Tag Archives: Diederik Stapel

The Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel — who made up fake data for at least 30 published papers — has reached an out-of-court settlement with prosecutors.

The Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel — who made up fake data for at least 30 published papers — has reached an out-of-court settlement with prosecutors.

The sad state of modern science

Two stories today illustrate the levels of corruption that now percolate through many fields of science, helped by a willing and sometimes ignorant press.

First, a final report has been issued in the investigation into the fraudulent research of social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Sadly, it appears the report condemns the entire field:
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Diederik Stapel, the psychologist who had fabricated his results in numerous published papers and has since resigned, is now under investigation by Dutch prosecutors.

Diederik Stapel, the psychologist who had fabricated his results in numerous published papers and has since resigned, is now under investigation by Dutch prosecutors.

Twenty-five of Stapel’s papers have now been retracted.

More fraud in the social psychology field: A psychologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam has resigned, with two of his papers now retracted.

More fraud in the social psychology field: A psychologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam has resigned for faking data, with two of his papers now retracted.

[Dirk] Smeesters conceded to employing the so-called “blue-dot technique,” in which subjects who have apparently not read study instructions carefully are identified and excluded from analysis if it helps bolster the outcome. According to the report, Smeesters said this type of massaging was nothing out of the ordinary. He “repeatedly indicates that the culture in his field and his department is such that he does not feel personally responsible, and is convinced that in the area of marketing and (to a lesser extent) social psychology, many consciously leave out data to reach significance without saying so.”

But the university panel goes on to say that it can’t determine whether the numbers Smeesters says he massaged existed at all. He could not supply raw data for the three problematic experiments; they had been stored on a computer at his home that had crashed in September 2011 and whose data his brother-in-law had assured him were irretrievable. In addition, the “paper-and-pencil data” had also been lost when Smeesters moved house. The panel says it cannot establish Smeesters committed fraud, but says he is responsible for the loss of the raw data and their massaging.

That Smeesters considers it perfectly okay to manipulate data to strengthen his conclusions tells us how little he knows about science. That he considers this “common in his field” suggests that we should probably not pay much attention to almost anything published in the field of social psychology, especially considering last year’s scandal.

The University of Connecticut has found the chief of its biology lab — an expert on the health benefits of drinking wine — guilty of falsifying and fabricating data on more than two dozen papers and grant applications.

More science fraud: The University of Connecticut has found the chief of its biology lab — an expert on the health benefits of drinking wine — guilty of falsifying and fabricating data on more than two dozen papers and grant applications.

A 60,000-page report issued yesterday (you can read a 49-page summary here) by [University of Connecticut Health Center] (UCHC) found [Dipak] Das guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data, involving at least 23 papers and 3 grant applications. … UCHC has frozen externally funded research in Das’ lab, and it turned away $890,000 in federal grants while the investigation was underway. The university has also begun proceedings to fire Das.

Just as in the Stapel case in the Netherlands, we have here another example of the science community responding correctly to scientific fraud. Both examples stand in stark contrast to how the climate science community whitewashed the fraud and malfeasance in its own community.

Diederik Stapel, the Dutch social psychologist who admitted to faking data in numerous published papers, has retracted his first paper

Diederik Stapel, the Dutch social psychologist who admitted to faking data in numerous published papers, has retracted the first paper of many, with more retractions sure to follow.

A day earlier, the Dutch university committees investigating Stapel issued a preliminary report that indicated that Stapel had fabricated or manipulated data in at least several dozen publications, but the report did not name specific papers (see Report finds massive fraud at Dutch universities).

The committees, at the universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Tilburg where Stapel studied and worked between 1994 and 2011, plan to identify tainted papers in a final report that will not be completed until mid-2012 at the earliest, says Pim Levelt, head of the Tilburg committee and director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Why can’t the climate field do this? It would help them recover the trust they have lost resulting from the obvious research frauds uncovered by the climategate emails.

An investigation has concluded that a fired Dutch researcher falsified data on dozens of papers

Why even peer-reviewed research must always be questioned: An investigation has concluded that a fired Dutch researcher falsified data on dozens of papers.

[Diederik] Stapel’s work encompassed a broad range of attention-catching topics, including the influence of power on moral thinking and the reaction of psychologists to a plagiarism scandal. The committee, which interviewed dozens of Stapel’s former students, postdoctoral researchers, co-authors, and colleagues, found that Stapel alone was responsible for the fraud. The panel reported that he would discuss in detail experimental designs, including drafting questionnaires, and would then claim to conduct the experiments at high schools and universities with which he had special arrangements. The experiments, however, never took place, the universities concluded. Stapel made up the datasets, which he then gave the student or collaborator for analysis, investigators allege. In other instances, the report says, he told colleagues that he had an old dataset lying around that he hadn’t yet had a chance to analyze. When Stapel did conduct actual experiments, the committee found evidence that he manipulated the results.

I’m not sure which is worst about this scandal, that Stapel’s dishonesty has tainted the PhD’s of 21 innocent students, or that none of his fellow researchers ever had the brains, skepticism, or mental muscle to challenge his results.

Stapel’s fabrications weren’t particularly sophisticated, the committee says, and on careful inspection many of the datasets have improbable effect sizes and other statistical irregularities. His colleagues, when they failed to replicate the results, tended to blame themselves, the report says. Among Stapel’s colleagues, the description of data as too good to be true “was a heartfelt compliment to his skill and creativity,” the report says.

Update: I’d like to add one more addendum to this story, (covered today by Nature with its own long article). Unlike the climate field, where the scientists circled the wagons and protected the scientists who committed the frauds with whitewashed investigations, the field of social psychology and the scientists in the Netherlands have been refreshingly blunt and forthright in trying to clear the air by tracking down all Stapel’s corrupt papers. For this at least they deserve kudos.

A Dutch university fires social psychologist over faked data

A Dutch university has fired a noted social psychologist who has admitted his science research was based on faked data.

[Diederik] Stapel has worked at the university, located in southern Netherlands, since 2006. He is known as a prolific researcher and a successful fundraiser. His studies appeared to offer new insights into the workings of the human mind; for instance, a Science paper published in April showed that people are more likely to stereotype or discriminate in messy environments.

In the TV interview, [university rector Philip] Eijlander says he was first contacted on 27 August by “junior researchers” in Stapel’s lab who alleged that his conduct was fraudulent. Stapel immediately admitted that there was “something strange” in his papers, Eijlander says, and “yesterday, he told me that there are faked data.” The university has asked Willem Levelt, a psycholinguist and former president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, to lead a panel investigating the extent of the alleged fraud. Eijlander says that all “tainted papers” will be retracted. [emphasis mine]

I purposely emphasis the publication of this faked research in the peer review journal Science to illustrate how this story once again demonstrates that just because a science paper is peer reviewed, that is absolutely no guarantee that it is either correct, or even legitimate. The field of science (with a small “s”) always requires everyone to exercise a strong sense of skepticism. Appeals to authority (“It was published in Science!”) should carry no weight.