Tag Archives: Dirk Smeesters

The journal Science once again excuses scientific fraud

Science has once again decided to make excuses for scientific fraud.

The first link is describes Science’s willingness in 2011 to excuse the illegal effort of Phil Jones and Michael Mann to delete emails in the climategate scandal. The second link is Science’s effort today to protect another scientist, social scientist Dirk Smeesters, who — as described in the third link — was forced to resign from his university and retract two papers after being caught fudging data to produce the results he wanted.

This quote below however — from the Science article itself — should have been all a scientific peer-reviewed journal like Science should have needed to know:

Smeesters repeated in the interview what he told the university: That he only engaged in so-called data massaging, a “large grey area” in his field, and that the raw data for some of his experiments were lost when his home computer crashed. Paper records for the studies, he added, also disappeared when he moved his office. [emphasis mine]

A scientist who admits that he fiddled with his raw data to get the results he wants, and then admits losing that raw data so that no one can check him deserves no defense ever from the scientific community. That Science is willing to make such a defense is further evidence that something is really rotten in the established upper echelons of American science.

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.