challenger incident. The Challenger incident is an excellent example for a modern case study. Although the Challenger incident is covered in one of the reprinted articles, the coverage there is quite brief relative to the importance of the incident. A great deal of information relating to the Challenger incident has been published. Boisjoly's personal account appears in Ethical Issues in Engineering (Prentice-Hall, 1991). Richard Feynman's account of the Challenger inquiry appears in the February 1988 issue of Physics Today. Read these and other accounts of the Challenger incident and report on the role of the whistle blowers. [Additional Assignment #1, page 243, Bowyer, 2nd edition.]

  2. The software-engineering side of the Star Wars project. David Parnas is a well-known and highly respected professor and senior researcher in software engineering. The Star Wars (or Strategic Defense Initiative) system was proposed by President Reagan as a shield against nuclear attack. The concept was that missiles sent toward targets in the United States would be detected and destroyed before they arrived. In May 1985, Parnas was asked to serve as a member of an advisory panel to SDI that would make recommendations about research and development for the computing-systems side of SDI. At the consulting rate of $1,000 per day (in 1985), this was a plum appointment. However, he soon resigned from the panel and became a firm opponent of SDI (see article in Winter 1987 issue of Abacus published by Springer-Verlag). Report on his concerns and the reaction to his whistle blowing. [Additional Assignment #2, page 243, Bowyer, 2nd edition.]

  3. The Three Mile Island reactor cleanup. The partial meltdown that occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was the worst accident to date in the U.S. nuclear power industry. The cleanup of this accident became, in effect, a major applied research project. Many new special-purpose pieces of equipment were designed and built for the task. Ed Gischel, Rick Parks, and Larry King were engineers on the cleanup project who became concerned that corners were being cut to meet deadlines. S. Unger's book Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer (John Wiley and Sons, 1984, 2nd edition) provides and overview of this incident and a number of additional references. Report on the details of this incident and the effects on the careers of the whistle blowers. [Additional Assignment #6, page 243, Bowyer, 2nd edition.]

  4. Frederic Whitehurst blows whistle on FBI. Frederic Whitehurst, the whistle-blower who triggered an overhaul of the FBI's world-renowned crime lab and claimed he was singled out for retaliation, left the bureau with a settlement worth more than $1.16 million. Report on the details of this incident, the settlement, and what Whitehurst is doing now.

  5. Whistle-blowing suit against Blue Cross Blue Shield. Evelyn Knoob filed a lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act in 1995, alleging fraudulent practices by her employer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Report on the details of the incident, the result of the lawsuit, and Knoob's current situation.

  6. Jeffrey Wigand blows the whistle on the tobacco industry. Jeffrey Wigand, whose story was made popular by the movie The Insider, blew the whistle on the tobacco industry. In 1995, Wigand was the star witness in the State of Mississippi's lawsuit against the tobacco industry seeking reimbursement for the cost of smoking-related illnesses. Report on the details of this incident, the outcome of the lawsuit, the effects on Wigand's life and career, and the effects on the tobacco industry.

  7. Whistle blower exposes hospital drug thefts. In July 1998, the Harris County Hospital District in Houston was ordered to pay over 2 million dollars to fired pharmacist Edward Eduok. Eduok, a Nigerian immigrant, was fired in 1995 after providing information that led to the conviction of three hospital officials involved in a drug theft operation. Report on the details of this incident and the outcome of the trial.