Despite Occasional Scandals, Science Can Police Itself

The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The public has always been fascinated with the scientific mind, including its corruption. So it is no surprise that the sordid case of the Dutch researcher Diederik Stapel grabbed headlines for a few days, including prominent articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and this publication. The news stories came after the journal Science expressed concern about one of Stapel’s published papers, which is under investigation for data tampering.

It is already clear that this one suspicious paper is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, Stapel had been under fraud investigation for some weeks when the news articles broke. The investigation, by Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where Stapel was until recently a professor, could lead to the retraction of dozens of papers by the social psychologist published over a period of 10 or more years. Stapel outright lied to his colleagues, including many students, claiming he had data sets that could be used legitimately in experiments they worked on together. In fact such data never existed.

Stapel has owned up to his fraudulent acts and voluntarily relinquished his Ph.D. Before this is over, it is likely that dozens of papers by his guiltless students and colleagues will be withdrawn as well, and their Ph.D.’s called into question. My organization, the Association for Psychological Science, represents the interests of scientific psychologists, and so is centrally involved in this issue. But the association is also directly affected: A few of Stapel’s articles were published in our flagship journal, Psychological Science.

Read the full story: The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Comments

The sad thing about this is that students and colleagues will all have their Ph.D.’s questioned because of Mr. Stapel’s wrong doing. His confession is respected and I would like to know the details of it. I’m not sure if those who worked and/or studied with him new about what was going on, but I do hope the innocent find some protection for their Ph.D.’s.

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