Posts Tagged ‘Social psychology’

Stapel fraud report blames lack of critical scientific culture

November 28, 2012

The massive Diedrik Stapel fraud broke a year ago and the final investigation report “Failing science: The fraudulent research practices of social psychologist Diederik Stapel” has now been published. The final fraud count is quite staggering. 55 papers, 10 theses and possibly a further 11 publications were fraudulent. That’s 10 PhD students who will have doctorates rescinded or must start from scratch! The report is in Dutch  (pdf): Final Report Stapel Investigation

Human behaviour in all its aspects and including social psychology are certainly disciplines worthy of study and I would not go so far as to say they can never become sciences. But social psychology is certainly  no science yet. Stapel’s behaviour – which is by no means unique for publicity hunting social psychologists – was nothing more than pseudoscience and will not advance the progress of this discipline into becoming a science.

Dutchnews reports:

A report into how a Dutch university professor was able to fake research data for years blames the absence of a critical scientific culture at academic institutions.

Stapel, who was a professor of social and behavioural sciences at Tilburg, was suspended in September 2011 after doubts emerged about research that concluded eating meat makes people anti-social and selfish.

The report, compiled by special commissions from four universities where Stapel worked, concludes at least 55 out of 130 academic papers written by Stapel and 10 graduate student theses he was supervising contain fraudulent data. There are doubts about the authenticity of a further 11 papers.

The 108-page report says colleagues who worked with Stapel had not been sufficiently critical. This was not deliberate fraud but ‘academic carelessness’, the report said. ‘The critical function of science has failed at all levels,’ the report said. 

In a statement, Stapel said he had failed as a scientist. ‘I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain I have caused others,’ he said. ‘I feel sorry, shame and I blame myself. The truth would have been better served without me.’

…. Finance ministry officials are also investigating Stapel because much of his work was funded by public research money.

Social psychology falls from grace

July 3, 2012

It is not only scientists in social psychology who indulge in fraud.  Anthropology for example has had its share of frauds. While corporations – such as Glaxo Smith Kline– can be held liable and sanctioned for fraud, it is very rare for individual academics who fake data in pursuit of their own agendas to be held liable. Why cannot a concept of tort or “product liability”apply to scientists? The members of the medical profession who aided and abetted GSK are unlikely to face any sanctions. But the recent scandals of social psychologists faking data to show statistical correlations between sets of propositions and then inferring causal relationships have demonstrated two things which I think apply in many more so-called “scientific” disciplines  than just social psychology. :

  1. The ease with which sampled data can be faked or cherry picked by workers from reputed institutions to show apparent correlations can then be provided a stamp of authority through the publication of “peer-reviewed” papers, and
  2. that there is a need to return to the scientific method of focusing on propositions that are falsifiable and to avoid the temptation of concluding that any positive statistical correlation provides proof of a causal relationship.

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Diederik Stapel faked at least 30 papers

October 31, 2011

Social psychology is going to take a beating over the Diederik Stapel fraud. It provides ample fuel for the view that social psychology is no science but merely the half-baked opinions of narcissists and charlatans. Ego trips and TV appearances have governed the field rather than any scientific rigour.

The interim report of the investigation being carried out by the of Universities of Tilburg and Groningen which started in mid September is now out.

Diederik Stapel

The interim report (in Dutch) is here:

pdf Stapel interim-rapport

The extent of the fraud is breathtaking and the investigation is far from over. At least 30 papers have been found to contain fraudulent data, at least 14 doctoral theses that he supervised are compromised for using fabricated data and in all about 150 papers going back to 2004 are being investigated. Legal action is to be taken. This one is going down in the history books.

(Update! 1st November: Science Insider carries the story here)

Dutch News writes:

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