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Idle Science

Dutch Psychologist Faked Data In At Least 30 Scientific Papers 254

Attila Dimedici writes "A professor at Tilburg University has been caught using fake data in over 30 scientific papers. Diederik Stapel's latest paper claimed that eating meat made people anti-social and selfish. Other academics were skeptical of his findings and raised doubts about his research. Upon investigation it was discovered that he had invented the data he used in many of his papers and there is a question as to whether or not he used faked data in all of his published work."
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Dutch Psychologist Faked Data In At Least 30 Scientific Papers

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  • Yep none of his data can be trusted now. What a shame.

    • Yes it is. The fact that his data cannot be trusted is a a shame is true. Because he may have a lot of real good and honest data. But because he has lied and made up some data means we need to go out and retake more data.

      The scientific community shouldn't be apologetic to this type of behavior. They really need to crack down on this type of stuff. because it gives science a bad name. When a "Scientist" makes a "bold discovery" using made up data, is the reason why people don't trust science as much as th

  • Why would all those other scientists do something that would threaten their grant money, when they could instead expand on his bullshit studies for pay? Anthony Watts, please explain!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tmosley (996283)
      They don't get their grant money from vegan societies, nor are the upper echelons of the Western mental health complex infested with militant vegans who refuse to accept that eating meat can be anything but evil and destructive to all of society.
      • Hmm so they're all in on some kind of global conspiracy you say...interesting point.

      • by ISoldat53 (977164)
        If a vegetarian eats vegetables. What does a humanitarian eat?
    • Re:But, but, but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:10AM (#37920624) Homepage Journal

      I would recommend that instead of spouting this ignorance proving drivel, that you spend some of your time learning how most grant systems work.

      I'll give you a hint, other scientists' grant money would not be threatened by blowing the lid off someone who is abusing the system. In fact, since that person would be excluded from future grants, the other scientists would be more likely to aquire grants in the future if they DID expose frauds.


      • by tbannist (230135)


        Just a clue-in here: Anthony Watts is famous (among some circles) for his denouncement of climate change and one of his big reasons for denouncing it is his claim that the scientists are all colluding to steal grant money from credulous governments. But you did a good job of explaining the point of the guy you responded to, and why it's really Anthony Watts who's the credulous schmuck.

  • Clearly (Score:2, Funny)

    by Moheeheeko (1682914)
    If we look to the teachings of Freud he did all this to bone his mother. Clearly.
    • by Jonner (189691)

      If we look to the teachings of Freud he did all this to bone his mother. Clearly.

      Yeah, I'm sure Freud had lots of reliable data to back that up.

    • by Pax681 (1002592)
      so that's what his colleagues meant when they called him a lying motherfucker! :P
  • Published in Science (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @10:44AM (#37920214)
    I think the worst thing about this is that he was published in Science. Obviously the researcher's career ends here, but this is a big black mark on the journal as well.
    • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:08AM (#37920600)
      Not really. The peer review process isn't about catching fabricated data, but about editorial quality. It may not be obvious that the two are different, but they are.

      Reviewers make sure that the experiment is described clearly and completely enough for it to be replicated, which is the best way to verify the dates authenticity/accuracy. They also strive to make sure that the methodology was sound, conclusions don't over reach what the data can support, and that the discussion was complete with regards to the pre-existing relevant literature. Those checks can find fabricated data, but aren't designed to necessarily.

      Journals have no way to verify that you ran a trial, never mind that the data wasn't massaged or flat out replaced with fabricated data. That part is just taken on faith because it is the authors reputation that is on the line.
      • Its a bit easier with mathematics, engineering and computer science papers as your equations and methodology must be clearly spelled out, and generally it will get checked out by the reviewers, and they know what to expect usually for data. I.e. general behaviors, expected distributions for certain processes, etc. If you are bullshitting they can usually pick it out. Some of them are real assholes as well about nit-picking through everything. Essentially, psychology is too subjective to be considered a scie
      • by TopSpin (753)

        The parent questioned the credibility of Science, not the efficacy of some peer review pencil whipping ritual. Peer review is a red herring you threw in for your own probably poor reasons. Astrologists peer review [] each other. Peer review is one factor in credibility, and a small one at that.

        The parent is correct; this is a black mark. If peer review is the only filter between the Science reader and fraud, as you seem to imply, then it is a well deserved black mark.

        • by Tim C (15259)
          Actually the filter is when other researchers go "oh, that's interesting/weird/bullshit" and try to recreate or refute the results.

          Science is a process, it takes a lot of work and a long time to be able to sit back and say "ok, we've pretty-much got this figured out from the looks of it".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck (811747)

      I think the worst thing it that they are publishing psychology papers in Science. Aside from the most fundamental stimulus/response experiments (done decades ago) psychology depends on highly subjective observations and statistics that prove correlations but nothing about the underlying causations. It certainly doesn't lead to repeatable experiments.

      A bigger mystery is how could tell the difference between a faked paper and a real one. They have about the same basis in fact.


    • Thank God I never cited him. Whew! Close call.
  • by robot256 (1635039) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @10:50AM (#37920306)
    Sounds like it was all just one big meta-study--now that he's got thirty fake papers to use as data he can write a paper on the psychological factors involved in publishing fake papers. Could be an interesting treatise on the nature of trust, the peer review process, ulterior motives and such, but it's too bad because everyone would dismiss it as fake.
  • Sokal Affair (Score:5, Informative)

    by paugq (443696) <pgquiles@elpauer.OPENBSDorg minus bsd> on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @10:52AM (#37920344) Homepage

    Obligatory reference to the Sokal Affair [].

    The Sokal affair, also known as the Sokal hoax,[1] was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the publication's intellectual rigor and, specifically, to learn if such a journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if it (a) sounded good and (b) flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."

    • by CRCulver (715279)

      Whenever people attack bullshit publications -- or more often, only perceived bullshit, lacking training in the field and just making a kneejerk reaction against the humanities -- they make reference to the Sokal affair. However, it's important to note that Social Text was not a peer-reviewed journal. In fact, it was a fairly obscure publication even within its field.

      What makes this news troubling is that the researcher succeeded in being published in Science which was supposed to have a rigorous and effect

      • by mapkinase (958129)

        It happened in other fields too. The troubling here is not that Its Highness Holy Tandem of Science Magazine and Nature Magazine faulted. The trouble is that we trust based on the word of the mouth.

        The trust ends at the point where you consider reading the article or not. I trust Science, so I will start reading the paper. But once I started reading, it does not matter where it is published, in Science or in Journal of Theoretical Biology, I will apply the same BS detector (I do not have a special BS detect

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by JoshuaZ (1134087)

        What makes this news troubling is that the researcher succeeded in being published in Science which was supposed to have a rigorous and effective peer-review process

        Not really. The peer review process isn't set out to look for fraud. It is set out to look for bad data, poor experimental setups, poor interpretation of experiments, etc. The system assumes that the submitters are acting in good fatih. And this is a pretty good assumption: the vast majority of the time they are. The occasions where a problem occurs are few and far between. It would be a massive waste of resources and exhausting for all involved for peer review to try to actively look for signs of fraud.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by DrFalkyn (102068)

        What makes this news troubling is that the researcher succeeded in being published in Science which was supposed to have a rigorous and effective peer-review process.

        Peer review can't detect faked data, only bogus methodology.

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        lacking training in the field and just making a kneejerk reaction against the humanities

        Is it a "kneejerk" reaction when people ridicule homeopathy, creationism, or politically motivated climate change deniers?

        • by CRCulver (715279)

          Is it a "kneejerk" reaction when people ridicule homeopathy, creationism, or politically motivated climate change deniers?

          No, it's a kneejerk reaction when people make claims that e.g. postmodern literary criticism is all bullshit, which is the context where I usually see mention of the Sokal affair. While there are some publications in this field that lack merit -- and Sokal's own comments about misuse of scientific comments are worth reading -- generally people bringing up the Sokal affair throw out the

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Don't forget the repeated success of SciGen [], an automatic computer science BS generator.

  • IANAP, but my off the cuff thinking tells me that eating berries makes one selfish and antisocial. Spend a lot of time off on your own, picking berries, "two for me, one for the group, two for me, one for the group", whereas hunting is oft times a social experience, and the sharing of the kill is a party-level event.
    • Why couldn't berry pickers pick in groups (cover a lot more area that way) which would turn it into a social experience and cut down on "two for me, one for the group"?

      • by crakbone (860662)
        Obviously you have never picked berries. They are just way to yummy to let anyone near you.
  • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:13AM (#37920682)

    > Diederik Stapel's latest paper claimed that eating meat made people anto-social and selfish.

    And eating shellfish makes you ...

  • by schwnj (990042) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:24AM (#37920820)
    Every time a story appears that involves psychological research, numerous people make comments about how psychology is a sham, not a science, fluffy, or some other degrading adjective. I usually find that these people haven't the foggiest idea what psychology actually is. I'm willing to bet that many people here that are claiming psychology as a non-science are thinking about what is actually therapy or counseling. I suggest any doubters read actual psychology journals before they make such claims. Much of the advancement in our understanding of neurophysiology, sensory systems, cognitive processing, decision-making, social behavior, and human development is due to research conducted under the umbrella of psychology. The problem is that the public isn't aware of psychology's breadth.
    • That's all well and good, but I suspect that the majority of those papers will be shoddy methodologically/statistically; In all of the social sciences there is a widely shared shared tendency to say "let's keep analyzing the data until we find something that gives us a p value smaller than or equal to 0.05. Once we have that, we will write an introduction that fits that 'finding,' and we shall not mention that we did 30 different analyses to find this 'significant' finding (which might just be a statistical
    • by Jonner (189691)

      What is definitely different about psychology is that experimentation on its subjects is far more difficult than most sciences. Psychologists can't generally keep their subjects in controlled environments or take them apart to see how they work. I'm sure a psychologist would tell you that observing and experimenting on members of one's own species, it is more difficult to remain objective than doing the same to lower animals or inanimate objects.

    • Read and return:

      A. A. Derksen (1993). The Seven Sins of Pseudo-Science. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 24 (1):17 - 42. "In this paper I will argue that a profile of the pseudo-sciences can be gained from the scientific pretensions of the pseudo-scientist. These pretensions provide two yardsticks which together take care of the charge of scientific prejudice that any suggested demarcation of pseudo-science has to face. To demonstrate that my analysis has teeth I will apply it to Freud and modern-d

      • by CRCulver (715279)
        What does the author mean by "Bach-kabbalists"? I unfortunately don't have access to the paper at the moment.
      • by clifyt (11768) <> on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @01:45PM (#37922924) Homepage

        "shows that parts of the foundations of some psychology is a sham, not a science"

        So, looking at Freud and then applying these tests of pseudoscience to him is an indictment of psychology because some of the roots of the field have not panned out?

        So what does that say about the alchemists in conjunction to modern chemistry or physics? Quite a bit of scientific understanding of the world and what it is made up of and how it all fits together were put together by men whose methodology was on par with sorcery.

        You go far enough back in any field and you realize that someone important probably got something so wrong that it would invalidate their whole work if applied to todays standards.

        That said, I find most of what Freud professed to be utter bullshit...and it pissed me off through most of my undergrad and into my postgraduate work...people would bring up theories of his and I would just shudder. And then I realized that without the application and expansion of his beliefs, psychology may be 50 to 100 years behind what it is today. And we realize that even with his flawed beliefs, we can make a pretty accurate assessment of the world, or more to the point...the people that live within it. We know that with his talking therapies, even with his overemphasis on genitalia and the mommy problems, people are around 60% more likely to have measurable healing compared to those that receive nothing. We know that some interpretations of dreams or beliefs while inaccurate using the Freudian perspective, can lead to a better understanding of the person. In some ways, until imaging scanners and technology to analyze this comes into place, we realize we will most certainly be wrong...but in some ways correct.

        In 50 years from now, discoveries made through things like the Hadron Collider may show that the gods of physics may have been wrong...will that mean they are not scientists because they are only postulating that which they have not yet been able to observe? Until the first atomic bomb was detonated, we could not observe, let alone replicate what we had believed. And yet, it worked.

        That said, I pretty much moved from psychology to another science and I really don't have a dog in the fight any more. However, the more I deal with other sciences, the more I realize that they are grasping at straws in much the same fashion psychology has done...simply waiting for technology to catch up so that things can be proven or disproven...luckily, most other fields don't have to deal with quite as much human subjects protection / IRB that stop us from finding the truth. Not to go Godwin on things, but if you want to see true science in psychology, one only need to look back at Nazi Germany where one didn't need approval to do bad things to people to be able to reproducibly get results under a number of scenarios and stimuli. I think most would agree that the pseudoscience nature of psychology today is far more civilized and humane even while limiting the research and validity of what could be.

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      Freud was a Cocaine addict who prescribed people Cocaine to make them more "Normal".
      Ritalin is an addictive substance similar to Cocaine prescribed by Psychologists to make people more "Normal".
      I respect the Neurologists who help my mother who has brain damage from falling out of a moving vehicle and who actually do try to make her more normal and fit into society in some fashion.
      I have no respect for the others who's goal is to make a bunch of drug addicted users to fund their junk science.
  • Its rather stunning. They have a special section at the beginning of their letters section with the bold title "Retraction". Something almost every week now.

    To be fair, most of those authors are not intentionally deception like this guy. But the system encourages rushing sensational results into print (like arsenic-based life) before they can be verified elsewhere. "Nobel prize or bust!" P.S. This result has not been retracted, although many have asked for that.
  • by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:55AM (#37921266)
    Faked data like this or studies/data that are suppressed by the legions of lawyers at Monsanto and Pfizer. One is simply fabricated, the other is more boot-to-the-neck.
  • His accusation is silly.. now get the hell away from my steak, it's mine!! MINE!
  • What about other papers that reference this one? We wouldn't exactly want to cascade delete, because the dependency might not be complete, but a system for reviewing all of the referring papers would be nice.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      If they relied on studies that were not repeated by another group then they weren't doing real science in the first place.

  • Wasn't there a Dilbert where he tells the PHB that studies show that people accept faked data as readily as real data.
    PHB: How many studies?
    Dilbert: 87.
  • by efalk (935211) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @03:14PM (#37924176)
    Well, I guess this proves there's no such thing as global warming. []

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