Heroism Science: Call for Papers, Special Issue: The Heroism of Whistleblowers

Heroism Science: Call for Papers, Special Issue

The Heroism of Whistleblowers

Edited by Ari Kohen, Brian Riches, and Matt Langdon

Whistleblowers speak up with “concerns or information about wrongdoing inside organizations and institutions.” As such, whistleblowing “can be one of the most important and difficult forms of heroism in modern society” (Brown, 2016 p. 1). Heroism requires altruistic motivation to benefit non-relative others at the risk to the self; thus, while some acts of whistleblowing are not motivated by the altruistic desire to help others, whistleblowers can act heroically and make dramatic impacts on organizations and situations to benefit the lives of others. While whistleblowers have been categorized as heroes for at least a decade (Franco, Blau, & Zimbardo, 2011), there is still little research into this category of  heroic behavior.

The majority of research on whistleblowers exists in the fields of business ethics, management, law,   healthcare, public administration, and psychology. But there is currently not enough empirical work on whistleblowers as heroes. As such, Heroism Science will publish a special issue devoted to the topic of the phenomenon of whistleblowing and whistleblowers as heroes. Our goal is to increase scholarship and understanding of whistleblowers through the lens of heroism science. Submissions are welcome from diverse fields including psychology, sociology, cross cultural studies, political science, history, the humanities, philosophy, popular culture studies, and international relations. All papers will be considered and priority will be given to empirical papers discussing new qualitative and/or quantitative evidence. Additionally, all papers will be sent out for peer review from at least two relevant experts in the field.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Challenges that whistleblowers face in government as compared to industry or care services (nurses, elder care)
  • Rank, social supports, organizational cultures, and other factors that make whistleblowing easier or more difficult
  • “Everyday” whistleblowers who make less publicized changes such as getting an organizational policy changed, created, or getting a supervisor dismissed. Similar to “everyday heroes” who risk their physical safety, how common are the “everyday whistleblowers” and what do they look like?
  • Ways in which businesses and other organizations can improve their cultures to reduce the need for whistleblowing
  • Whistleblowers as an organizational failure
  • Whistleblowing as heroic behavior
  • Personality characteristics of whistleblowers
  • Lifespan development of whistleblowers
  • What does life look like for whistleblowers who “fail” to achieve their goals? Do they continue to try to make change? Do they fall into despair and depression? Are they arrested? Killed?
  • Factors that lead to whistleblower “success” where change was achieved
  • Differences between social and civil heroes
  • Lessons we can learn from whistleblowers
  • Policies supportive of whistleblowers
  • Countries and cultures with strong support for whistleblowing and how they build that support

Submission Instructions

Interested authors are asked to submit a 200-300 word proposal to Ari Kohen by June 30, 2020. If accepted, completed papers are due by October 1, 2020. Completed papers should be between 5,000 and 7,000 words, including references. Please send proposals or questions to akohen2@unl.edu

Here is a link to the Heroism Science Journal


Brown, A. J. (2016). Whistleblowers as Heroes: Fostering “Quiet” Heroism in Place of the Heroic Whistleblower Stereotype. In Handbook of heroism and heroic leadership, eds. Allison, S. T., Goethals, G. R., and Kramer, R. M. New York: Routledge. pp. 378-398.

Franco, Z. E., Blau, K., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2011). Heroism: A conceptual analysis and differentiation between heroic action and altruism. Review of General Psychology, 15, 99-113. doi:10.1037/a0022672

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