Home » News, Peer review, Science » Scientists, our moral and intellectual superiors: Big Dutch researcher made up or manipulated dozens of papers

Scientists, our moral and intellectual superiors: Big Dutch researcher made up or manipulated dozens of papers

In “Dutch ‘Lord of the Data’ Forged Dozens of Studies” ( Science, 31 October 2011) Gretchen Vogel reports,

One of the Netherlands’ leading social psychologists made up or manipulated data in dozens of papers over nearly a decade, an investigating committee has concluded.

Stapel’s work encompassed a broad range of attention-catching topics, including the influence of power on moral thinking and the reaction of psychologists to a plagiarism scandal. The committee, which interviewed dozens of Stapel’s former students, postdoctoral researchers, co-authors, and colleagues, found that Stapel alone was responsible for the fraud. The panel reported that he would discuss in detail experimental designs, including drafting questionnaires, and would then claim to conduct the experiments at high schools and universities with which he had special arrangements. The experiments, however, never took place, the universities concluded. Stapel made up the data sets, which he then gave the student or collaborator for analysis, investigators allege. In other instances, the report says, he told colleagues that he had an old data set lying around that he hadn’t yet had a chance to analyze. When Stapel did conduct actual experiments, the committee found evidence that he manipulated the results.

Apparently, typical for bureaucracies: Whistleblowers raised concerns, but no one followed up.

Does this remind anyone of Marc “the monkeys talk to me” Hauser? And where was “peer review”?

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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11 Responses to Scientists, our moral and intellectual superiors: Big Dutch researcher made up or manipulated dozens of papers

  1. News, do you have any sort of intelligible point with this rant?

    ScientistS didn’t commit fraud, one individual scientist did. The individual in question was caught and severely punished.

    Do you think that because Kent Hovind is doing hard time for tax fraud that all Christians are tax cheats?

    As far as peer review goes, peer review’s job is to assess that the experimental approach and methodology is sound, not to hand check every last bit of data to see if it was cooked.

    What passes for objective journalism around here is just sad.

  2. GinoB, It is a culture issue. People in countries vexed by authoritarian government, often use the phrase “our moral and intellectual superiors.” To refer to the many years such a person is not caught, due to endless collusion. Get used to it.

  3. The problem here with scientists is that they are human. Humans are all sinners and therefore have a natural tendency to sin – according to a very well known ancient book.

    No one is accusing all scientists of academic fraud, but we all need to understand that scientists too are susceptible to temptation – especially the temptation to embellish, make grandiose claims and interpretations of their data for fame, fudge data to get their name known and get a new grant, etc.?just like the rest of us are susceptible to certain temptations. This story shows that scientists are humans too. The experiments may be objective, but often times the interpretation of the data becomes very subjective and that is where the problem lies.

    The problem is exacerbated if the particular scientist has no foundation for morality – ie. if they are atheists. Because, if there is no God, there is no good or evil in the ultimate sense. Anything goes. Fortunately most atheists still choose to live fairly moral lives on the outside, but still, ultimately there is nothing stopping them morally speaking, from choosing to live what believers would call an immoral or dishonest lifestyle – except their own conscience which they know they are free to ignore since ultimately they are accountable to no one. Peer pressure has some effect here as well, but atheists know that if there is no God, nothing is truly wrong or sinful.

    In other words, if you can get away with a little fib here, a little fudge there, or a little tweak over there, why not do it? Yes, there is a risk involved as this gentleman’s story shows, but I’m sure there are many others who have not been caught. My guess is that unwarranted embellishments, unwarranted interpretations, and small tweaks are much more common than we would like to believe.

    The previous poster said that the job of peer review is to assess that the experimental approach and methodology is sound, not to hand check every last bit of data to see if it was cooked. If that is the case, then you will understand if we remain quite skeptical of grandiose interpretations that scientists claim are backed up by the data. Scientists need accountability too.

    This illustration shows us why it is foolish to view science as an objective trustworthy begetter of truth.

  4. News, where is your evidence of this particular individual being not caught due to endless collusion?

    The article reports that he acted alone, and that those who couldn’t repeat his findings blamed themselves and thought they had made mistakes.

    “At least two earlier groups of whistleblowers had raised questions about Stapel’s work, the commission found. No one followed up on their concerns, however. Stapel’s fabrications weren’t particularly sophisticated, the committee says, and on careful inspection many of the data sets have improbable effect sizes and other statistical irregularities. His colleagues, when they failed to replicate the results, tended to blame themselves, the report says. Among Stapel’s colleagues, the description of data as too good to be true “was a heartfelt compliment to his skill and creativity,” the report says.”

    I see nothing in there about other scientists knowing the work was fraudulent and colluding to cover up the crime.

    Your spin is beneath the dignity of a professional journalist.

  5. I see my reply was ‘disappeared’. Figures.

  6. tjguy

    The problem is exacerbated if the particular scientist has no foundation for morality – ie. if they are atheists.

    LOL! Because everyone knows there are no Christians who have ever falsified data, or cheated on their taxes, or committed a robbery, or molested an altar boy. No TRUE Christians anyway.

    If that is the case, then you will understand if we remain quite skeptical of grandiose interpretations that scientists claim are backed up by the data.

    You need to find problems with the data first, not reject it out of hand because it conflicts with your pre-conceived beliefs.

    Scientists need accountability too.

    They are accountable. The penalty for scientific fraud is severe – expulsion from the scientific community for life, and go find another career.

  7. The problem is exacerbated if the particular scientist has no foundation for morality – ie. if they are atheists.

    Wow.

    I’m sure the statistics to back up this little slur are at your fingertips.

  8. Fossfur

    I see my reply was ‘disappeared’. Figures.

    I read it before it was deleted. It was spot on, which is why it couldn’t be allowed to remain.

    What’s deliciously ironic – the censorship with no notice makes your point almost better than the post did.

  9. Fossfur -

    It is clear from your comment that you don’t understand the quote nor are you very versed in common philosophy.

    The problem is exacerbated if the particular scientist has no foundation for morality – ie. if they are atheists.

    Let me try to clear up some things for you. You need to understand the difference between a true/false philosophical statement and a results based scientific statement.

    The statement that “atheists have no foundation for morality” is a true/false philosophical statement. You can agree or disagree, but it has nothing to do with the behavior of atheists. It is an argument about the objective facts of their belief. To believe in atheism is to consider no deity above man and therefore no transcendent, objective morality imposed on man. Therefore, they have no “foundation” for their morality. They may have a subjective morality based on personal preference, but it can not be considered foundational because it does not transcend themselves.

    OTOH, the statement “atheists behave immorally” ( A statement which I find by experience to be false in general ) would be a results based scientific statement. It could be confirmed or refuted by statistics which compared ( with suitable controls for other factors ) behavior of atheists and non-atheists.

    So your statement “I’m sure the statistics to back up this little slur are at your fingertips” does nothing but show your ignorance.

    The statement is not a slur, and statistics have nothing to do with its truthfulness/falseness.

    I hope this helped. It’s not a sin to be ignorant. Just don’t try and parade it on a site where people have a little understanding.

    P.S. I don’t claim to have ever taken any formal philosophy, so I hope I have presented things correctly. kf or vjtorley may have to correct some of the phrasing. Thanks.

  10. Well, even if censorship really exists here on this site, I hazard a guess it is nothing in comparison with atheistic censorship in educational/research institutions which sacrifice unbiased science to philosophical commitments.

  11. tjguy:

    “The problem here with scientists is that they are human. Humans are all sinners and therefore have a natural tendency to sin – according to a very well known ancient book.”
    ====

    This is one of the most ignored realities among the evolutionary believers. The idea that their holy men/women could actually be imperfect and prone to error as equally as any other human being on Earth is Heresy to even consider. What you will get when mistakes, cheating, lying, fraud etc are exposed is the same old fall back canned default anser: “Science is an ever evolving ever self-correcting mechanism”. In other words, count on evolving excuses as the only truly evolving creature.
    —-

    T-Horton:

    quote: ‘Scientists need accountability too.’

    “They are accountable. The penalty for scientific fraud is severe – expulsion from the scientific community for life, and go find another career.”
    ====

    That depends on the particular science in question. It is clear from the history that both the philosophers of Evolutionism and the scientists of the infamous Bio-Tech industries with their GMO research are often given ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards. All other scientific fraud discovered is sent straight to jail without passing ‘Go’ and collecting their ‘$200′.
    —-

    T-Horton:

    “You need to find problems with the data first, not reject it out of hand because it conflicts with your pre-conceived beliefs.”
    ====

    The usual Double Standard and Kettle Calling Pot Black.
    —-

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