Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dutch Researcher Admits Cooking Data

The group blog "The Monkey Cage" reports on a case in the Netherlands (reports in Dutch and English) in which a Belgian marketing professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Dirk Smeesters, admitted that he cooked his data.

His results had seemed too good to be true, so after a whistleblower alerted the university an investigation was launched to replicate the data. When this failed, he was asked to produce the original data. He first cited computer problems and then an office move before finally admitting that he had removed data that didn't fit his theory. The university has requested the retraction of his paper from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Associateion and from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, published by Elsevier. Both papers are, however, still on sale online.

Interestingly, Smeesters has claimed that this is the "normal" way of working in his field.  If this is indeed the case, there may be more retractions to follow.

ScienceInsider reports that he has now resigned and has further details on the case. RetractionWatch has CV information that has been removed from the university web page.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Prof. Weber-Wulff,

    Smeesters did not exactly admit to "cooking" (i.e., making up) his data. He merely admitted to moderate data "massaging", such as removing certain observations / data points in order to achieve the desired (publishable) outcome. Such practices, unfortunately, are indeed extremely common / part of the "research" culture in a number of sub-disciplines in Psychology. I can attest to that from personal experience. It's a sorry state of affairs that needs to be addressed.

    The whistleblower has been revealed to be Uri Simonsohn -- who has detailed Smeesters' and another case in a paper (pre-print):

    Contrary to Smeesters' statements, he provides a damning amount of evidence for outright data falsification, not mere data massaging. It's an interesting read.

    With best regards,