A Dutch university fires social psychologist over faked data


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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.

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